Sunday, August 28, 2011

Arbitrary Dictates vs. Negotiation

As much as possible, I try to avoid making completely arbitrary decisions with my children. You know the ones. I'm talking about when you tell them "no" simply because that was the first response that came to mind. Or just because it is more convenient to tell them no than to let them make a mess pulling out yet another toy. Often, when I catch myself having made a completely arbitrary decision, I will change my mind. I'll say, "You know, I thought about it and actually I've decided that that is okay after all."

And then I read How to Land Your Kid in Therapy. The article talks about a lot of things that made me think. One small section talks about parents that don't actually say "no" and stick with it.

I started paying attention. My children negotiate a lot. Here's an example.

Me: When we get home it will be naptime. We'll have to go straight upstairs.
Them: Can we play a little first?
Me: No.
Them: Just one minute?
Me: Ok. Just one minute.

And then we really do play for only a short time. I usually feel like compromise and being flexible are good things to model, but as I started to pay attention I began to realize that my children seem to thing absolutely everything is up for negotiation.

I want to dress Ava. She wants to debate every single item of clothing and who gets to put it on how quickly. I want to get the children in the car and they want to choose a toy first. I say this is the last television show and they want just one more.

Now, I don't want to give the impression that my children are out of control. They are usually very well behaved and their requests are often fairly reasonable and not particularly disruptive to routine. However, I'm not sure that I want the take home message to be that I can always be negotiated with and I never really mean what I say.

I feel like one end of the spectrum is the "I expect you do do what I say when I say it." school of parenting while the other end of the spectrum is the "My child is a person and should do whatever they want." end of the spectrum. I'd like to fall somewhere in the middle, where I respect them and take their wants and feelings into consideration, but they respect me as the parent and ultimate decision maker. I'm just not sure that I'm achieving that at the moment.

Anyway, it was an interesting train of thought and I'm trying to be a bit less negotiable for a while. Where do all of you fall on the spectrum?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Web Analytics