Do Away With SPQ’s (Stupid Parent Questions)

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Falling in Love with your Family by Alison

In a Nutshell: State expectations instead of asking Stupid Parent Questions

(By Bill Watterson)

Does this scenario sound familiar?  Maybe a little too familiar?  Most parents could easily qualify for the SPQ Hall of Fame.  What?!  You’ve never heard of this elite recognition?  SPQ’s are Stupid Parent Questions and I’ve earned my share of fame in the past 14 years.  I don’t know where SPQ’s come from, but they must be programmed into our DNA because parents use them almost universally.  You’ve probably heard variations on these common ones:

Where do you think you are going in those shorts!?!

How many times have I told you to close the door behind you!?!

Do you think money grows on trees!?!

Do you want to go to time-out!?!

Why did you color on mommy’s wall!?!

What am I going to do with you!?!

SPQ’s practically beg, “Pleeaasse…pretty pretty pleeaasse …answer with a smart-aleck remark!”  If you ask your child, “How many times do I have to tell you to finish your homework?” don’t be shocked and appalled if they answer, “79.”  Really, how can a kid resist it?  What did you expect?

Generally, SPQ’s can be rephrased as statements of expectation.  A child misbehaving at the park shouldn’t hear over and over from a bench-glued parent, “Do you want to go home!?!”  Instead Mom could go to the misbehaving child, look her firmly in the eye and say, “Stop throwing sand.  That hurts eyes.  If you play nicely, we’ll stay at the park.”  Then if one more grain of sand flies, the kid is loaded in the car.

For another example, imagine a child playing video games instead of taking out the trash as he’s been asked.  Dad walks into the room and says, “What are you doing!?!”  The child is obviously playing video games, as even the most technology-challenged adult could see.  Simply state an expectation: “You need to take out the trash before you play games.”  Or, if this is a pattern, impose a consequence: “Because you chose to play instead of taking out the trash, you’ll need to wait until tomorrow to use your game system again.”

Be direct, consistent, and calm by stating expectations, not sarcastic, exasperated, and a little on the dippy side by constantly asking questions that have no real answers.  SPQ’s generally just invite confrontation and put more emphasis on the wrong behavior instead of on the expectation of good behavior.  Recognize when you use SPQ’s, and be done with them.  Besides, how many times do I have to tell you?  They make parents sound pretty dumb.

Fess up!  What are your best Stupid Parent Questions?  Make a comment below.

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