Having some new tips up your sleeve before your young person starts to react negatively to your management of them can be the key to maintaining healthy relationships in the family. Not only this there are added benefits in teaching your young person to take on more responsibility as they get older and face new challenges.
There is no set age to start introducing new ideas, as a child moves into pre adolescence, sometimes parents notice that the old ways of dealing with the difficult behaviours are less effective such as sending them to their room, removing weekly pocket money and reinforcing the rules of the house.
This is where new ideas can be adapted to the situation. Some suggestions for dealing with stand offs with your pre teen are;
- Prepare ahead of time and be prepared to negotiate If your child is refusing to wash up after dinner; before it gets heated ask them what is a fair agreement? They might prefer to do something else or want to delay it further. So try reaching an agreement where you both are participating and have some input. Believe it or not you can also negotiate a fair consequence with them too, bearing in mind simple and immediate consequences that relate to the behaviour work best. You might need to have some ?not negotiable options?, try and limit these to ones that absolutely essential to their and your welfare. After you?ve discussed the issue over and given time to the discussion, refuse to enter into an argument about the rules, and develop consequences that speak for themselves.
- When there is conflict state your thoughts and feelings- "when people say _____ I feel hurt". This is treating them more like an adult and they can cope with some notion that their actions have an effect on you as they get older. In conjunction with your feelings recognise your teenagers feelings ? ?I?m hearing that you?re angry with me because I won?t let you go out tonight?. This is modelling how you would also like to be spoken with (but don?t expect them to reciprocate this for a long while yet!).
- Hand over responsibility ? if your teenager won?t wash his clothes let them endure the consequences rather than nagging at him to do it. What affects you more? Constant arguments about the washing/ironing/homework, or if they go to school with a unwashed, unironed shirt and have to face the teacher about their unfinished homework? If they won?t help out at home, don?t do their chores for him/her. Work out chores that don?t have to affect you and the rest of the household.
- Only address your part of the problem ? deal with what is affecting you at home. Sometimes it can be valuable for a parent to be less involved with what is happening at school for the teenager. It is also helpful for siblings to work out their conflicts on their own. Limit debates to what you absolutely need to get involved in.
- Insist with persistence ? don?t give up after the first try or first few weeks. It may take time to see the changes in how your young person manages the new ideas but also look out for the small steps ie less conflict, more responsibility in your young person for their own affairs and more energy for you to focus on other things in your life.
- When caught in a conflict with your young person try and use ?and? instead of ?but?. See if it makes a difference to the conflict escalating.
Parenting young people is tough and stressful and there comes a time for more professional intervention but why not try using some new approaches first.
Christine Castle, Social Worker and Family Therapist. Alpha Counselling Services