“My quiet, respectful, rule-following little angel has become a rude, pushy, aggressive little tyrant.” Yes, I have heard a parent say that. What happened? The child grew up.
I can remember when I was about seven years old. We had a decent-sized back yard, a swing set, a few trees and a four-and-a-half-foot red-stained fence around the entire yard. The fence was there for a number of reasons but mostly for my mom’s peace of mind and my safety.
If I was in the fenced-in yard, she could run into the house for a minute and come back out without worrying about my behavior too much. The fence around our back yard kept me in a defined area. It was a visual limit, or border, for my world. I knew I couldn’t go beyond the fence and didn’t really care, mostly because I couldn’t see what was on the other side!
“Stay in the back yard” made sense to me, and I never challenged what my parents said, until I got a little taller.
The problem started when I went from three feet tall to five feet tall and could see over the fence. When my mom would say, “Stay in the back yard,” I would now reply, “Why?” to which my mom would reply, “Because I said so.” This conversation usually happens in every home when kids enter adolescence and push parenting to a completely different level.
The “Because I said so” response isn’t a bad response, and it isn’t a bad way to parent your child––when he or she is very young. What’s on the other side of the fence could be harmful or hurtful, and parents are simply protecting their children from that danger without giving an in-depth answer they may not understand anyway.
When our children are younger, we usually parent by control. We tell our children to brush their teeth, take out the trash, turn off the TV and when it’s time to go to bed. We do most of this without a rebuttal or response from them.
The tension comes when our kids change and we don’t. It almost seems that when our children become teens, we become children.
They have a new way of thinking and finding answers, challenging, pushing and questioning the limits of their world.
They have grown tall enough to look over the fence to see what’s on the other side; and if we haven’t made a change in our parenting style when they ask to hop the fence, things will not go well.
We will say “no,” and when they ask why, and we tell them, “Because I said so,” we have a challenging opportunity on our hands. They have changed, they have grown up and our parenting style that had done so well up to this point is not longer working and if we continue to parent by control, their behavior will most likely get worse, or they will totally shut down with us.
What I am suggesting is that we can no longer parent by control; we must switch styles to match their new adolescent minds. What I am not suggesting is to give your teenager the run of the house to do what they want, when they want, how they want. We all know how that will turn out. Our kids still need boundaries, we all need boundaries.
A healthy balance of freedom and independence while providing boundaries will allow healthy growth for your child and your family.
Photo Credit: shutterstock.com Image ID: 278400422 c Oleg Mikhaylov