These children can be wonderfully affectionate and, when you get behind the attitude, they are often very sweet. Most of the time, however, they are fiercely independent, and this can leave parents craving touch, hugs, and affection. Parents need to be watchful to ensure that times of affection are not times for negotiation. Don't let them kiss and cuddle you into winning.
|Negotiation Strategies With Children|
The most common issue I see for parents of this type is that they vacillate from one extreme to the other. Moving quickly from a desire to cuddle to a desire to strangle is not good. It's inconsistent and it lets the child run your home. Don't get me wrong, these are wonderful kids - you just don't want them running your life for you.
Parenting these kids can be a tricky business. While you don't want to crush their individuality, they often want to be an exception to any condition you lay down, based on some (possibly entirely fictitious) special need. At times it is necessary to play down their specialness or difference and to emphasize that there are no exceptions to your important rules.
These kids need a bottom line that is clear and unambiguous, and the results of crossing that line must be etched in their memories. For a parent, it's important not to go for too much, too soon. Decide on one or, at most, two important rules and have very clear consequences. Give these kids very clear expectations, lay out the boundaries, then lay out the boundaries again. Tell them there is no negotiation.
Don't fight and don't give in. In moments of conflict, withdraw and calm down. Remember, your aim is not to have them submit to your will, it is to have them develop integrity and a consideration of others' needs, which will help them to thrive in life.
In heated moments, words are your worst enemy. Negotiators are extremely talented at twisting and turning words into humor, provocation, or distraction, Words are home territory for these kids. Most Negotiators love an audience for their jokes and actions. Battling with them in front of friends or, even worse, extended family members is pointless. Always take them away from the audience before talking with them.
Many of these kids are bedazzled by rewards. A small prize can often be more valued by them than praise, especially if they believe they have beaten the odds to get it. Use tangible rewards such as free time, food, and stickers rather than praise alone.
Jenny was one of the funniest kids I've ever seen in therapy. By the age of eight, she had both of her parents eating from the palm of her hand. She was a card-sharp, lightning-fast-witted Bart Simpson, and it won't surprise me when one day she is an exceptionally successful businesswoman.
Jenny was also an accomplished escapologist. She could disappear from school, find her way home, and spend hours on the computer. When the school called Jenny's parents to start the search party, a soap opera unfolded. Adults rushed frantically in all directions trying to find her.
Jenny's exasperated parents would then spend hours forcefully explain to her the importance of school and the need to let people know where you are, as well as safety issues. All sensible issues to discuss. They would then extract a solemn vow from Jenny that she would never disappear from school again.
After a few days of school attendance, guess where Jenny was? You got it in one! On a school day, she was at home in front of her beloved computer. Her parents came along fuming. "She promises me she'll never run away from school again and then she does exactly the opposite," her mother groaned.
When I saw Jenny alone and asked whether she meant to upset her parents, her eyes sparkled and she grinned cheekily. The first change was for her parents to learn to stop extracting meaningless promises and to instead focus on Jenny's actions. We agreed that for every time Jenny disappeared from school she would lose access to the computer for two days. Over the next six weeks, Jenny tested this out several times before learning that her parents were not going to spend hours discussing the matter: they just disabled the computer and got on with their lives.
After a few dramatic episodes, Jenny realized that she wasn't getting the usual response, and decided that losing two days of computer game time simply wasn't worth it. To find out more, you can check out Negotiation Strategies With Children.