I Promise To . . .
As parents, one of our promises is to make sure that our kids can advocate for themselves and to stand tall when necessary. Learning how to advocate takes practice, and the earlier our kids start practicing, the better.
For practice to make perfect, practice has to be meaningful. It feels mighty risky for parents, but this means that you’ll need to invite your kids’ input on important issues.
King of the castle
Our relationships start out great: parents rule and kids follow. All is well until kids start asking questions, rebel, and learn to manipulate. In response, parents turn to bribes and punishments to fortify the iron fist. So even when you’re truly inviting your child’s input, the old habits and routines can get in the way.
Incentives (bribes) or consequences (punishment) register control metaphorically and squelch your message of invited engagement and the offer genuine ownership.
One way to short circuit underlying messages is to assume the best and “tip first.” Think of it as handing a waiter $25 the moment you sit down for dinner in a restaurant. You’d be signaling your confidence in his abilities to manage the timing of your meal, multi-task other tables, and to schmooze. Without saying a word, you have instantly communicated your faith in him.
Tipping first with your child works much the same except the “tip” is your willingness to turn over the final decision about something before sharing your opinion.
Studying for a math test
It’s better to gradually hand over the reins than to wait until she’s moving into her college dorm. If one of your promises is to make sure your daughter can make good decisions, than your ultimate outcome is that she can and will choose to study without your intervention. Therefore, she’ll need to practice making choices like this to get good at making choices like this.
Easy: Where would you like to study?
Harder: When are you planning to study?
Yikes! Are you planning to study?
Conflict to Collaboration
Tipping first says that you recognize your child’s power and that you believe in her. Watch how fast collaboration takes on greater maturity and cooperativeness. It’s no secret: having a hand in the creation of something makes an owner out of you, but only if all the messages, even the underlying messages, are in alignment.
Guess what, she will choose not to study once or twice—regardless her age. That’s why starting earlier is best—better to fail a few tests in 6th grade than in college.
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