When I first became a parent, I read hundreds of parenting books and magazines that all said the same thing about settling disputes– It is the same thing that the United States does with known terrorists–yep no negotiations. For years I followed this advice and employed the militaristic mindset of “everything that I say goes.” If I wanted my oldest son to clean his room he did it. If I told him to make good grades, he did it. Then something changed. He started to have an opinion and no longer me telling him what to do held as much value as before. He even begin to do what I thought he would never be able to do–have secrets from me.
Once I realized this new mindset sirens and alarms went of in my head and I had to get to the bottom of this. He was becoming secretive, somewhat sneaky…almost teenagerish in his behavior. I mean what happened to my good, obedient child? I tried several strategies (all from your best parenting magazines) to attempt to bring back my once good child. I set an award system for him (failed), I had his dad discipline him (all it did was scare him) and I even tried to become the “cool” parent ( I had to abandon this when my son asked me to buy him a Lil Wayne CD). After all of these failed strategies, I went to the most seasoned parent I know–my mother.
Know I can’t give you all of the advice she gave me but I can show you what she told me. So a couple of weeks ago, his teacher pulls me to the side and tells me that DJ (my son) has a new girlfriend and that he has been daydreaming in class. To add “icing” to this slice of disappointment cake, she told me he made two bad grades on his Math Assessments due to him not listening. I was livid but instead of getting mad I employed my new negotiator skills. Of course I asked him about his grades, offered to get him tutor for math and told him to stop looking as some little girl and to stay focused but I took it a step farther. You see he has been asking us for a new game system for months. I have been hesitant but on this night I decided to do the unexpected. I took him to our local Wal-Mart and I went to the Electronic department. I asked the sales lady to give me a brand new PSP (gaming system) and I let him pick out a game. Now he was pumped! His brother and sister had gotten toys and he just knew he was on his way to PSP heaven.
After getting the game, I checked out and said nothing on the way home. When we got home he was about to grab the bag and my plan went into action. I grabbed the game, gaming system and receipt at placed it on the mantel. I then sat him down and told him.. “This game is for little boys who make good grades, pay attention and who do what their parents tell him.” He was shocked. Trying to not cry he stammered,” so when do I get to play it?” I replied, “it depends on you and your behavior.” So everyday he is in the house he has to look at his biggest WANT and he can not touch it. POW! I hit him where it hurt.
I have caught him staring longingly at the “package” (as it is commonly referred to) but when he sees me watching him he quickly goes back to what he is doing. This is motivating him– because I affected something he cared about. I know there are some parents who would be angry with me for doing this but I do not care. Constantly yelling and punishing children do not work–trust me I know. I myself am motivated by things I care about (my family, my career, monetary awards,etc) so why not employ the same strategy with him.?You see my mom told me (when I called her) that children are visual creatures. If they can see it they can believe it!
Now don’t get me wrong there are non negotiabless in our house such as making good grades, cleaning your room, being respectful,etc but sometimes when I add a good incentive it motivates him to do better than expected. Now I explicitly told him that I did not know when I would (if I even did) give him the game but it was up to him if he got it. I also told him that within a month if he had not improved his grades and paid more attention in class I would return the game and buy me a cute outfit for my trip to the islands. I swear I have never seen a child so attentive and motivated to make an A in a class. He has even admitted to me who he has a crush on and why he was not paying attention in the first place! **cha ching** This “new” mindset has even spilled over in other aspects. Know when he does a chore he immediately gets rewarded (instead of me waiting a month). We have a chart and for every chore he does without me having to “hound” him gets him money ($1). At the end of the week he counts up the chores and I “fork over the money.” You see my secret weapon is the art of motivation.
So what are your negotiating strategies in dealing with children? We would love to hear from you!