Marshall Rosenberg tells the story of when he first began to practice making requests instead of demands with his children. He quickly realized that what he was doing was so novel that even when he fully intended to make a request of his children, they would hear it as a demand and respond in their typical fashion — submitting with resentment or rebelling.
Marshall noticed that when he took his boys to the park, they loved feeding breadcrumbs to the ducks, and would feed the hungry ducks with great enjoyment and “gusto.” He wrote on a 3×5 card:
Please do this only if you can do so with the joy of feeding a hungry duck.
Please, please, please, do not do this if any of the following are mixed in:
- Fear of punishment
- Hope of reward
- Shame, guilt, duty or obligation
Whenever he wanted to make a request of his child, he would read the card. After several weeks, they began to understand that they really did have the choice to say “no” — and therefore the option to say “yes” — to a request.