Sunday, July 12, 2009

Children are Born Negotiators

Kids of all ages have an innate and natural talent for negotiating to get what they want. From three year-olds wrangling for later bedtimes, to teenagers rattling off reasons to stay out late, they all have something in common - the overwhelming drive to say whatever it takes to get what they want. Sometimes, in our efforts to be the parent who listens and shows their child respect by taking into consideration their child's perspective, we allow ourselves to get get wrapped up in the dance, and lose our parental position in the process. The rules of engagement that apply to parenting three year-olds are just as valid when parenting seventeen year olds.

I believe it is possible to hear out a child, be respectful of their words and perspective, without losing our point.

We told our three year old we understood he wasn't sleepy, while reminding him that he knows, in our family, when it's bed time we stay in our room, in our bed quietly, and we rest. When his rapid fire requests for a cup of milk, or a movie, or one more book, etc., begin, the second we gave in and allowed the negotiation to affect our firmly stated decision, we lost our position.

Doing so, we only undermine ourselves and our child's good night sleep. 14 years later, our commitment as parents to stay out of the 'dance,' is just as important!

Our three year old, now 17 years old, has only gotten better in creatively twisting our logic int0 knots, until (in his mind), it supports whatever he really wants. On our good days, we respond to this behavior with the same thing we told him when he was three.

We acknowledge his position and desire, then immediately follow up with our firm re-statement of how this request is handled in our household, under our rules.

From my perspective, it's always been the times we didn't stay firm and allowed ourselves to get drawn in (kids are good, don't think they aren't) to the dance, and away from our position, that things blew up beyond what was warranted and caused more heartache and frustration than any of the times we presented a united parental front and maintained the rules we have already established and held all accountable to.

Not to say there isn't a time for compromise - just be aware and firm in your convictions - and even with a compromise accountability and agreement among the stakeholders of what and what will and won't be acceptable is absolutely necessary.

We are our children's parents, not their best friends. Be loving and have empathy, but never lose your backbone!

Giving in, doesn't give much to your child, except the immediate gratification rush - which never really fulfills, and only leaves them hungry for more, and more! Our children learning to live within their boundaries and respect what is required of them.... that is what they need, they just might not know it yet.

1 comment:

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