A typical modern family is so different from one a few generations ago that it’s like a “Men are from Mars/Women are from Venus” paradigm. The kids, propped up by their sub-culture, have usurped the power parents used to have, while the parents, on the defensive, struggle to maintain confidence and control.
Parents are often unsure about what to say; how to behave; whether to punish. Their offspring, in contrast, have no hesitation challenging their parents about their unfair, stupid rules. They counter their parents’ attempts to be in control with impudence, insolence, interruptions and what might be best described as “copping an attitude.”
Though it’s not easy to become a confident parent, it’s possible to do so. Here’s how to begin:
- Don’t let your child get away with treating you disrespectfully.
This is #1 for a reason. You can’t feel confident when your kid is shooting off at the mouth, saying things that in a million years you’d never even think of saying to your parents. When this happens, stop. Don’t try to reason or explain. Instead, disengage. Say, “I won’t speak to you when you speak to me disrespectfully.” If your child backs off or apologizes, congratulations! You’ve made progress. But if your child continues the diatribe, walk away. If he follows, go to a place where you can lock the door, saying, “I’ll be happy to speak with you when you can speak to me respectfully.”
- Change the focus of your conversations.
If your family is overly child-centered, you’re most likely feeling burned out. Acknowledge that it’s time to change the focus. Instead of having your conversation always focused on your child’s activities, homework, grades, etc., tell your child something about your day. But, make it interesting! If all you can communicate are the chores you have done (or resent doing), you will sound like a drone to your kids. Instead, talk about a skill you’re learning, an interest you’re nurturing, a night out you’re planning. If you can’t think of any of those things, then perhaps it’s time to, as the kids put it, “get a life.”
- Make punishments enforceable.
If your anger is intense and you spew out a punishment, you’ll most likely regret what you’ve said. “No phone for a month, no allowance forever, no TV.” The reason: These punishments are hard to enforce. And if you don’t enforce them, you’re bolstering your kids’ inclination to blow you off. The best punishments are relevant, educational, and enforceable. And they take a calm mind to create them. As an example: which do you think is a better punishment for staying out late: no TV or writing an essay as to why curfews exist and then discussing it with your teen?
- Make a decision.
Should you scold your child about her messy room or just ignore it? Should you let your kid stay home from school when he’s complaining of a headache or insists he goes anyway? I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I do know you need to make a decision. And, don’t second-guess or torture yourself about whether it was the “right” decision. Sometimes it doesn’t matter; you just need to make one. This is not to say that you need to come across as rigid, with no room for input. But, it does mean that if your child perceives you as indecisive or constantly reversing your decisions, you lose power — your child gains power. Don’t be afraid to fake it till you make it, even if you’re not feeling confident inside.
Hopefully this is the beginning of your becoming a more confident parent. As you put these ideas into practice, keep in mind two caveats. One, do not expect change to happen right away (although, it might). Two, lots of strategies work sometimes; few work all the time. Still, this is no reason to give up. Stay on the road. And one day, you’ll get to your destination!