Want Less Anxious, Bossy Kids? Do This! – Part 4
As promised, here’s the information about what to do when you have either a teenager or a child who is strong willed and who you know that you won’t get compliance from.
Option Three (especially good with teens and strong-willed younger kids):
You may be surprised by the answer for what to do when you know you aren’t going to be listened to.
I’ll preface my remarks with saying that with a younger child, there may be ways to force compliance that are appropriate. A 10-year-old who refuses to get off of media can have devices taken away, or wifi turned off. Part of being your child’s GPS is not letting them do things that are detrimental. With all of the information out there about how addicting media is, you may find it helpful to think if this were alcohol, would I let my child continue? Yes, media, like alcohol, can have its place. But just like you wouldn’t let your child drink alcohol when you are clear they are too young, and definitely not without limits and supervision when you start to allow its use, media needs to be monitored. It can be even more addictive, with corresponding issues.
That being said, the advice that follows if for when you truly can’t do anything, or you are unwilling to use the options you have. I’ll explain more in a minute.
If you know that your child is extremely unlikely to comply, don’t put the limit down.
Say you have a teen who isn’t studying, no matter what you do or say. You can make an ultimatum and say, “From now on, you have to study 30 minutes a day”. If you know that there isn’t a chance that your child will listen, it is actually worse than useless to make this ultimatum. If you know from past history that your child doesn’t listen to you, and you can’t enforce it, what you end up doing is weakening your role as your child’s strong GPS.
To give an example from my own life, my daughter, currently 17, recently commented that I am a relatively lenient mom. She also said that we communicate well, and it was a compliment.
I personally would rather my kids say that I am a firm, but fair mom. But I had to work with the parameters I was given, so I’ve ended up meeting a ton of my parenting goals through expectations, not direct limits.
What my kids are aware of, but she wasn’t articulating, is that I have high expectations of them (which when matched with high support, has the best outcome for kids). Because we have a strong relationship, she naturally wants to meet my expectations. She recently was given the award as the top student in her Grade 11/Junior year, hence showing how successful this approach is.
The reason I come across as fairly lenient is because of the marital conflict I had to deal with. I needed to find ways to get compliance from my kids without rules. Her dad regularly said I was too strict and would tell the kids things like that I was unreasonable and that they didn’t have to listen to me. It was a very frustrating situation and took me a long time to find the way to great parenting, in spite of the lack of cooperation from my ex.
In the end, there were many blessings. Any person, adult or child, who is forced into compliance, tends to resist. So they may comply in the short-term, but they often don’t internalize the values that their parents are trying to instill in them. I see examples constantly of how my kids both have internalized my values, in spite of me often not being able to put my foot down and give them the limit that I knew could serve them well.
I hope that you are able to put limits down and to empathize with your child and help them to accept them. I share this powerful option though, as I see so many parents struggle when they truly don’t have the ability to enforce the rule that they know is needed. When you can’t do anything else, retreat to at least maintaining, and if possible, building the relationship. You’ll grow your strength as your child’s GPS and may even find yourself able to put a firm limit later when your child is feeling that much more anchored to you as their GPS.
I could say so much more about this powerful, back-door way to achieve results with your child. So much of parenting is about our own ability to accept the hand that we’ve been dealt with. Once we do, we can way more often than not, find a way to being the great parent we want to be for our children.