Why Do I Feel So Defeated? 6 Steps to Stop Trying to Win and Teach Your Child to Solve Problems

hockeyplayersDo you feel like you’re in a never ending battle for control with your child? I run into parents who complain that their children won’t do as they are asked.  This leads to battles that can escalate and be hurtful on both sides.  I find this situation with parents of preschoolers right up through high school. After the battle, parents feel bad about the things their child said and about what they (the parent) said.  They wonder why kids are so disrespectful these days.  They feel defeated.

No one likes to lose, including kids.  If the level of conflict in your house has risen to the level that your child feels like complying is the equivalent of “saying uncle,”  your child is likely to defy you .  Some children say “No!” Others “forget” or say “in a minute.” Some develop stomach aches and headaches.

How do you get your child to do what you say? 

  1. Change the question. Think of it as working together.  “How can my child and I work together?”
  2. Keep your cool.  This is a whole extra piece of work.  You probably recognize the irony of expecting your child to stay in control when you yourself lose it and yell.  Get some help with learning to walk away and calm down.  You’ll provide a good model for your child.
  3. Stop punishing.  (I know this is radical.)  Over and over I see parents who are angry and apply punitive “consequences.”  “No sleepover tonight because you wouldn’t take out the trash.”  Kids in this situation become angry and they learn to get back as well, by failing to cooperate.
  4. Talk to you child about the problem when you both are calm.  Very important.
  5. Listen to your child.   You might say,  “On trash night I ask you take out the trash, but you don’t do it.  Then I get mad and you get mad.  What’s going on?”  Really try to get your child to explain.  Really be curious and respectful.  Once you understand more, go on to the next step.
  6. Point out what you want to happen and ask for suggestions.  “I want you to take out the trash, but you say it’s a disgusting chore, what should we do?” 

If you are lucky, your child comes up with an idea that solves the problem.  But maybe you need to provide a suggestion at first.  The solution needs to consider your child’s needs and yours.

This way of solving problems requires you and your child to be flexible.  Your child might come up with a solution that you didn’t expect, but that works.  One child I knew said, “I’ll do laundry.  I just don’t want to do trash. It’s disgusting.”  The parents had to admit that that worked.  Their major goal was for her to have responsibility. But it wasn’t what they expected at all.

This approach takes time to learn.  Just doing the first three steps will be very helpful to decrease the level of conflict in your home.  You are not giving up authority;  kids need their parents to be in charge.  You are engaging you child in solving problems.  That is a skill everyone needs to learn.

Let me know how it goes.

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Photo credit: Gardinegirl on Flickr

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