Monthly Archives: August 2015

The compromise

Compromise is a skill we all like to think we have under our belts, but do we all really have it? Anyone can ask someone else to compromise, it is really only when we are asked to do the same that we find out just how deft we are at it.

Case in point; you need the bathroom. Someone is already in there. You ask them to hurry up and they say they’ll be out in ten minutes. You say that’s too long. They say ok – make it nine.

It’s a compromise, but not really a big stretch for the person already sitting on the throne.

It takes a lifetime to learn all of the skills we use to navigate our world. Some we’ll never learn; lifting the toilet seat every single time is one that stands out for most men I think. Others we learn the very first time we have a practical lesson, like never split your legs when balancing on a fence – always, always, always dive to one side or the other.

Again – men will be able to relate here.
The sooner we start schooling our children in life lessons the better. Obviously, you have to start small. Children are essentially novices at virtually all of their life skills and it’s up to us to find innovative ways to impart these life lessons to them in a way that they’ll understand and adopt. Adopt, without complaint.

It is of course much easier said than done. For one thing, getting new information into a child’s consciousness requires that you first get their attention. To anyone who is not yet a parent or indeed has children that are all grown up, this may seem a little tongue in cheek. But it isn’t. It’s very difficult to explain exactly what happens to a child when you call their names. My wife and I know that our children have functioning ears because they can hear a packet of crisps being opened, even clandestinely, from several rooms away. So when we call them from just out of arms length away, we are always decidedly dumbfounded at their complete lack of acknowledgement.

Even when we clap, stomp our feet and switch off the television in unison, there is only a paltry chance that our boys will acknowledge our existence much less sit still long enough to hear us out once we have it.

One has to resort to tricks to get anywhere. Things like keeping hold of an empty packet of crisps and crinkling the paper in your pocket may be a good attention grabber. Similarly, opening an iPad and playing a game is another good way to draw a crowd of children. A lasso might also work.

Or you could simply slip out of the room and try to find five minutes of peace and quiet. The entropy of child looking for resting parent will seek you out in short order. 

Ok, so attention grabbed, the next trick is to impart knowledge, effect a nose blow, nourish the child, broker peace between warring factions in the house, you name it. It’s all equally challenging and it’s where compromise comes into play.

If it is knowledge you’re passing on, it has to be short. It has to be entertaining and it has to provoke query from the child if you intend for it to stick. Otherwise all you’ve done is make sounds as air moves over your vocal chords. One could try to cement a new idea in place with a bribe of some kind. Marshmallow. Chocolate. Biscuit. Pick your ally. I like teaspoons of Nutella. Whichever method you choose, you’ll probably have to make a deal with the imps to get information into (or out of) them and you’ll need to be prepared to accept the obvious penalty/tax that comes with feeding sugar to your child.

If it’s some kind of cleaning operation you need to effect (like a nose blow) then you may find yourself holding a tissue to a nose that won’t blow because the owner of the nose simply refuses to do it. This is the parent/child equivalent of ‘leading a horse to water’. You may need to compromise here and teach your child to do the same. A good trick here might be to offer two options that amount to the same thing and let your child pick one of them. Blow little and you get a finger lick of Nutella. Blow big and you get a spoonful of the stuff.

Now, a child that doesn’t want to do either of these things will need to compromise big. A parent that has to face a sugar charged bottle rocket bouncing off the walls in ten minutes time will need to compromise big.

Brokering peace between two children that are quite plainly sick of each others company is a challenge. Now they have to compromise between themselves. Perhaps they both want the same toy. The wisdom of Solomon could apply here. Perhaps they both want to (oddly) sit on the same side of mom at the dinner table. Well then musical chairs might be in order. Perhaps they both want to watch the same movie on their respective iPads at the same time (first world problem, I know). Well perhaps a padded room could come in handy here.

Whatever the case may be, all of these are opportunities for compromise. Parents must be innovative thinkers and always seek to find new ways to get children to get along, share, concede a point, compromise.

I must make a hundred deals a day and every single one of them is an opportunity to teach my children how to get me to compromise.

Wait. What?