All parents have to deal with the challenges of kids making numerous petitions throughout the day for all manner of things.
Can I have bacon and eggs?
Can I go to the park?
Can I be done with my dinner?
It would make for an interesting case study to count exactly how many questions a kid asks everyday on average. This presents a challenge to parents because we have to offer decisive answers to all of these questions. It also requires that we asses the requests and explain why such requests are denied. Here are a few points that I try to follow (albeit not perfectly):
- Teach your kids how they are to approach you. Teach them not to shout out, tug on your pants, etc. Our kids need to be taught about proper protocol in making a petition.
- Teach yourself how to consistently respond to your kids. If your kids are tugging and yelling, they probably feel that you are hardly paying attention to them and generally dismiss their petitions as an annoyance. And, unfortunately, our laziness may be part of the problem. We need to look at our kids, let them finish their petition, and proceed to respond in a respectful manner.
- Teach your kids that your answers are either final or open to further consideration. Be clear and definitive when that is your determination, but don’t be afraid to say that you’re not sure and need to think about it some more. You should let your kids know that you WILL get back to them if your undecided and that they aren’t to beg and whine. Begging and whining leads to an automatic “NO” in our household. Giving in to whining and begging will only beget more begging and whining and manipulation and a whole host of ugly behavior in the future. I’ve sadly seen teenagers work their parents for whatever they want because they have learned how to work the system. They will go through life trying to work the system.
- Teach your kids to be reasonable in their petitions. It’s not good if your kid is asking for an ice cream sundae every morning for breakfast. I’m not suggesting that you sit there every morning in a respectful manner answering the same question over and over when you will never ever answer in the affirmative. You need to tell your kids that they aren’t getting ice cream this morning, or any morning. You respectfully tell them not to make such a request again and that if they were to ever have an ice cream sundae in the morning it would be a very rare occasion initiated by yourself. They should proceed by putting it out of their mind and never expecting it to occur. This will teach our kids maturity and will decrease their petitions over time.
- Follow the same rules when the roles are reversed. This is a general guide, but there will be times when you ask things of your kids. You need to ask them in a respectful manner and they should respond the same way you have responded to them, with undivided attention. Please note that I’m only referring to actual questions and not to the commands that take the form of a question, like “Will you please take out the trash right now?” Our kids really don’t have a choice and thus can’t answer “no”, but should learn to respond with respectful affirmation. The armed forces are taught to respond, “Sir, yes, sir”, and trust me, they really didn’t have an option to say no. But there are genuine questions at time, like, “Would you like to play little league this year?”, “What would you like for dinner?”, “Do you want ice cream or cookies for dessert?” They need to respond by the same rules you respond to them. Teach your kids to be decisive when necessary and to request more time to think on certain things. As the parent, you may need to cap how long they can think about it. Obviously they don’t get 30 minutes to ponder whether they want ice cream or cookies because bedtime may be in 15 minutes. Perhaps you give them a night to sleep on some decisions like whether to play little league.
The net effect is that your children will learn how to interact and communicate with others in a respectful manner. They will be well prepared to respond to authority figures in school, the work place, wherever. They will also make good leaders and supervisors should they serve in leadership. They will be respected by others and a delight to communicate with. It all starts in the home. If you’re a lazy dismissive parent, then your kids will be cynical and fearful and feel the need to make a scene or shame you to get your attention. If you gain credibility as one who sincerely listens to and responds with careful thought to each petition, you will gain credibility over time and your kids will honor you. Trust me, being a lazy dismissive parent is much easier, but it will only beget laziness and a dismissive attitude in our kids. Your laziness may take the other form of being a pushover. Rather than saying “NO” to everything mid-question, you may be tempted to say “Yes” to everything because you can’t deal with the whining and begging. Your kids will not respect you when they grow older and they will think that they can exact anything they want from the people they interact with. They will be annoying and resort to evils like blackmail to get their way.
© 2012, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.