Any parent can attest that at times their children—and especially adolescents—simply don’t like them. This usually occurs when the parent won’t let the child do something (like go to a party), or when the parent asks the youth to do something considered “not cool” (like drive the old “clunker” rather than the sporty new car).
Of course, few children will go down without a fight. They’ll whine and even scream things like, “You don’t understand,” or “I’m the only one who has to,” or “I’ll die if you don’t let me.” These are simply the youths’ attempt to have the parent relent.
However, many parents fight back and try to discipline the youth by imposing punishments or offering a reward for changing their tune. How many times have you heard a parent say, “If you don’t stop that talk right now you’re going to be grounded,” or “If you do it this once without complaining I’ll let you take the nice car next week”? These are really nothing more than coercive discipline attempts that only escalate the situation.
Here are two non-discipline techniques to use instead that actually promote responsibility in the youth and end the fighting in its tracks.
1. Instead of saying “no” to the youth’s request, calmly say, “Convince me.” The challenge encourages reflection and responsible thinking. This is especially important with teenagers who want to feel right even when they are wrong. Often, once the child tries to think of a convincing reason to get their way, they realize how faulty their original thinking or request was and they are the ones who relent.
2. Another simple but underused technique is for the parent to first reflect on the reason for the parental decision. Then, rather than just say “no” or ask the child to do something, share your reasoning behind the reply or request. This can be very significant. The youngster has a reason for what he or she wants, for what is desired, and so, too, should the parent have a reason. When the youth know that reason, it helps them see other points of view and expands their thinking.
Parenting is a tough job. By using these two non-discipline techniques that promote critical thinking and responsibility, you make your job much less stressful.