Negotiating with a Terrorist

Never did I ever think that I would be faced with someone trying to break me, to force me to do what they want, using torturous techniques to try and get me to give in to their demands…meet my four year old daughter. Since the age of two and a half my daughter has been determined to see me checked into a mental institution. At that age she was asked not to return to a daycare, and had babysitters asking me if she had been screened yet for developmental disabilities. She is perfectly fine may I mention. Due to her flamboyant stubbornness and determination to conquer, every 6 months or so me and my husband have to revisit and restructure our family rules and consequences as to best suit whatever form of mental warfare the four year old is bringing to the table.

Most recently we realized that we were falling into the trap of empty threats, too many bribes, and being worn down by whining and bartering. Every parent I think is guilty of this a little bit… If you don’t get tired and agree to extra screen time just so you can have a cup of coffee in peace then you must have magical powers.  As well as, a hefty dose of back talk each day was leaving us frustrated and quick to react with raised voices and more empty threats. I knew this had to be addressed and quickly if we all wanted to survive.

So in a place of neutrality (the breakfast table) I met with the opposing force. I asked my daughter to tell me what she thought our house rules were. We also discussed the house rules that I knew were there but maybe as a four year old she didn’t realize were actually rules. That was a light bulb moment for me, how could she follow rules that she didn’t know? After making a list of rules together (she wrote the number of the rule) I laid out for her the set consequences that would happen when rules were broken. We discussed how if the consequences happened it would be due to a choice she was making.

Here are the House Rules for The Momffice Clan:

Our House Rules

Our Consequences

I would suggest tailoring these to best fit your child individually, think about what they would see as a real consequence. 

Every time a consequence is chosen by not following the house rules, Mom or Dad explains why the consequence is happening and that she has chosen the consequence by doing/not doing  _____.

1- Deduction of screen time

We use 15-20 minute intervals because we try to limit to 3hrs a day. If we take away hours the time is gone before we know it.

2- Twenty minutes of being “grounded”

The word timeout doesn’t work for us. This is where the four year old sits on her bed, no toys, no books. We do this if no screen time is left OR if the behavior is bad enough that both parties need a break from the warfare. Time can be less for less serious things, but time can also be added, or her time starts over, if a tantrum or back talking occurs after the time starts. Time starts over if she is caught playing. This is the reset button we have found works the best for her.

3- Grounded

The end all. When the parents have given every chance to reset and the screen time is gone, or when we’ve been called losers and screamed at for the whole drive home from a pick up from a friends house because she wants to apparently live with them. This is where she sits on her bed for the rest of the day. She is allowed to use the restroom and if she can maintain good behavior during she can join us for our family meals…where mom reminds her that she loves her and wishes she wasn’t grounded because she doesn’t like it when she is.

It’s been an adjustment for all of us, husband and I have to make sure to be mindful of our execution of the consequences, and follow through for this process to work. However, it has completely eliminated any reason to raise our voices. Of course she is adapting and trying to find new ways to get us to give into her demands at times but we are holding strong. After all, we don’t negotiate with terrorists…unless we really need five minutes with a cup of joe and some sanity.  

I hope this post leaves you inspired or provided some light bulb moments about rules, like it did for me. What do you do to provide structure in your home for your children? Have you found something like this or of your own design to be helpful as a teaching and growing method?


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