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Amy McCready

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Because I Said So? Not Anymore

Posted: 08/10/2011 1:32 pm

Ever tried any of these on your kids? "Wait until your father gets home." "Don't make me come in there." Or the famous, "You'll do it because I said so." How'd it work? If you're among the millions of parents whose kids don't exactly snap to attention, take heart.

While these words may have peppered your own childhood -- and worked -- there are some very real reasons they don't fly nowadays with your kids, no matter how many veins stick out in your forehead as you utter them. In fact, while demanding compliance may have gotten you and your siblings to listen up, nowadays, it will only push your own kids further away.

You can thank some very positive societal shifts for your kids' refusal to jump into action when you bark orders. Just look around, and you'll see that cooperation, rather than dominance, is the new norm. For instance, women, how would you feel if you were married to a man who demanded a hot meal shortly after walking in the door from work everyday? And employees, what would you say to a boss who barked, "Have the report on my desk by the end of the day or you're fired?" What would you think if your kids were faced with corporal punishment at school for talking out of turn or not learning their spelling words fast enough?

Chances are you would be handing your husband a frozen dinner and then showing him the door, discussing your boss' unprofessional treatment with HR, and on the phone with our school's principal about their policies.

Most of us have been more than happy to see the top-down, authoritarian approach that was so prevalent in the first part of the 20th century fade away, and we welcome the new types of roles and communication that are taking its place. Although it may not always feel this way, as a society, we're more respectful, more cooperative and more open to new ideas.

But parents, listen up: it's time we shifted our parenting style accordingly. We can't exactly expect blind obedience from our kids because the don't see it from us. Under their watchful eyes and perked up ears, they see us debate with our spouses, negotiate with our employers and ensure our schools deal with our kids' misbehavior in a positive way. It only makes sense that our kids try to debate and negotiate with us because they see it all the time.

This new order is why we see more pushback, power struggles and negotiation than we ever have in past generations. You can blame it on everything from CSPAN to social media, but kids intuitively sense that everything's up for debate in the world around them. This leads them to respond to your best, "You'll do it because I said so!" with, "You're not the boss of me!"

While this attitude from your kids can be infuriating, it's important to remember that although backtalk certainly constitutes misbehavior, your kids' society-driven response to the new norms of communication is understandable, whether you like it or not.

And even though it can be a big challenge for weary parents to reinvent their parenting style, this shift really is a good thing. It means that our kids will learn to think for themselves in their relationships, work place and roles down the road.

So, how can you get your kids to listen up and take action when you ask them to? Start by applying some of the same communication principles you'd use in your workplace at home. That certainly doesn't mean letting your kids walk all over you and making every decision, but instead fostering cooperative relationships that respect your kids' autonomy even while maintaining order in your family.

Mom and Dad still call the shots, but each child can participate in the discussion.

For example, try to back off on the amount of "ordering, correcting and directing" you do during the day and instead work on inviting cooperation. You might be surprised to find your kids willingly lend a hand if you simply say, "I have a ton of stuff to pack before we leave for the pool. Anything you can do to help round up our pool gear would be really appreciated." They may even feel like they're making a meaningful contribution on their own terms.

Another strategy is to shift your focus to problem-solving instead of barking orders. If your kids are constantly arguing over video games, turn to them for suggestions for solving the problem. Tell them, "We've been having some trouble lately with fighting over the video games. Let's brainstorm some solutions that give everyone time to play."

Not only will they likely impress you with their ideas, but they're more likely to comply if they've helped make the rules. You may eventually have to implement appropriate consequences if they don't keep up their end of the bargain, but by involving them in the solution, you're more likely to get better results.

Not all situations call for problem-solving and discussion. You still hold the authority as the parent. But by involving your children in the solution whenever you can, you're less likely to get pushback and attitude when you really just need cooperation without debate.

If you mirror your communication at home to the world surrounding your kids a little bit more, they'll be more likely to get on board with your requests and decisions. And by avoiding, "Because I said so," you might enjoy finding new ways to get your kids on board and you won't sound like your parents.

Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, the author of If I Have to Tell You One More Time...The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids To Listen Without Nagging, Reminding, or Yelling and mom to two teenage sons. For quick and easy parenting tips follow Positive Parenting Solutions on Facebook.

 

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