I Don’t Want to Go Either!

By Susan Walter October 11, 2012 07:00 AM
0 COMMENTS     POST A COMMENT   Print This Post   Email This Post

I Don’t Want to Go Either!

“I don’t want to go!” If you are a parent, you have probably heard these words at least once a day since your child could talk. I don’t want to go to school, I don’t want to go to bed, I don’t want to go Suzy’s birthday party, the variations are as numerous as they are maddening.

I’m reasonably intelligent. I went to college, have held many challenging jobs, yet “I don’t want to go” still stumps me. As I see it, we parents have 5 possible responses:

1. Honesty.
I don’t want to go either. That’s what I’d really like to say. I don’t want to spend two hours at Chuck E Cheese, eating deep-fried potato strings, shouting to be heard over the screams of a hundred children high on birthday cake. Other parents, I’m sure you are very interesting people, but I can’t hear a word you are saying. I don’t take particular pleasure interrupting you – Sophie! Don’t throw that at her! – or being interrupted by you – Hey! Do not put that in your nose! You don’t want to go, I don’t want to go either – that’s the honest response. Of course I’m too chicken to try it. (If anyone has, please let me know how it went.)

2. The Hard Sell.
C’mon, it will be fun! There will be cake/ice cream/games/chaos all the things you like. Ok, newsflash! Your kids know all of this. They just want to make you work for it. Not only is the hard sell ineffective, it can easily deteriorate to begging, or worse, bribes. Once you start the hard sell you give them the upper hand. And we all know how that’s going to end…

3. Empathy.
Why don’t you want to go, sweetie? Your feelings are important to me, so let’s talk about this. This is the in vogue approach. New age parenting books will tell you if you want your child to cooperate you have to honor her feelings (even though she doesn’t much care about yours). I have tried the “wanna talk about it?” approach repeatedly. It only ignites my child’s inner drama queen. My yoga teacher used to say: “If you put energy into your problem, it will grow.” Sorry in vogue parents, but I think she was right. Unless you want your kids’ whining to turn into a full-blown weep-fest, save empathy for the truly valid crises.

4. Reason.
We made a commitment, we have to go. Suzy and her parents worked very hard to plan a special celebration and it would be rude for us not to show up. How would you feel if Suzy didn’t come to your birthday party? Good news. This actually works about 50% of the time. For the other 50%, there’s…

5. Threats.
Get your butt in the car or no TV until you’re 12! We’ve all done it. We don’t plan to, we’re never proud of it, but who cares, they’re in the car! Of course if you do not make good on your threats, they will never work again. (And do you really want to be that parent?)

I know my daughter is a little human being with complex emotions. And I don’t want to threaten or bully her. I just wish she’d get dressed/brush her teeth/go to bed when I asked her to. And she wishes I would let her eat candy until her teeth fall out. Sometimes I have to remind myself (and her) I am not her friend, I am her mother. Which means, while her feelings are important, I get to decide.

They say kids like firm, decisive, consistent parents. Unfortunately, I tend to be more spontaneous and wishy-washy. So how do I “be myself” around her and still be an effective parent? Are some people truly better suited than others to be parents? Or am I just making excuses for myself? All I know is, I’d better get better at it, ‘cause her little sister is starting to talk…

DICLAIMER: I am not a behavioral psychologist. Obviously. And there is nothing scientific about my observations. My writings are for catharsis and commiseration purposes only.