Here’s another bite-sized piece, tackling a tale as old as time. Why won’t your kid listen to you? Or in other words, how do you handle conflict?
We are not going to give you a definite answer, sorry about that, but we’ll try to raise some points and ask the right questions. By the end, you might even find you understand your child a little bit better. And isn’t that what all of us hope for in the end?
You only wish them well, so why oh why can’t your child just see that? Rules are there to protect them. They shouldn’t stick a finger into that electrical socket, that one is easy. Curfews are actually good for them? That’s a bit harder to defend.
When they push too far it’s a bit hard to appreciate their tenacity, that’s understandable. But what to do about arguments? You are saying one thing, they stick to their view, sometimes it gets loud, it gets louder every time. How do you overcome a big impasse with your child?
Before we even start, here’s something to consider. Think of it this way, when a conflict occurs between parent and child, most of the time your child is conflicted too. They might not show it, but chances are your wisdom is stuck in their tiny impressionable mind.
Whats more, your words are probably on repeat. They might not be talking to you, but that doesn’t mean your voice is not heard. I hope that puts your mind at ease just a little bit. Now, what next?
Once you can’t seem to find some middle ground with your child thinking in terms of roadblocks and resources can help. In other words, think about boundaries and support.
Both roadblocks and resources are useful to have, there are times when your firm no is the only thing keeping your child from poking an eye out. Other times, when they’re struggling, they need to be heard and uplifted. So how do you strike a balance?
First things first. When you can’t talk to them, when conversations are getting heated, does your child have someone who’s a resource to them? Yes, it hurts when that’s not you, (you want to think you know best, and in most cases you really do), but there are situations where your input is awkward to say the least.
When they are sick, you don’t decide which medicine they should take. You might give them cough syrup, but you don’t treat all of their ailments. This goes for other parts of their life as well.
As children get older and more independent, they tend to find new resources, people, places and communities you might not approve. It’s not about making them listen to you and only you, it’s about teaching them how to spot opinions, listen to sides and make good decisions. In the end, they decide who or what is going to be a resource to them. It’s unnerving, but it’s necessary.
What if there’s no talking to them? If you’ve reached the end of the line that’s fine, it’s bound to happen. But remember, while your firm NO is definitely needed in many situations, there’s an important difference between being a big red NO sign (or a roadblock), and someone who has a firm stance on a matter, but is also always available as a resource. This is especially important in risky situations which teenagers tend to find themselves in.
And I am talking about more than simply stating, “You can always talk to me.” If you’ve spent a lot of energy letting them know where you stand on an issue, you might have created a bit of a blockage in their mind. Be it stubbornness, a need to prove you wrong, or just plain fear you are going to get mad at them and/or punish them, it’s painfully hard to make that first move.
What you can do is, firstly, make sure they know disagreements are normal. It happens. That doesn’t mean all conversations are over, that there’s no talking about anything ever. It doesn’t even mean you can’t talk about that particularly problematic topic. Just that you need some time to work out the kinks. And you need to do that with them.
Secondly, define special circumstances where all disagreements are put on hold. As they get older, bolder and more independent, they also tend to be less safe. While they are becoming their own person it might help if they know – if at any point they don’t feel comfortable or safe they have you to fall back on.
Even if they are doing something you might not approve of, when they are not safe they have you as a resource. If safety is at stake, emotional or physical, you are not going to get mad. If you keep reminding them of that, the roadblock in their mind might let them call you for help when they really need to.
Keep things in perspective and build trust is basically what we’re saying. Take it one problem at a time and if you’re at the end of your tether and need some help, we might help with that. Take a look at our take on self-control, we’ve already talked about it here and here.
Your kid is not listening to you? Welcome to the club! Everyone struggles when it comes to setting up boundaries, in life and especially with children.
Just remember, boundaries are good and necessary, and so are arguments. However, the conversation also needs to keep going.
Both you and your child need to be able to call a truce when necessary, so remember to leave that door open. As long as you keep reminding them you are never going to stop being a resource, it get easier setting up constructive boundaries.