I’ve decided to engage in a little experiment. Depending on the results, it could change the way that my five year-old son and I survive the summer together. Luke likes to do things and, unlike his younger brother, he prefers to do things with someone else. Given the fact that Mommy and Daddy are more in tune with his ever-increasing skill level, Luke usually turns to us to play catch, go to the baseball diamond, take a spin on the bike, and the like.
Unfortunately, other activities and commitments don’t always allow us to respond immediately to his desires and this is where things tend to become contentious. Instead of accepting our condolences when we’re not able to engage with him in the way he desires, he will often get teary, whiny and insistent that we change our mind. In other words, he will try to wear us down with emotional persistence.
This morning, Luke and I had a conversation about this and, while he recognizes what he is doing, he really hasn’t been given any alternative strategies to use. I proposed one during our discussion.
I explained to him that Mommy and Daddy do our best to spend time with him, but that isn’t always possible. Sometimes we are busy with other things; sometimes might just be tired! So, beginning today Luke would still be welcome to ask and, if he was unsatisfied with the answer he received, he would be allowed the right to one appeal!
“Like a banana peel, Daddy?”
“No, more like an appeal to first base.”
“Oh, when the umpire asks for help with a strike.”
“Yes, kind of like that.”
I told him that if he didn’t like the answer he received he could come up with a new idea or alternative. Mommy and Daddy could then decide whether or not to accept the appeal.
Here’s the example I used.
“Suppose you asked Daddy to go to Dairy Queen, but Daddy said that we wouldn’t have time because we were leaving soon to go to Nana and Papa’s. Instead of whining or crying, what’s one thing that you could suggest?
He thought for a moment.
“I could say, ‘Let’s call Nana and Papa and tell them we’ll be late.”
“Ok,” I said, “But then you wouldn’t have time to swim.”
“You’re right…hmmm…I know!” he exclaimed, “We could leave earlier and stop off at Dairy Queen on the way.”
“Now, that could work,” I said.
So, those of you who are much more experienced than I at this parenting thing might be rolling your eyes and wondering why I wouldn’t just say, “No means no.”
Two reasons come to mind. First, my own father almost always said no, often before we had a chance to ask the question. Eventually, we just assumed the answer would be no and stopped asking. Second, I really want to teach my kids that they have the ability to think about things, solve problems, and come up with alternative solutions.
So, other than not having the patience for dealing with whiny kids, the combination of voice and mind are my two real motivators.
I’ll keep you posted. I’d also love to hear about the way that you nurtured your own children in this regard!