May I Have a Compromise?

Often people will hear our kids ask, “May I have a compromise?” and look at us quizzically when we respond as if this is normal! At our house it is very normal. In fact, we probably hear that question asked at least 10 times a day! We started teaching our kids to make a compromise (and say that big word) around the age of 2. This will be different for each kid, but when we started this about 3 years ago our then 2 yr old was able to have a conversation with us, so we taught her how to do it.

Tug o'war

One common denominator among kids who are adopted or in foster care is that they have significant control issues. Lots of us have control issues, but many of these kids lived in homes that were out of control before they came to their forever family or foster home. Sometimes these kid had to raise younger siblings, or had to fend for themselves to find their next meal. So when they come to our home they don’t easily give over that control they have worked so hard to get.

We have decided that in our home we are going to help our kids by sharing the control with them. Okay…I know many people reading just laughed and have decided we are totally NUTS!  Share control with our kids?  That’s crazy?  I thought the same thing when I first heard this. We are the parents. We need to show them we are in control. They need to respect our authority. But the way we were going about showing them we were in control was NOT working. We can’t yank all of the control away from them and expect them to be okay with that. That only leads to power struggles and chaos. What we found was a very simple solution…Compromise.

In order to share control, it must already be mine.

Here’s how a compromise works at our house:

Mom: Tyler, please go get your room cleaned up.

Tyler: (who is playing a videogame) Sure mom. May I have a compromise?

Mom: What’s your compromise?

Tyler: May I finish this level on my game and then go do it?

Since that is an acceptable “middle ground” I would say sure and let him finish the level before going to clean his room. Of course this is an ideal conversation. Often times it went more like this when we first started:

Mom: Tyler, please go get your room cleaned up.

Tyler: (who is playing a video game) Ugh!! Can’t I just finish this level first?

Mom: Whoa! I don’t like that tone. Are you asking for a compromise?

Tyler: Yes.

Mom: I’m listening.

Tyler: May I have a compromise?

Mom: What’s your compromise?

Tyler: May I finish this level on my game and then go do it?

Mom: Sure! That’s was a good job asking for a compromise!

It is important to praise our kids when they do it correctly (even when we have to prompt them to do it correctly!) When we first started doing these we also had to remind the kids that if they didn’t hold up their end of the compromise, then we wouldn’t be able to compromise with them.

It’s a funny thing, my kids always hold up their end of the compromise, and we have not had many control battles since starting this. Our kids know they have a voice. They know they can ask for a compromise. Now don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean that when they ask for a compromise that I am always going to say yes, but they accept ‘no’ so much better when they at least know they can ask.

Compromising is NOT allowing our kids to argue with or debate with us.

Compromising IS giving our kids a voice and allowing them to RESPECTFULLY ask for what they want.

What do you think? Still think we’re nuts for sharing control? Have you tried this with your kids? Leave a comment below!


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  1. Wow! That is a really good idea. I like that they are having a safe place to practice these skills. You are still in control but are giving them a chance to feel like they have a little control over the situation. I can see where they would be more receptive to getting tasks done and done with a good attitude. I just might give this a try! Thanks for sharing! ~Blessings~

    • You are welcome! Our kids love this and so do we. I hope you have good results as well.

  2. We started this with our kids this week. It’s amazing how we as adults forget that sometimes we need to directly teach skills like this. We don’t remember learning them, but it really can be just this easy. Our oldest is finally unlocking doors into his thought patterns that we’ve never seen behind, simply by the things for which he feels the need to ask about compromises. Thanks for this idea!

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