No more negotiating. I've learned to say NO to my children
22:49 GMT, 9 May 2012
As a parent, it’s the kind of admission that I would usually share only with my most non-judgmental mummy friends.
Until a month ago, I could count the number of times one of my brood had taken ‘no’ for an answer on the fingers of a KitKat.
If I turned down a request for a sandwich ten minutes before dinner, my seven-year-old son wanted a UN Summit about it, while every time I asked his five-year-old brother to switch off the TV, he’d fall to the floor in hysterics. And if I attempted to stop the nine-year-old practising his tennis serve in the lounge, he’d go into great details about why hitting a chandelier with a ball is no worse than knocking it with a paper plane.
Tough love: Anna with her three children who are getting used to her new parenting style
But I tolerated it because I’m a modern mum. Isn’t negotiation part of the fashionably enlightened parenting style Parenting gurus label this ‘democratic parenting’ — where children are included in family decision-making and any confrontation is turned into a negotiation.
I was grimly democratic — every need or complaint considered and discussed. But, while it might be democratic, it left me resentful and frustrated. Because, even though I always tried to understand their viewpoint, my children never listened to me. And, as a result, we spent all our time squabbling.
From 7am, when I told them that there’d be no morning TV on a school-day, there was dissent. /05/09/article-2142115-0EBC644800000578-232_468x286.jpg” width=”468″ height=”286″ alt=”Zero tolerance: Letting your child always have their own way can lead to conflict (posed by models) ” class=”blkBorder” />
Zero tolerance: Letting your child always have their own way can lead to conflict (posed by models)
One of the key aims of the book is to improve the parent’s behaviour — his method takes away the need for screaming — which then has a positive impact on the offspring’s.
At the first sign of answering back, whining or rudeness, he recommends you turn to the offender, and say firmly: ‘That’s one.’ If your child persists, after five seconds, say: ‘That’s two.’ The final warning is: ‘That’s three’ — and you escort sir or madam out of the room to take a five-minute break.
After this time, you allow them to return, but there’s no discussion of the misdemeanour, unless really necessary.
Dr Phelan insists that by removing all emotion from discipline, there’s no chance you’ll lose your temper — the same goes for your children.
Barking numbers at my darlings still seemed cruel. But when Caspar, five, howled for 40 minutes, when I wouldn’t allow him a lollipop, I couldn’t wait to start up a more tactical campaign.
So, the next evening, when Conrad, seven, began his routine: ‘I promise a sandwich won’t spoil my appetite!’ I refused to be drawn in. He looked at me in disbelief. Then he said, in a huffy voice, ‘Fine! Whatever!’ and stamped off.
'With less time wasted on pointless negotiation, we now have more time to play'
Caspar, five, didn’t give in as easily. Trouble began when he discovered his brother had new trainers. ‘That’s not fair! You never get me anything!’
I knew his line of attack was a trap, but before I would have fallen right into it — and then feel like a pathetic mother who couldn’t set limits. Not now.
‘Caspar, that’s one,’ I stated.
‘That’s one!’ he mocked.
‘That’s two!’ I retorted.
‘I hate you, you’re the worst Mummy in the world,’ he countered.
‘Right, that’s three. Now you can go and sit on the stairs for five minutes and cool down,’ was my final statement.
After ten minutes of wrestling him out of the room, then ignoring the slammed doors, he came back in. He gave me a glare, but I had shown zero tolerance.
I had a hunch Oscar, nine, would rebel, too. And soon enough, he started his homework with a poker face and quickly erupted: ‘I can’t do this’!
Normally, I go to his aid — starting with calm persuasion and ending up yelling as I make the point that if you don’t bother to look at the page, of course it’s difficult. So it was a relief to skip the insults and jump to: ‘That’s three; go to your room and calm down.’
His fury soon withered and, with his dad’s help, he finished his work.
I was so impressed that, to begin with, I went overboard — crushing the smallest squeak of dissent. But now that I’m four weeks in, I’m less power-crazed. And I have found the confidence to show them that actually, no means no.
They respect me more, and we are all much happier. And with less time wasted on pointless negotiation, we now have more time to play.
The Horrible Princess (Tom And Matt), by Anna Maxted is published by Meadowside, 4.99