Expert Parenting Advice
Practical parenting tips and advice from experts around the world

How to get what you want

Why having control over your own emotions increases the chances that your kids will cooperate.

I made my daughter some delicious ice tea this morning - a special mix of tea, frozen blueberries, and water kefir. I was very impressed with my creation.

"I don't like ice tea," she said, scrunching her face, "yucky".

"But honey, you haven't tasted this ice tea," I replied.

"I did, long ago, and I don't like it!"

"But this is a special new ice tea, just taste it, you'll love it," I tried to convince her.

"No, it is YUCKY!" she shouted while pushing the cup of ice tea away from her, balancing it precariously close to the edge of the table.

So I grabbed the cup and gulped it down. Petty, but satisfying.

This whole interaction reminded me of a negotiation book that I am reading at the moment. This book (Start with NO by Jim Camp) is targeted to professional negotiators working for big companies and governments, but each time I read it I am just reminded how much of parenting is negotiation.

According to Jim, one of the most important principles of negotiation is that you need to control your "neediness". If you go into a negotiation thinking you need a specific outcome, then are less likely to get what you want.

What that means is that if you start focusing too much on the outcome or desired result of the negotiation, you become emotional and easy to manipulate by the person you are negotiating against.

The same is true when dealing with your kids.

When we spoke to Dr. Paul Jenkins for our book How To Get Kids To Listen, we asked him his best secret to getting kids to cooperate.

Now, Dr. Paul is a professional psychologist with over two decades of experience. He is also the author of the popular book Pathological Positivity.

Here's what he said:

My favorite strategy or technique currently is to “detach from the outcomes.”

What that means is that the parent takes a very calm approach. This is very strategic, because someone has to be attached to the outcome, and if it’s you, it’s not your child.

When parents are very calm, and keep smiling, it puts kids in a position where they have to listen and think. This is a little different from the way a lot of parents approach it.

Dr. Paul Jenkins

The more detached you can be from the outcome...the less needy you are...the more likely you are to get what you want.

I have been practicing this idea since we spoke to Dr. Paul, and I have found that the less attached I can get from the outcome, the easier it is for me to stay calm, and the more likely my kids are to listen and think.

In the interview, Dr. Paul also shared how detaching yourself from the outcome helps your children respond more positively, and why having control over your own emotions increases the chances that your kids will cooperate.

He also shares a very simple technique that you can use to remind yourself to detach.