育兒教養的“底線期待 Bottom line expectation in parenting
Parenting sometimes is a set of negotiations. One day my two-year-old son came to me and told me that he wanted to drink a bottle of yogurt right before lunchtime. At that moment, I knew that if I turned down his request a hard way, it would lead to a tantrum; but I also knew that if I agreed on what he wanted, he would not be able to eat lunch.
It somehow reminds me of bottom-line expectations in negotiation. The bottom line is meant to act as the final barrier, where negotiation will not proceed further. It is a means to defend oneself against the pressure and temptation often exerted on a negotiator to conclude an agreement that is self-defeating.
In this "yogurt negotiation," I asked myself what my bottom line expectations are? Soon I knew that my bottom line was, "I hope he eats lunch well." After learning this bottom line, I know what I should do next. I squatted down and told him two options: "Baby, I know you want to eat yogurt, but we will eat lunch very soon. Would you like to eat one bottle of kid's yogurt after eating proper lunch, or would you like to eat two spoons of yogurt only before lunch?" Of course, it was not a smooth negotiation at first; my two years old insisted that he wanted to eat yogurt. I remained as calm as I could be, kept acknowledging his feeling, "I know you like to eat yogurt." Still, then I just kept offering the same two options: one bottle of kid's yogurt after eating proper lunch or two spoons of greek yogurt only before lunch. After a few rounds of back and forth, a miracle happened! My two-year-old told me that he wanted to eat "two spoons of greek yogurt before lunch." So I gave him the spoon and let him scoop the yogurt into his bowl; he scooped the yogurt twice into his bowl and then finished it with a smile.
Of course, parenting is not about exercising power games; it should never be! But if we as parents know what our actual bottom-line expectations are, it may help create harmony.
As parents, we have different expectations for different topics, scenarios, or phases for our children. Whether we would like our child to sleep through the nights, eat more vegetables, or stay healthy.
But we do not own our children; they are individuals; they have their minds and "development agendas." Yes, they may need us to guide them in the world at some points; they may require us to help them set up boundaries. But they are who they are, so they also have their own "expectations."
Suppose we can set the bottom line expectation for each situation or each development phase. There could be less unnecessary "tug-of-war" between our children and us, or even between our partner and us. For example, if my bottom line expectation for my child is that he grows up healthy. And healthy growth means to me that he eats at least one type of vegetables per day. Whether my child would prefer tomatoes over carrots on a specific day is no longer a concern.
The same "bottom line expectation" can also be applied to parenting ideas between partners. We are two individuals from different backgrounds; of course, there would be moments of disagreements of parenting. Suppose we as partners agree on the bottom line expectations, e.g., no casualty on the child. In that case, different parenting styles for different scenarios become less critical, and perhaps these differences are no longer worth argument.