You know the drill. You give your child fair warning that your patience has been breached. The battle lines are drawn. Your initial instinct is to demonstrate your power and authority over your child, to make the ultimate lasting impression that your child is wrong and you are right. The outcome will more than likely, be explosive.
There is another way to communicate lasting principles to your strong-willed child. What if you could defuse the power grab, set your child on the road to responsible choices and teach a lasting lesson that life holds natural consequences in the face of negative behavior?
Most parents breathe a sign of relief when they learn that there is a better way, one that preserves their sanity and increases their effectiveness.
Consider the following strategies to address these issues.
- Practice detachment. No matter the level of emotion elicited by your child. Above all, do not react.
- Don’t yell, don’t get angry and don’t get nasty. Those responses have roots in revenge and burn the bridges of respect. By taking a few minutes to learn the “hooks” your child uses to draw you into conflict, you can maintain control of any situation and teach your child important life lessons.
- Never place yourself in the role of being victimized by your child. This gives a child enormous power, and drains you of the respect you deserve as a parent.
- Use appropriate humor to defuse volatility: “Gosh. How do you hold your breath so long without getting dizzy?”
- Empathize when children voice protest to something they do not want to do: “I understand you don’t want to go to school.” “Sometimes, I don’t want to go to work either.”
- Ignore non-verbal attempts at disrespect. These common “hooks” lead to power struggles as soon as you react. In the face of eye-rolling or other behaviors, tell your child that you will come back later, and will hope for more mature behavior then.
- Rules without related consequences are not rules. Threats are useless. Action speaks volumes.
- Communicate that children will not be allowed to disturb your peace. When they grouse at the dinner table, ask them to return when they are ready to rejoin the family.
- Laying out acceptable choices is a sound way of negotiating. “Which homework assignment will you do before dinner and which one after dinner?” Sometimes parental anger is justified. Costly disregard of another’s property or endangering self or others are examples. Even then, follow up with a detached tone of voice and appropriate consequences.
Your goal everyday, as a parent is to lovingly guide your children by modeling good behavior in your interactions with them. It is the best way to nurture children into mature adults with dignity, respect, achievement and integrity.