The Art of Positive Parenting Requests: Making Positive Proposals

 
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Last week we explored the concept of open communication, and how this skill may desert us during emotionally charged encounters. We also discussed the art of positive parenting requests, and the ‘how to’ with ‘positive proposals’ as a way of problem solving an issue, complaint or idea that may arise with your children, in a healthy, non-destructive way.

Let us consider the case of Emma and Ben. Ben would like to take their children to his family’s annual ‘Edwards family BBQ’. He decides to bring this up after drop-off one afternoon but is worried that Emma may become overly emotional and saddened, as this was something they had previously attended as a family together. He is worried that conflict will arise and escalate as “it always does”. As such, he has prepared his three positive proposals. They look like this:

  1. I am happy to pick them up from your house and drop them back at a time you are comfortable with and is suitable, or meet you somewhere if that is more convenient for you.  I will return them to you at a time that you are comfortable with.

  2. As the BBQ falls on your weekend, I am happy to swap weekends with you or see the kids mid-week so that you do not miss out on time with them.

  3. When a special event comes up for you, I will endeavour to return the favour.

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Now you try it!

Can you think of a difficult or conflict-likely issue that you would like to bring up with your ex-partner? Consider writing this down. Remember try to explain why the issue or problem is important for your children. Now try making three positive proposals of your own that may solve this issue. Make sure to write these down also. Now you have a written copy outlining a way of problem solving an issue arising with your children, in a healthy, non-destructive way. Well done!

But what happens, I hear you ask, if my ex-partner “just won’t budge”? If you have successfully propositioned three positive proposals to your former partner and are firmly met with resistance, try asking them to come up with some proposals of their own in response. Similarly, if your positive proposals become a presenting issue of conflict between you both, your ex-partner appears stuck in their negative emotions, has trouble compromising and/or using reason - try using email or text. This provides your ex-partner with a chance to consider your three positive proposals without the emotionality of close contact.

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Let us consider again the example of Ben’s situation above. Let’s pretend that Emma did respond as anticipated, here is a way of making three positive proposals if you have been knocked back, face-to-face:

Dear Emma,

I appreciate that this is a stressful time for both of us, as well as for our children- I don’t want to make anything more uncomfortable or harder than it has to be for you or the kids.

Despite being disappointed that you are not allowing me to take the kids to the annual weekend Edwards family barbeque, it would be great if we could come to a compromise surrounding this. The barbeque has been something my family has hosted for years, and the kids have always enjoyed it. I would like them to continue feeling included in this and to be a part of the family. I feel that for continuity’s sake- to be as reliable and consistent as possible, this tradition should continue for them, despite our separation. Please consider my proposal options below; 

I am happy to pick them up from your house and drop them back at a time you are comfortable with and is suitable, or meet you somewhere if that is more convenient for you.  I will return them to you at a time that you are comfortable with. 

As the BBQ falls on your weekend, I am happy to swap weekends with you or see the kid’s mid-week so that you do not miss out on time with them

 When a special event comes up for you, I will endeavour to return the favour.

 I look forward to your reply and thank you in advance for your consideration.

 Warmest regards,

Ben.

Don’t forget, you cannot change the way another person behaves- you can only change your reaction to their behaviour. Remember to treat this as a business proposal- this should be neutral, direct and to the point outlining the problem or need and providing context if necessary.


Dr Catherine Boland

 
Dr Catherine Boland