I don't like that shirt anymore (even thought it was yesterday's favorite or the tags are still on and it was a "must have" two days ago).
I don't want that pasta anymore (even though it was requested 20-minutes ago and has just been freshly plated).
I'm not interested in playing that game/sport/instrument I loved a week ago.
I changed my mind!
I thought so...because kids come equipped with big personalities and a mind of their own, which is apt to change quite frequently as soon as they're old enough to voice an opinion.
So, how can you respond to your child's ever changing preferences without losing your cool or being a push-over?
Try this 3-step approach to minimize conflict while simultaneously teaching your child important life lessons about accountability.
1. Keep your emotions in check.
Trust me, I know how maddening it can be to have put time, effort, or money toward your child's desires only to have the tables turn and feel like all was for nothing. It's hard not to take it personally, especially if you're spread thin or if you've gone far out of your way to accommodate your son or daughter.
That said, reacting with anger or frustration will guarantee conflict that only saps more of your resources. So, take a breath (or five), take note of your feelings, and wait until you're able to respond in a neutral tone before starting to engage with your child.
2. Validate your child's point of view (even if it's completely mind boggling).
Your child just blind-sided you with a swift change in preference or perspective. In most cases you will have no idea what changed. I'm asking you to go out on a limb and validate your child by saying that you understand where he or she is coming from.
I know, it sounds crazy. You may feel like you're crazy doing it, but without this step it will be hard to find common ground and come to a consensus on how to move forward. When in doubt, keep your validating statement generic: "You don't want this anymore" or "You don't like it" or "You changed your mind."
You're just stating the obvious, without any snark or sarcasm. This is the proverbial olive branch you offer to show that you're willing to partner in a solution. You may even gain insight if your child shares why he or she is having a change of heart (and it may have nothing to do with the situation at hand...thus saving you an evening of arguing over meatballs when it's really about friendship or an illness that's brewing).
3. Set a limit by offering a choice.
One of the objectives here is to make sure you don't become a pushover. Why? Because you don't have time for that. Plus, feeding into your child's every whim robs him or her of opportunities to practice being accountable.
So, after you've calmly provided some validation, you set a limit by offering a choice. As a parent, you decide exactly what your limits are. If it's a meal you can say, "I made you one thing, if you don't want it you're free to make yourself something else," or, "You asked for this but after you eat all/half you can make yourself something else."
If it's a camp or activity that was agreed upon, but now that it's arrived you're getting major push-back you can say, "I know it's hard, you need to try it for the first day." Let's be honest, you don't want to force your child into anything, but you also don't want them to get used to avoiding things simply because they're not interested anymore.
Setting a limit by offering a choice allows you to be sensitive while still holding your child accountable for his or her choice.
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