Are We Teaching Our Kids to Settle?

“You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”

If your child has spent more than a few hours in daycare or preschool, then this is undoubtedly a refrain you know well. And truth is, it works well too, inciting littl’uns to curb their innate urge to whine and complain if they don’t get the pink one, one with not enough frosting or, the one little Jimmy has. As a parenting tool, it’s extremely handy and I am not afraid to admit that I am quick to use it.

But it occurred to me the other day that this phrase has a darker side. By using it, we are actually telling our kids “this is the way it is, you have no choice in the matter and no means of recourse.”

I don’t know about you but I don’t want my kids to accept what is given them as a fait accompli, a done deal, like it or lump it.

I firmly believe that each of us is in charge of shaping our own destiny. If you sit on your butt and don’t speak up, then guess what? Nothing happens and you have no one to blame but yourself.

Rather than teaching our kids to settle, let’s teach them to form cogent arguments. I’m not saying every four-year old should be able to construct a formal appeal but I’m willing to listen to a decent case (as long as there’s no whine.)

If we equip our kids from a tender age with the ability to stand up for themselves, articulate their thoughts and negotiate with purpose, then we are letting them know that their opinions matter, that they have a voice and they can affect change.

The pragmatist in me, the working mom just trying to get through kids’ dinner time without incident so that their bedtime is smooth (and soon) knows that I’m not always ready to hear the come-backs. I’m quick to put up my hand to my son and say “no negotiating.” But when I then hear my daughter say to her brother in a rote fashion “you get what you get and you don’t get upset” I am reminded that I should hear them out. It’s true that my answer may not change but at least they will know that their voice has been heard.

This mother does not want her kids to settle. I hope I can teach them to be articulate advocates.


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  1. Annie Moore

     /  January 29, 2012

    Yes, I fully support that children should be allowed to voice their opinions, have their opinions validated (even if disagreed with), and that their skills to construct formal, cogent appeals are good skills to hone. When your kids get to the point where they have to write persuasive essays (middle school), complete with intelligent supporting evidence, they will fly through that milestone with no problem! And, especially now in this couch potato world of sitting back and resigning ourselves to “you get what you get and don’t get upset”, these skills will, no doubt, develop better (and less complacent) citizens for this country. On the flip side of this or, perhaps, better said, concurrently we are obliged to develop in our children a healthy respect for “the rules”, for following “the rules” no matter how whacked “the rules” are, to know that not every authority figure in their lives will have such a healthy tolerance for hearing their opinions (i.e., give your opinions only when solicited), and when they become old enough to be able to act on changing “the rules”, they must do so with respect, within the framework of society’s rules, and by following the rules. It is a delicate balance between these and so many other characteristics that we strive to develop in our children, all within the framework of living out our daily lives. Way to go Sam for bringing up another interesting topic on parenting! Just to let you know I come from the perspective of know the rules first (parent’s job to explain the rules and their objectives), be able to follow the rules-second, and when you can do that, they you have earned the right to object to the rules, without whining (unless I can whine along with you), and with the understanding that compromise may be the best possible outcome of negotiating change, the worst outcome being that “no” is still the answer… Until they become fully emancipated (and fully aware of the potential impact of) and are responsible for the consequences of their choices, they should be well prepared for the reality that family life is not a democracy, but that it is an absolute MOMarchy!

  2. I agree. We just simply have too many grown ups who are just sitting around willing to accept the circumstances without really putting in a good fight. Teaching kids to settle is helping them lose the battle before its even begun. I would want my boys to have the confidence to speak their mind and be assertive (not aggressive).

  3. Thank you both for such thoughtful comments.


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