How to Use “Compromise” as a Parenting Tool:
Compromising with your youngster doesn't cheapen your authority – it strengthens it. Kids respect moms and dads who are willing to listen to them. Until they leave home, kids must accept your authority, but that doesn't mean you can't listen to their side of things.
Compromising is a win-win situation that benefits both mothers/fathers and kids. Moms and dads show that they are approachable and open to another's viewpoint (a trait that kids become more sensitive about as they approach the teenage years). In adolescence, you will find that compromising becomes your main behavior management tool, because teens like to be treated as intellectual equals and expect you to respect their viewpoint. If used wisely, compromising improves communication between mother/father and youngster. A stubborn insistence on having your own way has the opposite effect. Even the wishes of a nine or ten-year-old should be open to compromise. This is a warm-up time to help you sharpen your compromising skills for the years ahead.
"Why do I have to go to bed at 9:30?" argued nine-year-old Jake.
"What time do you think is a good bedtime for you?" asked Mother the Compromiser.
"10:30," Jake suggested.
"That extra hour means a lot to you doesn't it? What would you do during that extra hour?" said Mother.
"I could read," Jake asserted.
"Remember how tired you are the next morning when you stay up late. You fall asleep at school," Mother reminded him.
"But that was last year. I'm older now," Jake pleaded.
"Yes, I guess you are. Let's try this," Mother suggested. "On school nights you have to be in bed by 9:30, and you can read in until 10:00. On nights that you don't have school the next day, you can stay up until 11:00."
The youngster thought this was acceptable, and his reasoning was validated. The mother achieved her goal being sure her son got enough sleep. She knew that after five minutes of reading in bed, her son would probably fall asleep – which he did. As this compromising went back and forth, the mother was earning points with her son. The youngster was getting the message that "I can talk to my mother. She is reasonable, and she really does care about what's good for me. My mother listens, and she has some wise things to say."
Sometimes you will want to let your youngster take the lead. Use a well-known compromising tool: Meet the youngster where he is, and then bring him to where you want him to be. For example, you want your youngster to do his homework, but he's intent playing with the cat. Let him spend a bit of energy chasing the cat around the house. Let him tire himself out so he can sit still and do his homework. This is not “giving in” to the youngster or letting the youngster be in control, it's simply being a smart compromiser. It's a way to bring your youngster back to your agenda after a short excursion that satisfies the needs of his agenda.
Command - and show - respect during compromise. If your youngster starts screaming or acting disrespectful, close the discussion (e.g., "Do not talk to me in that tone, Jake. I'm the father, you're the son, and I expect respect"). This sets the tone for future compromises. You may have to remind your youngster of this non-negotiable fact of family life often during the pre-adolescent and adolescent years. Because of the constant bartering that older kids do, it is easy to let your authority slip away. Don't! You need this authority to keep order in the house, and your youngster will need to respect authority to get along in life.
There will be situations when you don't want to compromise. You know you're right and your youngster is being unreasonable. Before he works himself into a rage, break off the compromising process. That's the parent’s right (e.g., "That's a TV show we don’t watch in this house. I won’t be changing my mind about this – so switch the channel or turn it off" ...then walk away). Kids need to learn when moms and dads mean business. Mothers/fathers can't use this approach every time or kids will see them as “control freaks.” Be prepared to allow the youngster to watch other programs that are acceptable.
If used wisely, compromise can become a valuable communication tool, helping kids develop their reasoning abilities. Teach your youngster that compromise work best when everyone is calm and peaceful, not in the heat of the moment (e.g., "I’m saying ‘no’ for now, but I'll talk it over with your mother and get back to you this evening"…or "You’re being disrespectful. Come back later when you're feeling less angry and we’ll talk about it"). When you're not sure, or feeling pressured, decide not to decide.
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