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The Secrets to Raising a Smarter Child
- By Inderbir Sandhu, Ph.D


Should we compromise with our children?

By Russell Turner

A compromise, like an apology, is often seen as weakness, giving in, and the beginning of loss of control to our children. We often fear that our authority will be undermined if we don't "stick to our guns" and hold our children to our original demand, and unfailingly enforce the rules no matter what. More accurately, a compromise shows that we have respect and understanding for our children's thoughts, ideas, and feelings.

Compromise actually is a process of giving and taking, a sign of strength not weakness, and an avenue toward a win – win situation for everyone involved. If we don't listen and respond fairly to our children's reasonable complaints, or to what they are really saying, more often than not they become resentful and angry. This is especially true as they mature and begin to develop more adult ways of thinking. We often end up with less authority in their eyes and less respect from them. We can unwittingly cause a great deal of damage to our relationships in the name of "parental authority" when we dig in our heels regardless of the real importance of a particular issue.

Compromise is a lot different from negotiation. Negotiation by definition implies the right to say no, to reject the offer, walk away and refuse the deal. Compromise however, involves giving and taking. The fact that there will be an agreement is assumed from the start. The only question is what form the agreement will take, and who will give way on what. Compromise involves looking at the separate and common interests of an issue and seeing if there is a way for both sides to get some or most of what they want. If a compromise is going to be a win – win situation, it stands to reason that what we are prepared to give away is not hugely important to us. We are still the parents and our considerations for the safety and well being of our children are paramount.

Consider a situation like this; you need to get the grocery shopping done that morning (nonnegotiable), but you don't mind whether you get it done early or late (area of compromise). Your child has two favorite morning TV programs they want to watch, one early and one late. They want to watch both but there isn't time between them to get the shopping done. The compromise is the fact that you are prepared to time your shopping so your child gets to pick one show to watch, the one they like best. Everyone gets something they want, and your child learns to determine what is really important to them and at the same time learns they can't always get everything they desire.

Compromise is very different from surrender. Compromise doesn't mean any old concession on your child's part will do. It is our responsibility as parents to set up proper parameters of compromise and to hold our children to those parameters. If after offering the above compromise your child throws a tantrum, and you then agree to do your shopping in the afternoon but in return junior has to clean his room, you have surrendered.

When we first try to reach a compromise with our children we must very clearly from the start identify those areas which are nonnegotiable. If there is room for compromise on an issue it usually develops when both our children's separate and common interests and ours are discussed. If we don't ask why our children want something to happen differently, or explain to them why we think something should happen in a particular way, it will be difficult to arrive at the common ground necessary for a win – win compromise.

The language we use to arrive at a compromise is important. We shouldn't say, "if you do this I will do that". This is manipulative and will probably come back to bite us one day as we are teaching our children the tactics of manipulation. However, if we say something like "if we do it this way, we can both get what we want". This teaches them that there may be a solution in the middle that everyone can live with.

There is a limit to compromise. Too much can also teach our children to manipulate. Our arguments need to be relevant. If we try to justify our demands with layers of argument, we are just teaching them to try reason after reason. While it is important for our children to learn to reason and present a good case for what they want, it is also important for them to understand when no means no. It remains our responsibility to teach them how to cope successfully with the disappointment of not getting their own way and understanding that they will not always be able to control all of the events in their lives. 


About the Author Russell Turner, USA Russell Turner is the father of a 10 year old diabetic daughter. After she was diagnosed he soon discovered he could find all sorts of medical information on the internet. What he couldn't find was how to prepare his child and family for living with this disease. He started his own website for parents of newly diagnosed diabetic children

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