This is the first in a series of maybe. . . 3. Parenting is an art, not a science; dependent on the unique mix of personalities in each home. But I have discovered a little tiny thing that has had a big impact in my home. It’s in how and when I ask questions and seek after my kids’ opinions. Disclaimer: my eldest child is 9. I have no knowledge of any ages older than that.
Normally, a morning conversation goes like this: “What should we have for breakfast?” Which elicits 4 different responses, one per child. Which means that 1 child ends up pleased with the breakfast that we eat and three are offended and upset that they didn’t win the contest. So I switch up my question–“Should we have pancakes or waffles?” Which gives me two responses–enthusiastic “PANCAKES!” and equally enthusiastic “WAFFLES!”. So two kids are happy with breakfast, and two are offended. Personally offended. (And no, I’m not making both. Ain’t no one got time for that.)
So my simple parenting tip is to not ask groups of kids for their opinions on decisions. Asking them one-on-one opinion questions when you can follow through with what they want is great. They need to make decisions for themselves. They need to choose out their clothes and hairstyles, they can choose their friends and what color of bike they will ride. They don’t need to be in charge of where the family will go on vacation, what activity the family will do on Saturday afternoon, or what family you will invite over for dinner and games. They get to be along for the ride.
When it has to be a group consensus, just make the call. You get to be the leader. Especially with meals (at my house). So now it goes like this: “We are having German pancakes for breakfast.” And of course there will be at least a few groans, but they shake it off because it isn’t personal. I haven’t rejected their opinion. They are just disappointed to not have a bowlful of sugar for breakfast, and they get over it. When we ask someone for their opinion and then do the opposite, it hurts their feelings. Surprise! Kids feel the same way. There has been less resentment and more eating since I changed that tiny thing.
Watch for more parenting tips in the next few weeks. Including, how to have the best dinnertime EVER; and how to not feel guilty when job charts stop working.