As I was thinking of a title for this blog, I was being inundated by news reports of evidence of quid pro quo. I first heard the Latin phrase- quid pro quo- in my Political Science class in college. The phrase, when interpreted- this for that is- frowned upon when used in a political setting. In motherhood, it’s a way of life. 

Uncertainty is a part of motherhood. As a mother, I don’t know which child is going to follow my well thought out directions at any given time. It’s a toss up whether their decision to comply or not is going to send me into a frenzy. At times, I try to assure my children that the decisions their father and I make are for their own good. Many times our decisions are met with strong willed children who want to have some sort of control over decisions made on their behalfs. 

A few weeks ago, I attended a parent seminar at work put on by Positive Parenting Solutions. The seminar was designed to help parents formulate a no-yelling plan for behavior consequences involving their children. As I was listening to the very knowledgeable speaker, it dawned on me. It’s a quid pro quo- a this for that if you will, in parenting. 

Quid Pro Quo

I was fascinated with the steps the speaker laid out for helping parents keep their cool when their children push their buttons but I was more impressed with the quid pro quo part of parenting that the speaker referred to as WHEN-THEN. So Mommi, if you are looking for a quid pro quo to help you from losing your sh*t I’m going to outline some ways to help. 


WHEN-THEN is used when we need our kids to do something or take action. It delays or denies a privilege until an undesired task is completed. While there are many benefits for using WHEN-THEN, it is mostly a motivational tool to to help our children to complete an undesired task, and puts the consequence for not doing what is asked on the child.

Five Ground Rules

There are five ground rules when using the WHEN-THEN tool: 

  1. The privilege (The THEN) must be something your child truly cares about.
  2. Say your WHEN-THEN in a CALM voice and without emotion
  3. After you say the WHEN-THEN, walk away…disengage.
  4. Stay firm and follow through.
  5. Avoid repeating and reminding.

Adding WHEN-THEN into daily routines

It is important to remember when using the WHEN-THEN tool to get your kids to listen is to implement it into your child’s routine. Using WHEN-THEN in morning routines would look something like this, “WHEN you’re done making up your bed and getting dressed, THEN you can have time on your tablet.” Your afternoon routine would look similar, “WHEN you’ve completed your homework, THEN you can watch half an hour of your favorite show.”

What does it teach my kids?

The WHEN-THEN tools teaches your children life lessons. It shows them that even as adults we don’t always get to skip unpleasantries to get to the fun stuff. If you want to get paid, you must show up to work and follow the rules. If you really want to make the WHEN-THEN tool work effectively, bring your child’s teachers and coaches in the loop of what you’re doing at home.

Power Struggles

With anything new, there will be a power struggle. When using the WHEN-THEN tool the attitude of indifference is essential to remove the power struggle. Make sure to emphasize the words WHEN and THEN. After giving clear instructions, walk away. Walking away allows your child to make the decision to complete the undesired task without “mom stares.” The decision to comply is now solely on the child. 

I tried it myself

I have to say, I used this WHEN-THEN formula on my teenage son in the last couple of weeks. He was getting a bit behind in his school work and I used the WHEN-THEN tool to get him back on track. I confiscated his phone and let him know, WHEN his grades were back up to par, THEN he would get his phone back. I followed the rules and stayed firm. It was tough, but didn’t repeat myself. He kept me updated on his efforts to get his grades up. WHEN his grades were back to the grades we agreed upon, THEN he got his phone back. It worked. I didn’t have to yell, and I am happy to report I didn’t lose my sh*t. While a quid pro quo may not be acceptable in politic, it is more than welcome in parenting.