Discipline Phrase: “I didn’t ask if you wanted to…”

How to respond when your child tells you he doesn’t want to do what you have instructed him to do. Respond without anger or yelling. 

Boy with blue eyes staring at the camera while in the water

I find it really helpful to have little phrases that I use to respond to situations in parenting. If a child whines, I like to be able to have a phrase I know I am going to say in response. It helps me stay cool and calm in the moment and over time, the child figures out that the whining does not help.

This is true for many different discipline issues. I have a post full of my favorite discipline phrases here. 

Discipline will be much more effective if you have a plan in place. A plan means you have consistency. Consistency means your child learns what is okay and what is not. Children constantly test boundaries and when a boundary stays in the same place, they learn what is a yes and what is a no. It helps sest them up to be succesful when they try to obey and make good choices. 

Conversely, when things are not consistent, the child isn’t sure what is okay and what is not. If some days your child says “I don’t want to” and you say, “Okay never mind” while other days you say, “Go to timeout,” your child will be very confused and unsure of how to respond when he doesn’t want to do something. 

Discipline Phrase

My children are, generally speaking, quite well-behaved. Yes, they have their moments. Yes, they test their limits. But overall, they are very obedient. We go days between need for any sort of correction at all.

Many years ago, I paid attention to our days to see what things I did that seem to help. I realized the positive impact of consistency and noticed it was easier to be consistent when I had a plan on how to respond to situations. One tactic I used (and still use) is the phrase, “I didn’t ask if you wanted to…”

I have to try to explain a bit about my personality. I am very calm. My sense of humor is very dry; when I am making a joke, you really have to know me to be sure if I am serious or joking. I have excellent control over my emotions. I am extremely matter-of-fact. I am logical.

When I discipline my children, I strive to be calm about it. I do not raise my voice or get emotional. My Mom has marveled at my patience–I suppose I wasn’t as patient as the child as I am as the parent :). I do not try to put any guilt upon my children. I don’t hold grudges. I just say it like it is, correct as necessary, and we move on.

Discipline 101: The basics of correcting children

For some reason, Brayden as a four year old really disliked going potty. The child could hold it in forever. I could count on one hand the number of times he had to go potty at a time other than when I told him to. It seemed he viewed the bathroom as a major inconvenience in his life. This isn’t a problem accident-wise. You just have to go, you know?

My phrase “I didn’t ask if you wanted to…” started with the potty.

Brayden, you need to go potty.”

“I don’t want to go potty!”

“I didn’t ask if you wanted to; I just said to go.”

End of conversation. He would go. This became a phrase I would use for any situation my children protested because they didn’t want to.

Whenever I instruct them to do something and they feel the need to tell me they don’t want to, I remind them that I didn’t ask if they wanted to, just that I told them that they needed to.

When I say this, my emotions are even. I am not frustrated or exacerbated. I am not angry. I am not condescending. I am really quite nonchalant. I am just letting the child know the reality of the matter. It is just information to remind them who decides. Mom decides 🙂

A similar phrase I might use interchangeably is “I know you don’t want to, but you need to.” I use this with the same tone, same situations, and same demeanor.

This can be handy when it time to leave the park, eat dinner, clean up toys, or turn on the television. 


If you find yourself correcting your child or children over and over again on the same thing, try having a phrase you use to respond to it that is no-nonsense. Be super consistent in how you respond and what you expect from your child. You will be surprised at how much a little phrase can positive impact your child’s behavior. 

Related Discipline Posts:

These are some helpful discipline posts:

How to respond when your child says I don't want to text with a photo of a boy in the water