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					by: Gene Castelli

Weve all been faced (or will be) with the petulant child who refuses to do what we know is the
right course. There isnt a parent alive who wasnt part of this conversation, or some form there of:

Child: I dont want to do my homework now
Parent: : Johnny, I want you to do it now
Child: : But Ill do it later, after I finish this video game (translation: 2.75 hours)
Parent: : Youll be too tired later, I want you to do your homework now
Child: : I will, but the Simpsons are on and Billys turn on Xbox is almost over
Parent: : What part of now dont you understand?
Child: : OK, in a few minutes

Eventually, the parent gives in to some degree. This is very common and doesnt make you a bad
parent. Kids have been practicing the art of negotiating since before they were born. Think about
it. Do you have any say over exactly when your child was born, or were you subjected to the
whims of when they would take that ride out the birth canal into the world?

While not the worst thing to give into your child, it is gently reinforcing that they can wear you
down on issues if they just try hard enough. Ill be the first to say to pick your battles, but with 4
sons, there were a lot of these conversations going on. So, what to do.

I stumbled on a method that has worked wonders in our house, and it was due to something I
learned from my Uncle. He taught me about choices, basically that you always have a choice, no
matter what the circumstances. Now, not all choices have good results, but if you have the
choice, you have some control over your life.

When faced with one of scenarios above, I tried a new approach with my son. When I get the
first hint of rebellion, I immediately go into my choices offense. I simply phrase my original
request with a choice that isnt palatable, for instance:

Child: : I dont want to go to bed.
Me: : No problem, but you need to make a choice. You can stay up late, but then you will be off
the computer this weekend.
Child: : Thats not fair!
Me: : Nope, but its your choice to make.

I know that sounds pretty simple, but it is just that simple. You give them a choice. Of course,
the first several hundred times my sons gave me a hard way to go, but eventually, all I had to do
was mention the phrase you have a choice.. and they would invariably do the right thing. The
important aspect is that they still were given some control over their lives as opposed to the old
fashioned just do it because I said so!

It teaches them to think a bit, and to never think life is just one road. Sometimes, they picked the
worse choice, and I made sure they lived with it. It teaches them to be responsible for their
choices and more importantly, to make their own choices.
(reprinted with permission from

This article was posted on January 23, 2006

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