Guiding Our Elementary School Children to Want to Please Us
By Annye Rothenberg, Ph.D. 

Parenting requires teaching our beliefs, values, and standards to our kids. That’s very difficult, but exceptionally rewarding. A common example is getting our kids to put away their things, which, as expected, takes much teaching. By elementary-school age, everyone in the family should be expected to clean up after themselves daily. We want children to learn that when they do their part, we have time to spend with them because we didn’t have to tell them over and over or threaten consequences. Children feel good emotionally and even physiologically when we smile, praise them, hug them, and have time to be with them. That builds their desire to do what we ask.

Children want to please us if our demands are reasonable, justifiable, age-appropriate, and consistent. They don’t want to please us if our demands don’t meet those criteria. They feel good if we’re happy, affectionate, and available to them, which lets them know how pleased we are. But if there is no end to our demands, they may feel that no matter what they do, they’ll never be done or never be able to please us. Even children who are internally driven to do all that we ask may start ignoring our pressure. This happens frequently in families where parents keep giving the kids more and more jobs and/or in families where parents pressure children for accomplishments or tell them, “I just want you to do your best.” Although in the latter case those parents say they’re just trying to motivate their kids to try harder, their children may feel like they’re being asked to do the impossible, because they know a person can always do better.

It’s valuable for parents to spend time assisting in their child’s classroom – even just monthly – and at the child’s other activities. This way we know what the demands are on them, in terms of how their teachers run the class, what skills are expected, and how they’re doing. Children feel much closer to us when we can relate to what is going on in their lives and help them with expectations and stresses. They’re more likely to respect us and want to please us when they feel we understand their world, and because our advice makes better sense when it is well informed.

Children are more receptive to us when they want to please us. As they learn that they please us with small things such as putting their things away and going to bed on time, and bigger things such as doing what they’re capable of without demanding our help and doing good jobs rather than half-jobs, they develop a valuable belief system. If we have good values and they want to please us (as most children do), our teaching is the foundation for the person they become. If we show good values, kids learn them: being hardworking, friendly, considerate of others, honest, healthy, good thinkers, etc.

Encouraging them to want to please us helps youngsters who just want to do what they want evolve into young adults who know how and why to behave, who know who they are and what they believe, who learn and accomplish things, and who know how to get along with others, including how to understand people and how to respond to them.

Excerpted from Why Can't I Be the Boss of Me?

Annye Rothenberg, Ph.D., author, has been a child/parent psychologist and a specialist in childrearing and child development for more than 25 years. Her parenting psychology practice is in Emerald Hills, California. She is also on the adjunct faculty in pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Rothenberg was the founder/director of the Child Rearing parenting program in Palo Alto, California, and is the author of the award-winning books Mommy and Daddy are Always Supposed to Say Yes … Aren’t They?, Why Do I Have To?, I Like To Eat Treats,  I Don't Want to Go to the Toilet, I Want To Make Friends and I'm Getting Ready For Kindergarten. These are all-in-one books with a story for preschoolers and a manual for parents. Her new series is for elementary school childen and their parents. The first book is Why Can't I Be the Boss of Me? (2015). For more information about her books and to read her articles, visit To find out about her counseling practice and her speaker presentations, go to

Perfecting Parenting Press 2015