Children will always have their own ideas about how they should spend their time. This often conflicts with house rules and responsibilities that parents assign. What should parents do when children assert this desire in the form of a request for five more minutes? Should you always maintain a firm stance or is it okay to engage in parent-child negotiation? And if you do, what are the positives and negatives of giving in to your child’s requests?
The Laissez-Faire / Free-Range Parenting Approach
Some parents believe that they should allow their children to live freely. By living life according to their own standards, they develop into the truest and uninhibited versions of themselves. This parenting style is now being called “free-range parenting,” but it was fairly common among parents who belonged to the countercultural hippie movement in the 1960s and 1970s.
However, not all parents choose a laissez-faire approach intentionally. Instead, this approach may develop out of a parent’s personal tendency to avoid confrontation. Jen O’Rourke, a parent educator and licensed child psychotherapist, tells Parentology, “[P]arents have to look at why they are extending the time limit … if you are doing it do avoid a tantrum or because you don’t want to deal with pushback, that could be a problem.”
The Firm Stance
Other professionals believe that any kind of negotiation will have negative effects on a parent-child relationship by undermining the parent’s authority. According to an article published by Michigan State University, parents most often adopt an authoritarian parenting style due to cultural expectations.
These parents rule with an iron fist and often raise children who learn to negotiate with the use of an iron fist themselves. Subsequently, one of the main downsides of this approach is that it can lead to physical and emotional abuse.
The Middle Ground
Because of the obvious disadvantages of both extremes of parenting, most child psychologists — and even hostage negotiators — opt for the middle ground. The former commander of the Wayne Police Department Crisis Negotiation Unit, Captain Keith O’Sullivan, used three tactics in the field with criminals and at home with his children:
- Being too nice to argue with
- Phrasing orders as requests instead of commands
- Showing that he was listening, even when he had no intention of complying
Elisabeth Stitt, CPCC, is a parenting coach who advocates for parents to become the architects of their family. She shares similar advice.
“Negotiating with your child shows that you are honoring him as an individual,” she tells Parentology. “Requiring him to explain his reasons for needing five more minutes to do something strengthens his critical thinking and persuasive skills.”
The Bottom Line
Alex Ribbentrop, LCSW, CFTP, a licensed clinical social worker, encourages parents to, “Reflect on your own patterns of emotional response, be aware of the messages that you have internalized about parenting from your experiences growing up, and practice the development of clearly communicated guidelines that can be maintained when boundaries are tested.”
Put simply, while it is important for children to have boundaries, both an authoritarian and laissez-faire approach to parenting can become problematic. By straddling the middle ground, parents may raise children who negotiate rather than act on feelings of entitlement, and who use persuasive skills in place of iron fists.
Parent-Child Negotiation — Sources
Independent — “My Parents Had No Idea of the Damage Their Hippie Values Did to Me“
Jen O’Rourke, Licensed Psychotherapist
Michigan State University, Authoritarian Parenting Style
Business Insider – “My Dad Is a Hostage Negotiator — Here Are His 3 Tips to Get Your Kids to Do What You Want”
Elisabeth Stitt, CPCC, Joyful Parenting Coaching
Alex Ribbentrop, LCSW, CFTP, Live Free Psychotherapy