The power of saying ‘Let me know when you are ready’

Let’s take a look at how this simple but wonderful phrase can have a huge impact on your child.

Parenting is a delicate balancing act between guiding your child and allowing them to develop their own sense of independence. Surrounded by the myriad of strategies and theories available, it can feel overwhelming to know what parenting tips or tricks to choose. If in doubt, it’s best to keep things simple. Sometimes that can mean taking advantage of the words you use and one particularly powerful phrase is, “Let me know when you are ready.” This simple statement can have profound effects on a child’s development, helping them grow a healthy sense of independence, whilst reducing conflict at home – and fostering a family dynamic built on trust. Let’s explore why and how this phrase can be such a game-changer in your parenting toolkit.

Tapping into responsibility

Children, much like adults, have an innate desire to feel in control of their lives. By saying, “Let me know when you are ready,” you are empowering kids to take responsibility for their actions and decisions. This approach encourages them to tune into their own needs and readiness, rather than being pushed according to someone else’s timetable.

Consider a scenario where your little one is reluctant to start their homework. Instead of nagging or imposing a strict schedule, saying, “Let me know when you are ready to start your homework, sometime in the next hour” gives them the space to manage their time and feelings. This autonomy can be particularly beneficial as they grow older, training them to develop stronger self-regulation and time management skills.

No more power plays

Anyone who has been around children knows that power struggles are a common part of family life. These struggles often arise when a child feels their autonomy is being undermined. By offering them the choice to come to you when they are ready (even within a period of time that you determine), you’re acknowledging and respecting their need for control, reducing the likelihood of a confrontation in the process. Nobody likes to feel unheard or unseen, or pitted against one another, and this is an easy way for you to show your child that it’s always you and them versus the problem, not necessarily each other.

For instance, during a typical morning rush, getting dressed can turn into a battleground. Instead of demanding, “Get dressed now,” try, “Let me know when you are ready to get dressed. We have to be ready, with breakfast finished by eight.” This shifts the dynamic, making it a collaborative process rather than a directive. Your child is more likely to respond positively, even if it’s to do what you actually want them to, if they feel they have a say in the matter.

Creating trust

Trust is a cornerstone of any strong relationship, and this is especially true between parents and children. Using the phrase “Let me know when you are ready” communicates to your little one that you trust their judgement and are willing to wait a little bit for their readiness. This is the path towards a sense of mutual respect and open communication, which only becomes increasingly important as your child gets older.

Imagine your teenager is hesitant to discuss a bad decision they’ve made with you. Instead of pressing them with questions, you might say, “Let me know when you are ready to chat.” This approach signals that you are available and willing to listen whenever they feel comfortable, creating a safe space for honest dialogue.

Becoming aware

Emotional intelligence is a truly essential skill that all of us need to navigate the rollercoaster of life smoothly. By allowing your child to decide when they’re ready for various tasks or conversations, you are helping them become more attuned to their own emotions and needs. This self-awareness is a hard skill to come by passively and is really important for their overall emotional development.

For example, if your child is upset and not ready to talk about what’s bothering them, respect their space with, “Let me know when you are ready to talk about it.” This teaches them to recognise and pay attention to their own emotional states, and that it’s okay to take time to process their feelings before addressing them. This small interaction is actually training them to pay heed to their needs out in the real world as an adult, particularly understanding that they are not obligated to share their internal world to please others when it makes them uncomfortable or they don’t feel ready.

The best approach

While the benefits of saying “Let me know when you are ready” are clear, implementing this handy little sentence effectively requires a bit of thought and consistency. Here are a few practical tips to help you incorporate this phrase into your day-to-day parenting.

Start early

If you’re the parent of a young child, try to begin slipping in this phrase with your little one in age-appropriate situations. For instance, when it’s that time of day where you begin transitioning from playtime to the bedtime routine, you might say, “Let me know when you are ready to put your toys away. We have a few minutes before bathtime.” Making these words a common and normal thing to say early on helps to build a strong foundation of mutual respect and positivity. Many parents find that their children are actually more willing to cooperate and compromise simply because they feel seen and heard, even if they haven’t actually chosen anything different than you would have if you were giving orders.

Be patient

Understand that your child may not be ready as quickly as you would like. Obviously, this isn’t always practical to do but where you can, keep this in mind and perhaps even allocate an extra few minutes to tasks to allow your child a little time to play with. Patience is key. Trust that by allowing them to set their own pace, you are helping them develop as a more rounded person, with practised self-management skills that will stand to them in all stages of their life.

Set boundaries

While offering choices is important, it’s also essential to set clear boundaries. If there are time constraints or non-negotiable tasks, communicate these upfront and make sure to be very clear, calm and unstressed. For example, sentences like “We need to leave for school in fifteen minutes, let me know when you are ready to put on your shoes” are plain to interpret.

When we adults speak with stress, many times children will respond instinctively to the fact that this makes them feel bad and they don’t like it. Their reactions will, understandably, not be calm or helpful. Kids are not developed enough to differentiate that your stress is not a criticism of them, or even aimed at them, but rather a result of a stressful situation. So, they respond with protests, refusals and negativity as they feel this is how you are treating them. Parenting is often a task of utmost patience!

Follow through

If your child indicates they are ready, be prepared to support them or respond immediately. The well-known phrase “My word is my bond” holds a lot of power in relation to kids, as this is how they learn whether to trust you, whether to uphold their part and generally what the rules of your interactions should be. That’s why it’s vital to say what you mean, and mean what you say. It reinforces the trust and respect that underpin this approach and avoids any confusion for little ones.

Be an example

Show your child that you also take time to be ready for tasks and decisions. Share your thought process with them, with sentences such as “I’m going to take a few minutes to get ready for our walk.”

“Let me know when you are ready” is a simple yet powerful statement that lets little ones know that you see them as an individual with their own needs. It encourages children to become more self-aware and responsible, preparing them for the many challenges of growing up. Remember, effective parenting is not about controlling every aspect of your child’s life, but rather, it’s about guiding them to become confident, capable individuals. So next time you face a potential power struggle or need to encourage a reluctant child, try saying, “Let me know when you are ready” and watch the positive impact unfold.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Previous Teaching your child meditation
Next Why children lie and how to manage it

You might also like


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.