ADHD Parenting Influence Tip

Studied on over 22,000 people, the 'But You Are Free' technique makes you twice as persuasive.

Anyone who is the parent of a child with ADHD knows that convincing him or her to do as their told is no easy task. Whether it’s cleaning up their room, getting started on their homework, or even heading outside to play, kids with ADHD can be stubbornly set in their ways.

So how can we arm ourselves better as parents to become more persuasive? What technique can we implement immediately to achieve better results?

The answer is what is known as the ‘But You Are Free’ technique. The technique itself, which has been studied on over 22,000 individuals in over 40 studies, essentially reaffirms a person’s freedom to choose. It is also extremely easy to use; when asking someone to do something, you just add in the fact that they are free to choose.

While this may seem slightly counterintuitive at first, the underlying reasoning is that you’re removing any perceived threat from the communication. You’re effectively reaffirming and acknowledging their right to disagree or say no.

A recent study by Carpenter, 2013, of the compliance-gaining technique showed that by adding the sentiment of freedom of choice to or request, your request is twice as likely to be fulfilled.

Maximize your persuasiveness by speaking face-to-face.

How you articulate the freedom of choice has also been shown to not be a determining factor in its effectiveness. So phrases such as ‘but you are free’ worked equally as well as ‘you’re not obliged’.

What is important to remember however is that the request should be made in a face-to-face interaction. Otherwise, the technique seems to lose its effectiveness.

The ‘But You Are Free’ technique highlights the fact that people don’t like being told what to do, even if they are likely to engage in that activity or behavior anyways. By having our options diminished, we often become more close-minded and resistant to the desired behavior.

By employing the technique with your child, you might very well be met with less defiance achieve the desired behavior with both parties happier as a result. Although it certainly is not bulletproof, it can definitely serve to help in your efforts in the future.




Carpenter, C. J. (2013). A Meta-Analysis of the Effectiveness of the “But You Are Free” Compliance-Gaining Technique. Communication Studies64(1), 6-17.

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