Limits - Discipline

Negotiate the rules and limits with children and adolescents, yes or no?


We must negotiate rules and limits with children and adolescents or are we the parents who should dictate them? This is a question on which we will hardly reach consensus… Parents today are frequently accused of being too soft on rules and limits, letting their children not know what frustration is and becoming intolerant and demanding.

References are continually made to those 'better' times when parents stood their ground and there was no room for negotiation. But the reality is that there are no magic formulas or infallible recipes and that Educated and rude children there were before and there are now.

Those parents who consider that limits and rules should not be negotiated often think that by doing so their children they'll feel like they got away with it and that they as parents will be losing control of various situations which would end in a parenting error.

Several years ago, when my oldest son was 8 years old, he watched television in his room while I made dinner. When she was ready I called her to come to the kitchen; He very unconcerned told me to give him 5 minutes to finish his favorite show. I stood firm on my order and he insisted that I wait for him a bit. Then it occurred to him that he could take dinner to the bedroom since my basic point was that it would get cold ... I responded with increasing empowerment that there was no way, to turn off the television immediately and that I wanted it in the kitchen immediately. Everything happened I got angry, he got angry, dinner got cold and was eaten between tears and bitterness…. And it turned out that in the end I also didn't feel as triumphant as I expected, although my will had been fulfilled.

Then I wondered how much fate had altered if i could have been a little flexible and wait for itOr let him bring dinner to the room for once and I realized that he could have done it with favorable results for both of us and without any collateral damage. Instead of losing control, he would have earned his thanks and would have gone to great lengths to brush his teeth afterwards without my asking.

From that moment on I became much more aware that some rules and limits can often be negotiated with winnings for both parties and most importantly without loss of parental control. On the contrary, letting go a little, in the vast majority of cases, produces a more positive and grateful response in our children than when we are immovable and close, especially on simple issues that should not generate a battle.

In the particular case of adolescents, it goes without saying that doing so is not only an option, but on many occasions a necessity, it is no longer possible to use dictatorial power without generating resentment and probably behaviors that are more complicated to regulate in the long term.

It is true that there are certain limits and rules that are NOT allowed for negotiation some such as: good manners, lack of respect, sensitivity to others, fights between siblings, physical attacks, respect for other people's things, anger management, etc. (and obviously those that each family considers essential).

However, the keyword is balance and clarity in order to distinguish when we can make exceptions without negative consequences and with reasonable secondary gains.

So one of my maxims when I talk to parents is: 'on many occasions, apparently letting go of control, means deep down, continuing to have it, but with better results'.

Nor, of course, should we fall into the opposite extreme and make each rule or limit a negotiation (although in the end it is fulfilled) because then it would become a situation in which the children become masters, they do not develop tolerance at all for frustration and they can begin to overlook what is truly important.

Let's choose our battles let's relax a little and let us determine in each situation which rules and limits can be adjusted a little without putting the integrity and morality of our children in danger.

You can read more articles similar to Negotiate the rules and limits with children and adolescents, yes or no?, in the Limits category - On-site discipline.

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