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Articles by Mark Merrill


Mark Merrill

Mark Merrill is the founder and president of Family First, a widely respected national non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening the family. read bio

Top 10 Automatic Robo-Mom Replies to Avoid

Do you ever catch yourself turning into Robo-Mom with your kids? “Mom, can I have a…?” And even before they’ve finished asking their question you give a programmed, “No! Not now. Just a minute.” Basically, you’re a robot, spitting out words without really thinking. But be warned, if you “robo respond” to your children, eventually, they will “robo respond” to you – or not bother talking to you at all.

Good communication with your children goes far beyond the 10 Robo-Mom responses below. 

1. “Just a Minute.”

When parents say this, they are generally just placating the child.  You may think you mean, “Just a minute…” but it usually turns out to be much longer than that, if at all.  Your words hold a lot of weight with your children, and if you say “just a minute…” then that is a promise that you should keep.

2. “Not right now.”

The better answer is to get in the routine of making time as soon as you get home.  When you walk in the door you should stop, drop and listen.  Stop when you walk in the door, drop to your knees, and listen to your children, hug them and play with them.  They’ll get bored with you in 60 seconds anyway.  Then you can take care of other things.

3. “No.”

Sometimes we get in the habit of just answering “no” before we actually think about the possibilities.  Next time you feel that answer gurgling up from the depths, swallow it and really consider the question before you answer in the negative.

4. “Maybe.” or “We’ll see.”

This is a great parental stall…not saying “no” and not saying “yes.”  You think that you can buy yourself some time.  And you can—for a little while, but then the kids understand that this often actually just means “No.”  “We’ll see is the cousin to “Maybe.”  A little more hopeful, and sometimes leads to a “Yes.”  But what are you waiting to see?  If there are circumstances that prevent you from answering at the moment, then be specific.  Q: “Mommy, can we go to the park?”  A: “If you complete your homework and help clear the dishes after dinner, then we can go to the park.”

5. “Ask your mom/dad.”

Ok, let’s be real on this one.  Usually this means that the answer is “no” but you don’t want to be the one to break the bad news, so you hand it off to your spouse to do the dirty work for you.

6. “Honey, I’m busy, maybe later.”

When we come home from work, many of us bring additional responsibilities home with us.  It’s understandable to have to bring your work home sometimes, but if this is an everyday occurrence that interferes with time with your spouse or kids, then you may want to reevaluate your priorities.  If you do have to work at home, do it after your spouse and kids go to bed.

7. “We can’t afford that.”

We are all for fiscal responsibility and for teaching our children the value of things.  However, sometimes we fall into the trap of using that as an excuse.  If you can’t afford something,  or if it’s just something your child wants and doesn’t need, then think about some ways for them to make some money to buy it. For example, give them an allowance for doing regular chores. Here are some ideas for chores they can do around the house.

8. “Because I said so.”

Parenting can be very frustrating, especially when confronted with, “but, why??” questions.  It’s easy to resort to this answer, but it really doesn’t work to foster open communication.  It’s important for your children to learn to respect your authority and your decisions, but you also want to encourage them to communicate with you.  So either explain your position or, if that’s not enough, sometimes it’s okay to say something like, “I know you don’t understand why, you’ll just have to trust me as your mom/dad.”

9. “Shhh!  I’m on the phone.”

The great thing about phones is that they work after the kids have gone to bed.  If you want to make a phone call to a friend, let it wait until after your children have gone to sleep.  Teach them to be courteous and well-mannered by not interrupting you, but also show them that you value your time together.

10. “I can’t talk now, this is my favorite show.”

Ouch!  What kind of message does this send to your spouse or child?  It says that a television program is more important to you than they are.  So turn off the tube or at least pause it, stop it or record it and then watch it later.


Related Resource: 4 Ways to Show Yourself Grace


End your day: Talking with your child...

If you could build a robot, what would you program it to do?


©2012, Mark Merrill. All rights reserved. Originally published at

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