Should parenting be about negotiation? The answer is yes and no. Much of our parenting direction comes from knowing who we are and what we want. Some of these things are up for discussion and some aren’t and it’s important to know what belongs where. For example, one of my “non-negotiables” was that my kids could never swear at me (they could swear, just not at me or my husband). Bedtimes were negotiable. I don’t care much for routine and I didn’t expect it from my kids. When parents don’t know what belongs where, it can result in unnecessary conflict. When we identify our non-negotiable expectations we are more likely to stick unwaveringly to them and kids sense that. Children push the boundaries when they think there is the tiniest bit of room for things to shift in their favour. They become surprisingly compliant when we really mean business, and that means consistency over time and between both parents (if applicable). It goes without saying that “non-negotiables” must reflect our behavior. You can’t have zero tolerance for swearing if you swear at others yourself. Walk your walk and talk your talk.
To know what’s non-negotiable for you, check in with your feelings. They are usually your best indicator. It can take some practice because we come into parenting with many pre-existing “non-negotiables,” usually from our parents, and often persist with those even when they don’t really belong to us. I was raised to never leave the house un-groomed and it took years of fighting about un-brushed hair and low-lying jeans to realize that I just didn’t care. I transferred this to the negotiable pile and my kids and I were much happier! I learned to ask the question, “Is this important to me or does it need to be examined?”