Exercise: Authentic Requests–Tell Me Why!

In Compassionate Communication pedagogy and practice, there are two questions we highly value when making a request:

– What, specifically, do we want someone to do, and
– Why do we want them to do it

This can be especially applicable to parents, related to your children doing homework or other tasks.

In a style of parenting that may be familiar to some readers, young people are told: Do Your Homework Or Else. Examples of this model include statements such as: “Do your homework or get grounded… or no allowance… or no going out…” or being told they will be punished or reprimanded in another way.

If you fully connect with the question of why you want your children to do something you may come up with different strategies than the ones listed above.

Are you wanting them to do their homework because you value learning, or because you want confidence about your children having choice in careers or later life opportunities — or because you value learning and self-development and you would like them to share those values? Once you connect with your needs it can become easier to dialogue with your children and to come up with strategies that work for the both of you.

And now, our exercise:

A. Think about a situation at home or work where you have given someone some form of an ultimatum.

For example: Its 10 pm, your child is still up, and you’d like them to go to bed. Using an “or-else” model, you could you say to your child, “Go to bed or we are not going swimming tomorrow.”

B. Now pause and consider, what would you like them to do? Why would you like them to do it?

Using a compassionate communication model, you could instead ask your child “I’d like you to go to bed now — do you know why I’m really wanting you do that?”

The answer for you might be that you want confidence about the getting rest because you want them to really enjoy the following day — including the beach.

C. In answering why, we suggest you use a needs list for reference. What needs would the action that you want to request meet for you? What do you think it would meet for this young person?

In essence — do we really want people doing homework — or any work — because of the fear of punishment or repercussions, or do we want them doing it because they are connection to the needs it could meet for themselves or others.

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