Win, Lose or Draw: The Game of Parenting
I consider myself an expert negotiator. I put an offer on the table. She emphatically declines. I up the ante. She refuses to fold. We glare at one another, both stubborn and stone-faced. One of us will eventually give in.
This is not an intense game of poker. It’s bedtime with my 5-year-old daughter.
She cries, “I don’t want to go to bed!” I firmly retort, “Well, it’s bedtime. You have to go to bed.” As she continues to wail in protest, the tug-of-war begins.
I ask, “Do you want me to rub your back?”
“Would you like your stuffed pony?”
“Well, what do you want?”
“To not go to bed.”
As someone with an Early Childhood Education background, I stress the importance of rules and routines. My daughter, however, is far less impressed by my degrees and expertise. She just doesn’t want to go to sleep. In her self-centred, yet innocent mind, my rules have put a huge damper on her carefree life.
I now brainstorm a new strategy, since my clever bag of tricks doesn’t seem to entice her. I could possibly take the passive road and let her have her way. Of course, I could also play the role of a dictator. Rules are rules and they must be followed! I decide to meet somewhere in the middle.
How can I acknowledge my daughter’s opposition, yet enforce my stance as a parent?
I search for a place of mutual understanding. How can I acknowledge my daughter’s opposition, yet enforce my stance as a parent? Got it. It’s time to place my bid.
“I understand that you don’t want to go to sleep,” I explain. “But it is late and you need to get some rest. You can watch a movie, but you still have to lie down in your bed. OK?”
She smiles and replies, “Ok! Can I watch Frozen?”
I accept her offer. The deal is done. I retire to my own bed as she rests quietly in hers. Soon enough, we both fall asleep.
The truth is, parenting isn’t always about winning. Sometimes you just have to take the draw. There will be moments when the rules prevail, as they rightfully should.
Then there are moments where the battle is just not worth fighting. In those times, just make like Elsa and let it go.
K. Martinez is a parent, writer and educator. You can follow her on Twitter here.