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The Washing Up

Note - "Washing up" is what the Australians call "doing the dishes" in the USA.


At around 7 AM one morning, a mother wanted her 10 year old daughter, Annabelle, to wash the dishes before going to school. But Annabelle did not want to wash them, so she and her mother were arguing. The mother was trying everything she could think of to get Annabelle change her mind, including threatening and bribing her daughter, but nothing was working and the mother was getting increasingly frustrated.

I offered to help by talking to Annabelle and they both accepted my help.

Here is how our talk went:

I started with this question:

"Ok, first of all, from zero to ten, how much do you feel understood by your mom about why you don't want to do the dishes?"


"Ok, could you explain to me why you don't want to wash them?"

After she had explained things a bit I stopped her to check to see if I was getting everything right:

"Okay, so Mom wants you to do the dishes and you don't want to. Plus Mom said she isn't going to take you and your sister to school until you do them? Is that right so far?"


"Okay, so you are probably feeling forced...?"


"And punished...?"


"And threatened....?"


I let her talk some more and listened carefully. The more she talked, the more she felt understood.

But I wanted to know just how much she felt understood by me so after a couple more minutes I said, "Ok right now, how much do you feel understood by me?" She replied, "8."

I then said, "OK, we are missing two. What else?"

She said, "Besides that, I told Mom I would do the dishes when I got home from school and she didn't believe me.

"So you don't feel trusted?"


By the way, at some point when we were talking I noticed that she actually had started washing the dishes.

After she told me she didn't feel trusted I checked again to see how much she felt understood by me. This time it was a perfect 10 and the dishes were finished too!

But that is not the end of this story. The mother later told me that when she was in the car on the way to school Annabelle voluntarily apologized to her for giving her such a hard time. The mother apologized in return and they both accepted the other's apology. They then then shared a few tears and a loving hug.


Human Emotional Needs


Conflict Resolution

Emotional Literacy