How to Effectively Use the 2nd Person “We” (Parental Communication Tip #427)

You’ve heard of the royal We? It’s all too present in seminarian papers with just a single author:

queen elizabethCareful consideration of the textual data leads us to conclude….


We read with the majority of scholars in this case that….

And then there is simply, “We are not amused.”

a gold starFor some time now my wife and I have had the materials in hand to make a star chart for our five-year-old son. Through this chart we (actual We) seek to motivate him to do what is right (treat us with respect, pee when he has to instead of holding it) and not what is wrong (tell his younger brother to “Go to jail!”, get the Gorilla glue out without asking). Good behavior earns stars, and multiple stars earn a new Wild Kratts DVD, or (better yet) a trip out for coffee with Dad or Mom. (The no longer jail-threatened brother stays at home.)

But we still haven’t made the chart. So tonight at dinner I said to my wife, “Can we make our son’s star chart this weekend?”

To which she replied, “Can you make the star chart this weekend?”

I actually had meant We literally in this case, but I can see why she thought I was using the 2nd person We, asking her to do the chart. It’s a special grammatical usage that often crops up around here:

  • #1/Me: Honey, can we make some time to do the laundry this weekend? (Translation: I’m out of clean undershirts for work; will you wash them?)
  • #2/She: Abram, can we try to keep our clothes hung up around here? (Translation: Why are you strewing your jacket, dress pants, etc., etc. all across the bed so I can’t sleep in it?)
  • #3/She: Can we clear our dishes from the table when we’re done with breakfast? (Translation: AM I YOUR MAID?)
    towels. clean towels.
  • #4/Me: Sweetheart, could we possibly distinguish between a hand towel and a drying towel? (Translation: What’s with this MASSIVE HEAP OF UNDIFFERENTIATED MOSTLY WET TOWELS ON THE COUNTER?)

See? It’s softer, gentler, more effective. In #1 above, my wife sees right through my alleged effort at mutual janitorial cooperation. In #2, I know that she’s really trying for some cleanliness equity. In #3, well… if I expect our kids to clear their dishes, I ought to do the same. As for #4? Please expect a future post to address the merits of keeping separate the towels you use to dry clean dishes versus dirty hands.

But enough blogging about it. We’ve got a chart to make for Our son.

6 thoughts on “How to Effectively Use the 2nd Person “We” (Parental Communication Tip #427)

  1. That massive heap of undifferentiated mostly wet towels on the counter? Every Kielsmeier towel is kept very strictly and precisely in the multiuse-whenever-whatever-wherever category. Sarah comes by that very honestly dontchaknow. Mea culpa

  2. This is both a familiar and nostalgic interpersonal interaction. Btw, Thanks for sending your toast. What a great thing you did in your life, Abram. If you are ever feeling down you should remember you did that nice thing and what a victory it was, then you might feel a little better.

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