The Best Way to Manage a ‘Big Ask’ from your Child

The pleads from an innocent child can corrupt one’s soul. Peer pressure can influence anyone. Here’s the most sober approach parents can take.

It could be a four-year-old who makes his case for a Millennium Falcon Lego kit (which is suitable for kids 7+). Perhaps it’s a drone with a half-a-mile reception zone when he/she is 8. Like the Violent Femmes song, it could be a teenager with an ambitious agenda who’s asking for the car keys.

But the parents rule to roost, so to provide a fair and balanced approach, here’s the solution.

Draft a contract.

Seriously – grab your computer and lay out your terms before negotiations take place. If you cave-in like a castle made out of sand at high tide and do so when your child is young, the battlefield beyond will only be uphill.

Of course, all his friends have a PlayStation. You are five months out from Christmas and the subject comes up over dinner. Every… single… dinner that you share together. What’s a parent to do?

Negotiate in clear terms and set the agenda, and then ask your child to abide by it in writing.

This came up in my household last week. My son has been asking for a cat for a few years. Here’s the challenge; we’re finally at peace! After adopting a dog two years ago and putting up with three different home renovations, our instinct was to chill out for a while.

Don’t judge me, I’m not pissing away money on those, ‘renos.’ Two bathrooms were in dire need of overhauls (an original 1950’s bathroom with rusting pipes and faucets) and our basement attracted more bugs than a pile of steaming sh….

Back to the contract. Draft up terms in written form that specifies your child’s responsibilities. They have to agree to every term and sign it to confirm they made a promise. No agreement, no deal and it’s as simple as that.

Adopting a cat requires feeding, caring and attention. That was part of the contract I asked my son to sign. I also asked him to ensure his room is tidy and if the cat makes a mess, he is required to clean it up. He’s also responsible to feed the adopted cat twice a day and ensure his bowl is consistently filled with clean water.

We positioned this adoption around him and how it is his cat and noted that if any of his friends harm or mistreat his pet, he will have to protect the animal and take responsibility. That, in turn, provides us with a written agreement that espouses responsibility.

The best news is – we found a terrific pussy cat. And what did my son name him? After being exposed to a multitude of music genres, he has developed a penchant for heavy metal. He actually hummed Iron Man once when he was three while soothing himself to sleep. You can’t make this stuff up!

And the name he picked? Trooper, based on the Iron Maiden Song, The Trooper. It is not too shabby for an orange tabby cat to be named after a head-banging song.

Embrace these opportunities by layering in a message of responsibility, and you’ll end up ahead in the game of parenting.

Trooper the cat, chillin’ in his new home.

Here’s a close up of the terms my son agreed to:

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