Compromise–“an ability to listen to two sides in a dispute, and devise a compromise acceptable to both”.
Sometimes we need a compromise in a parenting problem. This idea is taboo to many authoritarian parents. The prevailing thought is that my will, my authority, my expectations, and my commands must be “won” at all costs over the will of my children.
Before you jump all over me and argue that we should be consistent, read my posts about consistency, correction, and consequences first. 🙂 I absolutely agree that we need consistency in our parenting! But every so often, a compromise is the best tool to use.
For a compromise to be successful, it must be occasional. Overuse of compromises turns into permissive parenting. 🙂
Here’s 3 scenarios in which we’ve found a compromise helpful:
1. When you’ve been too harsh in your consequences.
We’ve all been there. A stressful situation occurs, tempers flare, and before you know it, you’ve just threatened to take away Santa’s presents this year. (except we don’t do Santa…but you know what I mean.) Maybe the child really was acting up, but maybe, just maybe, you reacted before you were thinking rationally, and handed out a consequence that was just. too. much. It really is okay to go back to the child, apologize for your rashness, and find a compromise in this situation. (This is another reason why it’s so helpful to have good communication with your spouse about parenting situations. Sometimes two heads are better than one–and it’s likely that if one parent has overreacted, the other one will be a calming presence.)
Once, I had a child acting up repeatedly in the van (we do travel frequently, so that probably compounded the issue). I was so frustrated that I snapped out, “You may not watch a DVD in the van for a week!” Problem: We had a 2 day trip planned that week, and it is impossible for a child not to be able to see the DVD player while riding. I would have been punishing everyone from the treat of a movie during the trip. I apologized to the child for my over-reaction and we compromised with missing one electronic game turn instead.
2. When your child has needs that are hindering their obedience.
Exhausted people don’t function well. Exhausted little people really don’t function well at all. 🙂 I remember once when a friend called me late at night, because she had been working with her child over an issue for several hours. “What should I do?” she asked me. “I can’t give in at this point, can I?” Yes, I answered. Yes, yes, yes. Meet the foremost need of the child first. (in this case, the child was too tired to think rationally, and I recommended she put him to bed) Sleep is sometimes a powerful aid in helping everyone view a situation more clearly, and children obey better when they’re well-rested. Offer the compromise of sleep if your little one is exhausted. (There’s always another day!)
I was at a church recently, and observed a young couple struggling with their just-turned two year old. She had not been listening and they were trying to get her to sit in a chair as a consequence. She was getting up over and over again (even with strict discipline as a result). It was 8:30 pm on a Sunday night and this child had not had dinner. My prevailing thought was, feed her! Food is another powerful aid in helping everyone feel better, and therefore act better.
If you know your child has an underlying need (food, rest, etc), meet the need. Let go of the “issue” at hand–whatever it may be–and come back to it at another time. This is a good time to compromise with your child.
3. When your child can’t handle the consequence.
Although this one applies more to my adoptive readers, I’ll share it here in case it helps anyone else, too.
Traditional parenting techniques do not always work well with an adopted child–especially one who has experienced abuse, trauma, or multiple placements. Okay, let me be even more blunt. Traditional parenting techniques rarely work with these kiddos. 🙂 Connected parenting takes on a whole new level with these precious children.
Offering a compromise can sometimes diffuse a situation in which you know that if you “WIN”, it will be at the price of connection. For example, one of my adopted girls was a preemie, and has had food issues (textures, enjoying eating, etc) for years. We had to somewhat force her to eat when she was younger (at the encouragement of her specialist) because she just didn’t enjoy it. We ask her to eat what’s on her plate because we know she needs the calories. One day recently, Brent nonchalantly said, “Finish your dinner please.” and we saw her stress level visibly rise. Her body language said this is going to be a battle. Brent pulled her in close and lightened up her stress by saying, “Oh, is that too much food? How about I help you eat 3 bites?” INSTANT success. She brightened up and scarfed down the food. This was an occasional compromise offered, and it was successful because we are consistent with the normal rule of “eat the little bit we give you on your plate”.
We teach our children that we will occasionally compromise and that if they truly feel we are being unreasonable, they may respectfully ask for one. But our adopted girls tend to not be able to ask for that compromise, so we sometimes need to offer it as a means of connection. This allows us to connect with them through shared control and dig deeper into the “why’s” behind their behavior that they are unable to share during a power struggle.
Today’s Challenge: If you’ve built consistency into your parenting toolbox, have you ever found the need for a compromise? Do you struggle with occasionally letting go for the goal of the bigger picture? The next time you’re faced with one of these 3 scenarios, consider whether a compromise might be the best tool to use.