I have three daughters. Twins and a bonus baby. Yes, I am blessed. Yes, this is why I often talk about wine.
Because we started our family off with twins, I was always outnumbered. When the third came along sixteen months later, it was just about survival.
When the girls started developing their own personalities — and they have big ones — my husband and I realized that we needed a strategy to make sure we maintained control of the situation. Any mom of multiples can tell you that trying to discipline one toddler at a time is hard enough, but add another (and another), and you start to run out of time out chairs.
I also was nervous about taking the kids out by myself to places that were crowded. I was doing just fine as long as I could put all three of them in a shopping cart, but one day I was going to want to venture out somewhere that wasn’t a Costco or a grocery store. We might even want to go to Red Robin.
My answer to this dilemma was to take a borderline militant stance with my kids, but in a fun way (well fun for me, maybe not for my kids.) No meant no, which meant even with tantrums and begging, the answer was no. No decisions under duress, no changing the rules last second, and no going back on any threats. We left restaurants if rules weren’t obeyed, or I would stay behind with the offender while my husband took the other two out. I’m quite sure it hurt us way more than it hurt them.
But our parenting philosophy became crystal clear as my husband explained it to some friends one day: “We don’t negotiate with terrorists.”
Now, I don’t give my husband that much credit for the awesomeness that are my kids. I mean, seriously, he is at work all day, travels, runs marathons….how much of an influence can he be? (I sort of jest.) But in this, he was brilliant.
Just like George W. said, our resolve was being tested, and we will show our country that we will pass this test. OK, the President probably wasn’t talking about parenting, but he could have been.
Obviously, although I do think my children can be little terrors, I don’t like to equate them to terrorists; however, there are some striking similarities:
- If you negotiate with them once, they will expect it every time.
- The ransom for doing what you want will continue to go up.
- Terrorists rarely honor their agreements.
Now let me be clear. My kids are as spoiled as the next. I let them have extra cookies or buy them something they really want for their birthdays; but it’s on my terms, not theirs. And never because they beat me down. We never make decisions in the moment based on an ask, and if the waterworks or whining start, it’s all over for them. Of course, we are not completely mean spirited, so we will at time compromise (which is not negotiating.) For example, if we plan it out, we’ll let the kids stay up late for something they want to watch, or we let the rules slide on special occasions, but we always try to say what we mean and mean what we say.
I once heard another parent say gambling was like negotiating for kids. If you hit the jackpot once, you always think it can happen again so you keep going back. It’s the same thing when kids use nagging to wear you down. He’s not sure how you will react, but since he doesn’t have much to lose, why not roll the dice again (and again and again)?
The truth is, not negotiating empowered me. Not in the way that made me feel like a Communist dictator, but in a way that allowed me to keep a little bit calmer because I knew I had the control. I can honestly say that I spanked my kids once or twice, but it never felt right to me and made me feel guilty, which then made me overcompensate by being extra nice to them after the fact. Not exact the life lesson I was trying to teach.
Not negotiating with my little terrors (eventually) eliminated the nagging, the fights about every little thing, and the exhausting questions. It made it easier to go out and leave them with babysitters or family. Honestly, I think it just made them a little more enjoyable to be around, and I think, made me a little bit more enjoyable to be around as well.
And with the onset of three sets of teenage angst and hormones not that far in front of us, it’s my hope that it will help me enjoy — or at least survive — the teenage years, as I can’t imagine how many times I’ll have to say, “No, you can’t [have the car, wear that skirt, pierce your eyebrow.] And I’m sure they will listen to me every time…
Cheers my friends!