Silence can be golden with a little negotiator
We all like to negotiate from time to time, and try to get our own opinions across. Strong-willed children, in particular, seem to flourish at the first sight of a possible argument or negotiation. But constant negotiation and arguing can become exhausting. Not to mention, it can become a slippery slope where the child can start to up-end the power definition between parent and child.
If we allow children to regularly negotiate, it can lead to other power struggles. It’s good to allow choices that you are comfortable with: maybe it’s picking out his/her own clothes, but NOT having a big chocolate brownie 15 minutes before dinner. There are rules that should be steadfast. I like to visualize the child/parent relationship like this: the parent has a deck of cards in his/her hands. Each time you allow your child to argue for something and win, you are giving up a power card.
Parent: “We are having pork chops for dinner.”
Child: “I don’t want pork chops. I want chicken nuggets.”
Parent “Okay, I’ll make chicken nuggets.”
You just lost a card to your child.
Parent: “I want you to pick up your toys.”
Child “No. I’m going outside.”
Parent picks up toys for child.
You just gave up a card. Before you know it, your child’s power deck has more cards than your own. Guess who is in charge of the house now?
I know. After working all day, the last thing I want to do is argue with my children over dinner and toys. Is it worth it? In the long run, YES! So, is there a way to stop the ongoing arguments? Sure is: STOP TALKING!
I don’t mean you should ignore your little one, or let them be disrespectful, but children love to get us in the back-and-forth dialog. After all, isn’t that what most of us have taught them? Negotiate until you come up with a success! Going quiet can actually have more of an impact, and show them you mean what you say!
One method to neutralize arguing requires two simple steps.
- Use empathy, not anger, in your response.
- Use only a few words. Use them like a broken record if you need to, but do not keep talking!
Here are some examples of this method of empathetic response versus arguing:
Child: “You never let me do anything.”
Parent: “It must feel that way sometimes.”
Do not then proceed to provide a laundry list of everything you let your child do. They aren’t listening. In addition, you are not going to change your mind about whatever you said no to. So why continue the back and forth?
Child: “I want one more TV show.”
Parent: “I know. You can watch one tomorrow.”
Again, stop talking or repeat the parent line above.
Child: “You’re so mean. You don’t love me.”
Parent: “Nice try.”
Your child knows this is not true. Your child is mad. In that moment what they are really saying is, “I don’t like the limits you are putting on me.”
One resource I use, Love and Logic (www.loveandlogic.com) suggests a one-line that is to be used like a broken record: “I love you too much to argue.” It works with everything from wanting an extra cookie to not wanting to put a coat on.
Whatever method you choose, it’s helpful to remember SILENCE can some times be golden (when proceeded by a nice, short, broken-record response!)