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As parents, we like our children to respect our answer and not try to argue or negotiate. So we learn to communicate in such a way as to say that our decision is final. Why not apply that same strategy to the way you talk to yourself. For example, if I’m trying to not eat something unhealthy, I find it simplest to just say to myself “absolutely not” instead of turning over the idea in my mind until I am likely to cave. I give myself the answer and then I immediately move on without dwelling on the pleasure, smell or taste. If I know an apple is better for me than a pastry, I can just decide and move on but if I think about it too long, the chances increase that I’ll go the other way. Naturally, this applies to many choices and not just food.

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Just like a child will learn to relax and trust that you mean what you say; you can also become more confident that you actually intend to reach goals that you set for yourself. Sometimes we delight to say yes to a request from our children and sometimes we choose to be generous with ourselves as well. The key is for it to be an actual choice based on what’s best for us or them rather than simply a reaction to a seemingly appealing prospect that might actually do us or them more harm than good.

The tone is important when we communicate to children. We try to be loving but firm. That’s also a good way to talk to ourselves. We aren’t bad or failing when we consider something that we ultimately decide isn’t in our best interest. We’re just human. So keeping the internal conversations loving will prevent rebellion and determination to “get what we deserve”. Like the well-loved child, we can relax and know that we aren’t being deprived so much as guided to a better goal.

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Deciding once and communicating that decision with love and decisiveness helps to eliminate negotiation. Of course, at that point it is important to stand by our decision whether we are approached by a child or by our own temptations. Every time we do so, the impulse to argue or negotiate is weakened until it becomes our habit to accept and move on. Sometimes the skills we learn as parents can help us achieve our own goals.

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