Say what you want
As I close in on the fourth decade of my life, I am tuned-in to generational differences. My 7-year uses slang I don't understand. Few of my GenY friends use Snapchat. My millennial niece has to explain words like "ships".
As a parent, I am acutely aware that I am the greatest influence on how my child choses to behave. I've heard that millennials have less capacity for resilience than generations before them. Primarily because, as they grew up, their parents protected them from disappointment. I can relate. (1) I don't want to see my child sad and hurting; and (2) I don't like conflict.
I pick up my son from after school care. It closes at 5:45 and he never wants to leave when I show up. He sees me walk in the door and it is autopilot "grumpy face and whine". He doesn't want to leave, regardless of the time.
I have explained to him that it makes me sad when he reacts to me with those emotions. His reaction also makes my stress level spike and my body goes to flight or fight mode. I get anxious writing about it.
Saturday morning, I took my son to the grocery store to get donuts. On the walk from the parking lot, the requests (demands?) started; he wanted donuts, apple juice, and goldfish crackers. I told him I needed to stop at the pharmacy. I don't know what he said next because I couldn't hear over the whining overtone. When he stopped, I explained the choices, we could (1) get donuts and that is it; or (2) we can get donuts and do everything we both need. Then he started negotiating.
Kids are great at negotiating, also known as breaking down the parents willpower so they get exactly what they want. I like that my son can be a negotiator, arbitrator and mediator at his young age. My response to him is important; it foreshadows how he can chose to deal with conflict, as a child now or later as an adult.
I don't use the same response each time. I negotiate. I dictate. I acquiesce. I ignore.
Since yesterday, I have developed another response. I state "say what you want". Four words. No question mark. The burden is on my child to articulate his whine.
The pressure is off me. The stress level stays level. I neither want to fight of flight.
"Say what you want" should work in any conflict situation. Children, adults, friends, clients, parents. The statement is inquisitive without being aggressive. It gets to the root of the conflict. It opens up dialogue. And my favorite - it is an efficient.