Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Real Parent Trap

Kids are so smart. They have to be since they must deal with bigger and more powerful human beings—their parents! They learn very quickly that their parents usually rely on the undisputed power of authority. You know, the old “Do it because I said so” mentality. In other words, “you have to obey me because I’m your parent and that’s what you should (or have to) do.” (Might makes right)

Sometimes children want to do something different, and the best way for them to get the upper hand is to use their clever, cunning and wily ways, or to even throw out and out temper tantrums (no matter what their ages) or better still, to beg, plead and nag until the parent gets tired of it and gives in. (bad idea)

Often without realizing it, parents allow themselves to be trapped by their children. One very common trick is the “You don’t trust me” declaration. It’s comical to see what lengths a parent will go to “prove” that isn’t so. Here’s one not-so-wise example:

“Of course I trust you, honey.”
“Then why can’t I go to the party?”
“I just don’t feel good about it.”
“See. You DON’T trust me!”
“Oh, yes I do!”
“No, you don’t. If you trusted me, you’d let me go.”
“Well, okay let’s try it this time and see how you do.”

Why are they having that conversation in the first place? Parents should use strategy and not rely solely on their authority and they should never give in, against their better judgment. They can circumvent this particular trap by light-heartedly agreeing, “You may be right, honey. I was 13 once myself.” Or, by not even responding to the “you-don’t-trust-me-bait” and saying something like,

“I think it would be fine for you to go to the party, honey. I’ll tell you what, I’ll take you to the party and wait outside in the car until it’s over and then I’ll drive you home.” Or even better, “Sure you can go and I’ll be happy to go with you.”

Even better yet, the wise parent will have some family rules in place well before the issue even comes up, such as:
• No dating until you’re 16, and then it’s group dating until you’re 18
• If you ask me to do or have something in front of a friend, the answer will be an automatic “NO”.
• If you ask more than one time, the answer will be an automatic “NO”.

Stick to your guns and remember that it’s okay if your children don’t like it. They have a right to feel upset, even angry and resentful if they don’t get what they want. If you hold to the rules, you will actually be helping your children to discipline themselves because they know you will hold firm each and every time. Perhaps the best advice is, “Be tough minded and don’t allow your children to trap you in a negative way.” You can be both firm AND loving at the same time.

(Use “subtle, silent supervision” from Always An Ally; Never An Adversary)


Unknown said...

Excellent advice and reasoning, Muriel! Even the most self-absorbed teen will recognize the justice of parental authority when it is presented with wisdom and in fairness. It is not a question of "you don't trust me..." The issue is "responsibility", and most young people are not thinking responsibility when they play the "you don't trust me" card. When it is put to them that you as the loving parent, are acting responsibly, and that clearly, they are in no position to take responsibility, they are usually glad to back down.

By the same reasoning, a teacher, work supervisor or any other person in a responsible position, must carefully bestow trust only when it is earned and is relevant. It is a matter of clearly showing the bottom line in every situation--and yet being willing to go more than halfway in bringing about the desired result. THAT is what constitutes "being an ally."

Vonda White said...

Hi, I made a comment last night, thought about it some more and would like to add a few more thoughts.

It is in the nature of the child (or subordinate person) to be somewhat self-absorbed, so it is rather natural for one to expect less of them, especially since they sometimes use faulty reasoning and/or badgering tactics to obtain what seems most important to them. If the one in authority expects the best of them, this is what they will be inclined to respond to. If their performance is below standard, they tend to expect repercussions and are often defensive and frightened (depending upon the circumstances). By wise and compassionate handling, they will tend to be more self-governing and behave on a higher level.

If the person in authority has self-control and also is behaving on a higher level, things will flow more smoothly. If the person in authority does not have self-trust, that insecurity will flow into the relationship in the form of rigidity, judgmentalism and punitive methods of control. Trust begins at the top.

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