My husband and I have raised four and we are so proud of each of them. They are all successful, self sufficient and living in their own homes. It’s not easy to raise kids. Nothing works with every one and parents learn to adjust to the different personalities.
Some children are compliant and rarely ask for things they are pretty sure they can’t have.
Others work you over every single day and the struggle can be defeating. Most children fall between. Parents simply can’t let the children have the upper hand. Once a child has felt the power of the victory, the skirmishes become full fledged battles.
When my older kids were teens I discovered a tactic to avoid arguments with them. I wish I had learned it earlier and I wish I had remembered my lesson before I got sucked into an argument. I failed often. But no matter, I was the parent. I could stop it immediately. Often a parent finds himself already arguing before he realizes it. We are human.
The way to avoid an argument is:
Be on your guard the minute a request is made.
Do not give your answer quickly. Sometimes a request does not give you all the information you need. Perhaps they have already asked the other parent and the other parent is against it but said to check with you. Ask them now if they have talked to the other parent and what was the response? Get in the habit of asking this first. This will help define your position and open your options.
Think about the question and the reasons they have offered you when. Examine it from all angles. If you need to, check with your spouse. Saying yes is fine, it’s easy and you are the hero. Say yes as often as possible. It’s good for the soul.
When the answer must be No: Gird your loins.
Tell the child: I’m sorry, but the answer must be no this time. Be prepared for the shriek and the incredulous, Why NOT?
Parents are not required to reveal their reason why he can’t do something. Once you do, the argument is on. You have to decide if they need to know the reason or if they just need to know they will not be allowed. Remember, they will argue every point you present to them. They are not going to see your side.
You will need to counter at this point. Tell your child:
I will give you a minute of my undivided attention and you can tell me why you think you should be allowed. Then remind them: Once your arguments are presented, you will not be allowed to continue to give me reasons. Will you give me your reasons now or later?
This gives them time to prepare. A child who is an old hand at this may realize while he is gathering his arguments that it is going to be futile. He may just give up at this point. On the other hand, he may be able to give you excellent reasons and write them down for you. That is a great help in your decision making.
Now the hard part comes.
You must listen to their reasons, all of them. You listen without interrupting until they are talked out or until your time frame runs out. When they have a very good reason, you will be tempted to change your mind. Do not give in at this time. Tell them you will think it over and give them an answer as soon as you decide. Keep them in suspense for a bit while you think about it. Time is your friend. They will not want to ruin a possible reversal by breaking the rules. Also more issues with the request may come to light.
After thinking it over and you make your final decision, tell him as soon as possible. If you have changed your mind because they had a good reason, you should tell them that and acknowledge their good sense. Big sigh of relief.
Now, what If your answer is still no?
If you are new at this your child will be outraged. They will start to go over their reasons again and they will be upset. You do not have to justify your answer, you do not have to respond to their arguments. The answer is no.
They can not obtain permission now unless they persuade you to argue with them.
You may have to repeat: The answer is no. I have made my decision.
Normally a child will be furious when you deny them. Remember, you do not have to respond to their fury. If they become unruly, or will not stop giving you their arguments you can then give a time out, banish them to their room or if they are old enough, you can take a drive in the car alone and have a cup of tea somewhere until they cool down.
Be prepared for dark looks, huge sighs, tears, moping, anger, even hate. They are children and they are learning how to cope with disappointment. It’s often at this stage parents give in to try and cheer the child up or to bring peace to the household. Woe unto them. This lesson will not be forgotten by a child.
Instead redirect the child when they have had adequate time to be disappointed. A chore, such as yard work away from the family, can be refreshing and helpful, not as a punishment but to help their attitude get adjusted. There are lots of ways you can redirect them to help them get over their disappointment.
It is important to ignore their attitude and continue your daily life: Taking everyone in the family out of the home and go swimming, to the library or do a little grocery shopping. You need to be careful not to reward the one that is sulking by buying gifts at this time or treating the child specifically to a movie.
Your child may try to punish you until the event is over by staying mad. You have to tough it out.
The older a child is, you must be more willing to consider their arguments. Your goal as a parent is not to keep them captive and under your controlling thumb until age eighteen. Your goal is to see that by age eighteen they can make all of their own decisions. Every year you should be saying no less and less. Surprisingly, to many parents, they don’t understand children need to be allowed to make poor decisions and live with the consequences while they are still at home. As a parent you can tell them you think it is a bad idea and why, but the decision is theirs to make.
When each of my kids turned eighteen I stopped being their boss. I was still their parent, but not their boss. I had advice and suggestions but ultimately they decided the course of their lives from that point on. No parent is perfect.