Back to articles How Many Times do I have to Tell You? By Funny Mommy, Kathy Buckworth

Categories: Parenting

We all know that one of the basic skills children are expected to learn in school is how to count. In fact, as parents, we start teaching them this even before they hit the hallowed halls of Junior Kindergarten.


“Two cookies.  I said two.  That’s seven. Put five back. Stop eating them. Okay now you’ve licked them all, we’re saving them for later. No, still only two.  Oh, just go ahead.”


“How many kittens are there? No, sweetie, don’t grab them to count them. Stop! Put them down. See? I told you that would happen.  How many bandaids do we need?”


But even with this early training, evidence would suggest that they’re still not getting the concept.  I know this because Moms everywhere are still uttering that classic phrase: “How many times do I have to tell you?”  And I have to tell you, when I say it, it’s not meant to be rhetorical.  I actually want to know the answer to this question.


I am known to ask this ubiquitous question under many different circumstances.  To date, none of my four children have ever come up with an answer that in any way resembles a numerical unit.


“Stop hitting your brother! How many times do I have to tell you?”

“Well if he would stop being stupid I wouldn’t have to hit him.”


“No, you can’t have a snack. Dinner is in half an hour.  How many….”

“It’s not like I’m going to like what you made anyway.”


“We have to leave in five minutes! We can’t be late again! How many…”

“Why are you always rushing me?”


“Don’t get out of bed again.  How many…”

But I NEED a glass of water.”


Do you see what I mean? Not one of them even attempted to answer my question.  In fact, this is not the only rhetorical question I ask around here, but these other ones seem to get answered right away.  Mostly with the word YES. 


“Do you think I like making a dinner that everyone hates every night?”

“I suppose you think I’m waiting around all day for a call from you to bring your lunch to school?”

“Do you think I spend hours thinking up ways to torture you?”

“Is it so unreasonable for me to expect to be able to see the floor in your bedroom?”

“Do you think I’m your personal slave?”


So, between the questions they don’t answer (when you want them to), and the ones they do answer (when you don’t want them to), I’ve discovered there might be a new way of dealing with children.  Making statements, instead of asking questions. Then I can wait for them to say to me “How many times are you going to tell me that Mom?”  And I’m not going to answer them.


Read Funny Mummy every month.  Follow Kathy on Twitter and get her latest book “The BlackBerry Diaries: Adventures In Modern Motherhood”, where ever books are sold.