Share Instead of Tell

Take a moment to think about a time when you were successful in getting something you really wanted from someone. Did you tell the person you wanted it, or did you ask? When we want something that is really important to us, we know better than to tell; it sounds too demanding. This is precisely why telling children to do something rarely works.

Limiting your telling requires constant attention. The tendency to tell is most easily changed by replacing it with some other approach. Because young people are sensitive about being told what to do, and because parental help is perfectly appropriate, focus on sharing information. Think of your advice as something to inform, to have the young person become aware of other possibilities or the consequences of their choices.

The following are effective examples:

  • “You may want to think about . . . .”
  • “Have you considered . . . .”
  • “I wonder what effect that will have on others!”

Sharing does not carry the negative baggage of telling, and sharing ideas and information is not coercive. Remember that responsibility is always taken, never told. You will accomplish what you want more effectively and with less stress by sharing rather than telling.