Does getting your child to comply sometimes feels like a hostage negotiation? It’s amazing how clever our kids can be! (I know, clever isn’t the first word that comes to mind…but read on for some relief!) My name is Megghan Thompson, and I help parents feel more in control when their child’s emotions and behaviors are out of control.

Often parents report to me that they feel like they can’t keep up with their kid’s endless attempts to maneuver out of a task. When we explain our motives or reasons for a request in that moment we open up the opportunity for a child to attempt to negotiate out of it. It’s most effective to avoid the discussion at that time and focus on helping your child comply.

When working with your child to follow your direction, focus solely on being consistent in making the request. After your child complies, then you can take the time to explain why you asked them to do something, or why they had to do it right now, etc.

Here are two tricks to avoid getting caught up in rapid-fire negotiation.

1. The Broken Record Approach:

Here’s where you continue to repeat your request in a calm, relaxed tone. You avoid engaging with the questions about why you’re asking for your child to act, and return to your calm phrase.

Parent: “Joey, it’s time for us to go to the grocery store, put away your video game and get your shoes on.”

Joey: “But why? I wanna keep playing!”

Parent: “We’ll talk about it in the car. It’s time for you to put your shoes on and get in the car.

Joey: “But can’t I stay home with (dad, grandpa, mom, by myself, etc.)?”

Parent: “It’s time for you to put on your shoes. We are going to the grocery store. We can talk about it in the car.”

Joey: “Ugh! Ok FINE!”

I’m not asking you to ignore your child’s curiosity. You can certainly have a discussion about why your request is necessary, just not in the middle of your initial request. By delaying this long explanation, you maintain your focus on compliance, which allows for your child to also maintain focus on the goal at hand. You demonstrate that you are being consistent in holding the limit to stop the activity. Lastly, you stay in control by avoiding the trap of having to come up with a clever response to all the various solutions your child comes up with to avoid the request and get what they want in the moment.

2. Offer Choices:

Parent: “Joey, it’s time for us to go to the grocery store, put away your video game and get your shoes on.”

Joey: “But why? I wanna keep playing!”

Parent: “We’ll talk about it in the car. Do you want to wear your red sneakers or your blue sneakers?”

Joey: “I don’t want to go!”

Joey: “I want to wear my red ones!”

Parent: “Great, you’ve chosen your red sneakers. Thank you! Let’s go.”

When we ask a child to stop a fun activity they feel disappointed, interrupted, powerless, and often attempt to negotiate more time. This is normal, but can be very frustrating for busy parents. By acknowledging their desire (I know you don’t want to go) and offering choices, we give the child the opportunity to control an aspect of the experience that doesn’t affect our end goal. It redirects their attention to something their brain has to process, and untethers it from their original focus. When they make a decision, we can turn it around and offer approval of their effective choice.

Pro Tip: When we change our approach to making requests, we need to expect a behavior burst. Your child may complain louder, negotiate more, and push back harder at first. If you maintain your new approach, your child will learn his old tactics won’t work, and you’re going to hold your ground. Less negotiating will occur over time, leading to a more peaceful home.

My interactive ONLINE parenting group starts next week, click here to learn more and apply for a spot! Registration closes Monday February 12th!