United we stand, divided they walk all over us
There is truth to the saying that a united front will be stronger than two individuals. What other statement has truth? Your child(ren) has skills that even a highly-paid terrorist negotiator would envy. Your child knows how to work each side of the table, knows strengths and weaknesses of each player, can read every poker face and – perhaps most admirable – can make any other person involved in the deal change their mind with a mere facial expression (you know that lower lip quiver gets you every time). Frighteningly effective.
What’s a parental team to do? You have to remember a few things. Probably easier said than done, in the heat of a hard-core negotiation, but this is doable. Trust me.
First, remember that you are a TEAM. There is no ‘I’ in Team. It is about a unified front (more on that, but it can, actually, be just a front), you against them, two-as-one sort of a thing. That may sound a bit harsh, but remember who your partner in crime is here. Remember who has your back, and make sure you have theirs.
Second, remember that you don’t have to agree with your spouse … but you do have to agree in front of the kids. Argue or discuss after the kids have gone to bed. When asked (read: confronted), do NOT let them get you separate. Do not let them work you against one each other. Remember: Unified. After the extra ears have gone to bed, or left for school, or however else they can get out of earshot, discuss at will. Compromise, or argue or whatever, but get on to or close to the same page. Or agree to disagree and (perhaps most importantly) agree who will be the lead on the conversation when it inevitably comes up again. Because it will, and it will likely be at a most inconvenient time or when your defenses are down.
Third, remember that while you love your kids, and would do anything in the world for them, it is okay to say no. Saying no does not mean you don’t love them. Limits, boundaries, schedules… these are good for your kids. They are not punishment. Repeat after me: It is okay to say no. They will not need extended therapy sessions once they’ve passed puberty, they will not be scarred for life, and they will not grow into hoodlums because they were ‘shorted’ when they were young and have to make up for the lack. Saying yes does not mean you love them more. In fact, the way kids learn to appreciate what they have, and how to develop genuine gratitude is by not always getting what they want the second they indicate that they want it.
Fourth, know that your child(ren) have a memory like a steel trap. You think they’ll forget what they want and go for that proverbial carrot you are holding out in an attempt to distract them from the actual discussion (read: demand) at hand? No. They are on to you, and know that you are trying to distract. They will play with you, make it seem as though they might go for the hoax you are flapping around desperately, but they won’t. They are smarter than that. Am I making them sound like cold-hearted mercenaries? That is completely intentional, believe me.
Fifth, if you cave once, they will learn from their tactics, note your mistakes and they will improve their methodology to get you to cave even quicker the next time. Because there will be a next time, and you will be tested again.
Try to follow these five suggestions, and you too will be able to withstand the onslaught of demands your child has for you.