Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Be Flexible: Bend Without Breaking

One of the hardest things about marriage (for me) is realizing and accepting that your spouse can have a completely different opinion about something…and it’s okay. It’s easy to agree- you feel connected to the person because you share similar viewpoints. It’s also fun sometimes to disagree- it sparks interesting and lively conversation. But when you disagree about something you’re passionate about, it can be infuriating and really difficult to step back and think, ‘Okay, he has his opinion. It’s not wrong. It doesn’t make him a bad person. It’s just different than mine.’

Surprise! This happens with kids, too. You are dying for her to wear the new dress you bought her for school pictures. She wants to wear an old t-shirt. You know he’d just love t-ball if he’d give it a chance, but he’s deadset on soccer.

So what do you do? You want to let her have choices, but you also want to maintain your role as the parent and leader. Here’s something I learned from a (genius) mom friend: be flexible. Let her wear the old t-shirt. Let him try soccer. Be flexible. It can be so hard but I promise it will be worth it.

Try it like this: “You know what? I can be flexible about what you wear for your school pictures. You pick what you want to wear. I will need to comb your hair and brush your teeth really well the morning of pictures, though.” This allows your child to practice independence while also setting boundaries on the non-negotiables.

I suggest using the words ‘I can be flexible about that’ when employing this strategy. I have a feeling you will eventually A. Hear your little one telling you that he can ‘be flexible’ about something and B. Hear your little one say, ‘Mommy, can you just be flexible about bedtime/having candy for breakfast/watching tv all day?’

Why be flexible?
  • It shows your child that you respect him and that his opinion matters
  • It is a great example of having an open-mind and compromising
  • It allows your child to feel a sense of accomplishment
  • It helps your child learn to be independent
  • It teaches your child (by example) to respect other’s opinions
  • It helps you to slow down and take in all the options
**UPDATE: BalancingMama (thank you!) made a GREAT point in her comment. Which reminded me of this: If you are flexible with your child on smaller issues (what to wear, what to eat, etc.) she will likely be more accepting when you 'put your foot down' on a more serious issue (safety, bedtime) because she knows that you will say yes when you can. 

Did you try it? It will take several times to kick in/be effective. Give it a week, then let me know how it’s working!


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