Parenting: To Negotiate or Not

With social media bombarding new parents with how to parent, it’s not a surprise that parents are frustrated. There are many strategies being offered that are much more diplomatic than when I was raising my children.

The flaw in many of the strategies is they ask parents to talk too much to the children. Children don’t listen unless it benefits them. If it doesn’t benefit them, the words go in one ear and out the other.

Parents are asked to have children take time out, but they don’t offer them strategies for calming themselves. Time out should be called, “Calming Time.” If parents explain that calming time is an opportunity for them to apply the strategies that allow the brain to redirect the blood to the part of the brain that allows them to think more clearly. Once they learn that screaming accomplishes nothing, it will stop. If it gets parent’s attention, then the screaming will continue. Negative attention is better than no attention.

A grandparent complained that her grandchildren were brats. They didn’t listen and when the parents gave directions they ignored them.

This is where some parenting strategies being offered today are creating lovely children into what appears to be rude and disrespectful ones, when they are not.

Parents are told to count to give children warnings. The flaw in the counting is children will only stop when parents get to the number they know is the final warning. Teachers and employers will not count for them. It’s best to train them to respond immediately. The challenge comes when children are engaged in video play. To get their attention, parents would be more effective if they break the visual field of the children and then give directions. Devised are designed with neuroscience in mind. The developers have effectively mastered the art of engaging and sustaining attention by using the visual stimulus that results in blocking auditory interruptions.

I interacted with hundreds of children over the last 50 years, both as a teacher and a parent. In the 1970’s children and parents followed directions. In the 1990’s I began to see a difference when students began trying to negotiate changes in classroom rules and procedure. I would give a directions and many times I would receive, “How about, I do it this way?” I did adjust my teaching and began offering opportunities for negotiation and taught time management that would prompt students to show teachers when the amount of time for a project wasn’t enough. I did have to teach them appropriate negotiation communication skills that would not insult the teachers. But, they also learned that there were many times when negotiations were not acceptable, and they would have to learn how to manage a hard fast due date.

Because children today are bombarded by visual images, their listening skills are suffering. To help them follow your directions include imagery. Have them make eye contact with you and ask them to close their eyes. Then give them one instruction at a time and ask them to see themselves doing it. When they can see the action happening in their mind’s eye, they will be more likely to follow the directions to a tee.

Children need clear and concise rules and not every direction from a parent should be an opportunity to negotiate. Children feel safe when they know that “no” means “no,” not ask me later.

I made it clear that my “NO” was not negotiable. If I wasn’t sure, I would say, “Let me think about it. If you continue to bug me while I ponder all aspects of your request, it will become a “No.”

I never changed on a “Yes” to a “Maybe” or No.” I thought carefully about my response before answering.

There were times when I offered reasons for my answer, but that was when there was time to do so. There were times when I would hear their side off the request, but they knew that my “No” had thought behind it, and I was not going, nor did I need to explain my reasons at the moment. This was for their safety.

There are times when negotiations and explanations are important, but there are also times when children need to follow directions without question even if they don’t want to. This is how we can equip them for a successful future.

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