Raising a child is incredibly rewarding. At the same time, each of your children will present you with challenges you never dreamed of and often time, each child’s challenges will be quite different from their sibling’s. As parents we must be prepared to manage each of these situations with deft and agility that would make even Kobe Bryant proud.
In order to do this we need to establish our very clearly defined mandatory rules (see OCG blog February 24th). Once you have clearly defined your mandatory rules the rest is easy… right? I have assisted hundreds of families in establishing mandatory rules and when they leave my office they feel comforted. Often, for the first time, they have the tools they need to begin to bring consistency to their family. They have the rules, they have the consequences and they have the pure intention to create a safe environment for their household. Seems like more often than not, I get that phone call, “Mike, we did all this work, and it just isn’t working with our family.”
I find myself smiling, not because it is funny, but simply because of the frequency of which I get this call. I ask the question, “Are you being consistent?” “Of course we are” they reply. From there we will go into a much longer conversation about the instances in which their mandatory rule failed to hold water. Inevitably, we find out they were consistent, most of the time. There are those time where the kids simply wear them down. Parents will stick to their guns, and stick to their guns… and so on, until the one time where they are tired, stressed, and just simply need some peace. Then, they cave. The child is allowed to break the mandatory rule, and the parent sinks into the recliner in exhaustion. Your mandatory rule just became an optional rule. DANG IT!
It can be so difficult to stand your ground. At times, your children will be able to present you with wonderful arguments as to WHY you should allow them to break a mandatory rule. And let me tell you, those little rascals can be very convincing. We all know the importance of being able to stand your ground and maintain the mandatory rules of your household. Now, I am going to teach some techniques as to HOW to maintain those rules and not get worn down by those children that are dead set on getting what they want.
Little Johnny; 16 years old, approaches you to tell you he will be smoking and there isn’t anything you can do to stop it. He argues that you can tell him as many times as you want that it is against the house rules but you can’t physically stop him. Besides, law enforcement is much too busy to ticket a minor for smoking cigarettes. He argues that he does not intend to smoke for the rest of his life, he will quit when he is 25. Grandma smokes and she is 87 so it can’t be all that harmful now can it? (Breathe parents; you can’t strangle him that would be equally as harmful as smoking)
Are you ready to deal with this? Yah, me neither, but it’s our job as parents to set limits and to keep our children safe… so here we go (without the strangling). Keep in mind, we want to respond and not react. We want to think about our response and remain in the adult ego state and remember, we never argue with an adolescent. Hear them out; allow them to exhaust themselves with little to no response from you. You simply want to be an attentive listener. This is a wonderful place to utilize our Deflector Phrases: regardless, never the less, and Sponge Phrases: that may be however, uh huh, you already said that, anything else? Once Johnny has provided you with all of this new information, you can evaluate your mandatory rule and determine if it continues to have value. My guess is that if it was important enough for you to make it a mandatory rule, then you will stick to it. Reflect back to Johnny what you heard him say and ask “Is there more?” When he has exhausted himself (temporarily) provide him with your response. Stick to your mandatory rule. Simply inform him that not only is smoking illegal, unhealthy, and dangerous, but it is against your family values. Likely, Johnny will again engage in argument. Calmly hear him out and then politely (without sarcasm) repeat the answer you already provided. We will hear him out and respond to him a total of three times, and then declare the conversation over. Be ready, because there is a good chance he will follow you around and keep badgering you.
It may be time to call in the reinforcements. This is much more difficult for the single parent or the parent that has to parent alone because mom or dad works away from home. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Call your therapist, clergyman, neighbor, aunt, uncle, grandparents, UPS man, plumber or anyone else that can assist you to stay strong. It may also be time to remind Johnny the he can also earn consequences for disrespect. Don’t be afraid to ask for a time out yourself. You will have to have pre-arranged parameters for what a time out looks like in your home and parents can take time out too. (You may want to remind Johnny that you cloth him, fix his food and put a roof over his head)
We practice these types of scenarios in our live workshops. We will revisit these techniques and teach dozens more when you come visit us in the Bay Area June 25-26.
Thanks for reading, and your comments are greatly appreciated,
See ya next time,