“OK, honey. Five more minutes, OK? Then we have to go.”
“Time to go. OK, two more minutes, but then we really have to go.”
“Time’s up. Remember I told you five minutes ago that we had to leave? So we really do need to go or we’ll be late.”
“Come on, sweetie. If we leave now, I’ll buy you the truck you wanted or the doll you asked for, or you can have a sleepover…”
“If you talk to me like that, we’re going straight home, and there will be no ice cream for you.”
“I mean it. This time I really mean it.”
“I’m not going to tell you again.”
Dealing with all that whining, crying, begging, wheedling, threatening, tantrums or completely ignoring can be exhausting. And that’s just the parents.
It would be a mistake to think any of these are negotiations. They’re bribes and threats, but they aren’t negotiations.
A friend of mine, a single father of two, offered some insightful language regarding his parenting philosophy.
He said, “There’s what I want, there’s what they want and there’s what the situation requires – which is sometimes what none of us wants.” We can negotiate what each of us wants, but not what the situation requires.
Long ago, I took my five-year-old daughter and four-year-old son to the bank with me. There was a long lineup, and I suspect they were tired, hungry and bored. And then, just as we got to the front of the line, they bolted – in opposite directions.
Acting on what the situation required, I left the line, scooped up a child under each arm, and headed for the car. There was no lecture, no recriminations. They already knew what they’d done.
Once we were all buckled in and heading home, I said, “This will be the last time you come out with me this week. But we’ll try again next week.” I only ever had to do this once.
When dealing with what the situation requires, the less said, the better. And what children and teens need in that moment is someone who’s calm, cordial and in charge, someone who’s not overwhelmed by the situation – or by the child or teen. They need someone who’s understanding and decisive in the face of their frustration.
“I know you’re not finished playing this game yet. What a bummer. That sucks. And we have to leave now.”
A negotiation, on the other hand, is a thoughtful, respectful, collaborative exchange between parent(s) and child(ren) toward an agreement on something that might otherwise be contentious.
As parents, it’s important to get clear on what the situation requires, what the child or teen wants and what we want.
Does the living room really have to be tidied right now, or can it be done later? And is there really any reason why a child can’t go to school in mismatched clothes if that’s what she prefers?
Your teen wants to go to a party, and you have safety concerns, but you can leave the door open for negotiation by asking him to provide you with a plan on how he’ll stay safe – including a plan for getting home. One parent used to leave emergency cab fare tucked away in the kitchen.
Want to know more about Choice Theory? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you PDFs of the booklet Who’s Driving YOUR Car? and the handout Six Things: How to create healthy boundaries. And as always, I welcome your questions.
- by Sue Kranz, APSGO ENEWS – Sept 2020