Monday, November 10, 2008

NINE TIMES?! Are they crazy?!

Did you know that kids will ask an average of 9 times before a parent gives in. NINE TIMES!!

Two things stand out to me:
(1) that a child can be so strong-willed as to ask 9 times.... and,
(2) that I give in somewhere around 4 or 5 (my kids have it easy).

"Parents have this illusion that if they give their child the reason why they can't do what they want, the child will stop wanting it."

Oh, boy. Didn't I learn that a tad too late.

Raising the Jellybean (my oldest, now 13) I felt strongly that I wanted to give her a voice. (Probably because subconsciously I felt I didn't have one growing up.) I wanted to give her the words to use to defend herself and to explain herself. I wanted her to see that when you made a decision you should be able to back it up with why you chose what you did. I wanted her to have her beliefs and yet be able to explain why she believed what she did. I explained every decision I made in order to help teach her to be verbally responsible for her choices and actions.

Now, at 13, I find myself wondering why she just can't respect me as her mother. Why does she question, debate, unfold, remix, battle every decision I try to make? (Because I taught her to.)

I am unable at this point to simply say, "No. End of discussion." And have it stick. Instead I have taught her to Problem Solve.
Can't go to McDonald's for dinner? Why?
- Is it because I have no money? I'm sure she has some at home in her piggy bank she'll offer to use.
- Is it because it's unhealthy? I'm sure she'll order the fish sandwich instead of the Big Mac.
- Is it because we haven't eaten dinner together as a family in a long time? I'm sure we can all eat inside together, or we could order to go and eat together at home.
- Is it because I just don't feel like it? I'm sure I could get something in a different drive through more to my liking after she gets her meal at McDonald's.

So how does a parent maintain that balance between teaching a child their voice of reason and teaching a child that sometimes they just do what Mom says because they respect her decision as an adult & parent even if they don't agree with it?

Boundaries. Setting clear boundaries. It's ok to say, "This is not a decision that is discussed with you in our house." It's ok to say, "This is a decision that Mommy makes, not you. When you are a Mommy you can make this decision, but not right now."

For example, the child can pick out her clothes for playtime, but for church Mom makes that decision. (Dotter wore bright pink snow boots every day two summers ago, but those were set aside for sandals on Sunday.)

For dinner, I've started a night each week where one child decides dinner. But whatever they decide they're responsible for. If the food is in the cupboards they can make it. If they want to go out to a restaurant they have to be ready to be financially responsible for that decision. (Amazing how McDonald's loses its appeal when you have to pay for EVERYONE.) The rest of the week it's MY decision - and mine alone - to make.

Try a little challenge today. Keep track of how many times you're asked for the same thing you've said no to. Simply state, "no" and when asked why simply state "this is the decision I am making." Say this the 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th time - no matter how long it takes until it ends.

You aren't going to convince your child not to WANT what they want, no matter how much explaining you do, but perhaps you'll be able to further establish that as the Mom you can make decisions without having to explain "why" ... and having them approve.