Do you get upset when your child doesn’t listen to you?
I can’t blame you if you do. It is inconvenient to have a disobedient child.
But as we enforce rules and discipline – it is important to remember that it can be dangerous and damaging to raise a child who cannot disagree and is unable to revolt and rebel when required.
A child who cannot say "No" is an easy target for bullies
A child who cannot say "No" is an easy target for abusers
A child who cannot say "No" will not be able to stand up to and resist peer pressure.
Suffering through the consequences of bullying, abuse and adverse peer pressure can be much worse than suffering through the inconvenience of being disobeyed.
And therefore – it is important to teach children how to stand up for themselves, for their thoughts ideas and principles.
Children must be taught how to disagree. They must be taught how to say no.
They must be taught how to think. They should be able to argue their point of view in their own minds so that when they say “no” they are taken seriously. They must learn how to argue without being abrasive and how to convince without being crude and discourteous.
When two people – whatever age they may be – live together – they are bound to disagree on certain points. It is a normal, natural consequence of living together.
A two year old who refuses to move or refusing to eat is expressing dissatisfaction and demanding change. A teenager who locks himself in his room or dresses inappropriately – is doing the same.
When we don’t teach children how to express themselves – they resort to socially unacceptable ways of expressing themselves. When children express themselves like this – they often damage themselves – without achieving the change they desire.
Imposing our will on our children by demanding compliance or using brute force saves us precious minutes on busy days but it also discourages thinking. It hampers the development of essential communication skills that are vital for the safety and well-being of our children.
When children are dissatisfied with a particular situation and want to change it – they must be able to express their dissatisfaction and disagreement in a way that will bring about the change that they desire.
They must learn how to speak and express themselves in words
Children model themselves on their parents. They learn how to tackle life situations and deal with disappointments and dissatisfaction from their parents.
If you are a parent – here is what you should do
Lead the way - explain your reasons for making rules
Children must learn how to express themselves in words. And they learn how to use words effectively from their parents.
When children say “Why” or “I won’t” – they are asking us to explain our reasons.
And when they ask for a reason and we say “Because I say so” – it is the equivalent of your teenager slamming the door in your face
Make an honest attempt to explain the reasons behind the rules you make. State all the facts – practice openness in communication. Argue your point until your kid is convinced.
It is only when children learn how to put their point of view across convincingly - can they actually swing adverse situations in their favour.
Allow your child to explain his point of view
Listening is a very important part of effective communication. As parents we rarely listen.
Listening is hard work but if we want our children to listen to us – we must listen to them.
Allow your child to make some decisions
Children rebel and revolt when have no say in what happens. The rebellion may be active and include shouting and aggressive behaviour. Or it may be passive where the child gives up on dressing well, keeping his room clean and not getting school work done.
Be gracious and say “it’s your decision” in some areas of his life. For example - let him make decisions how he would like to spend his pocket money without offering any guidance. Let him learn from his mistakes
Give in sometimes – don’t make everything an ego issue. Some things are not worth an argument
Because we are parents – several times – we insist on being obeyed. We demand obedience on trivial issues that we could easily let go.
Children pick up on this and begin to equate obedience with a loss of face and an injury to their pride and ego
If we want our children to give in to our wishes – we must model gracious surrender for them.
It is important to show them that giving in is not something to be ashamed of – so that they can obey us with their pride intact
Also allow your child to speak and when your child manages to convince you – give in with good grace. Say “I didn’t agree at first but you convinced me”
Focus on presentation – avoid slander. Speak with grace
Treat arguments like organised debates. Speak in a calm composed voice and do not resort to bad language or character assassination.
The way you speak when you announce something – sets the stage for how the rest of the conversation will evolve. Don’t be dictatorial. Your child will learn to speak in the same tone that you use to address him.
Encourage healthy debates on family issues and don’t forget to pause and look at the humorous side of situations
Once a decision has been made the matter should be dropped
Debates should be closed once a decision is made.
Needling a child with an error of judgement made in the past is a mistake and prompts a communication shut down in the future
Encouraging children to express themselves in the safety of their homes is an important step towards letting them know that their opinions matter.
Children must understand that they do not always have to agree.
They need to know that they do not have to do what others say.
All they have to do is – to be able to justify what they want to do - to themselves and to the world – by arguing it out in words.