For Ally Parenting strategies to work, children need to feel connected to the adult giving a directive.
It isn’t enough for you to just learn, for example, the after-then strategy, to win cooperation. There needs to be a balance between focusing on nurturing and structuring the relationship.
There are many situations where parents need to set parameters in order to get their kids to do what they don’t want to do. Examples are personal hygiene, getting up and ready in a timely manner, electronic use, doing chores or homework, and going to bed on time. Rather than commanding, shaming, or arguing to try and get compliance, an atmosphere of connection needs to be felt first.
Many parents discuss their concerns and make a plan with their kids. Often the kids will agree during the discussion about how to make the mornings run better so there isn’t arguing that getting ready for school first and not having electronics available is best. This agreement is made during a time of connection because they feel good talking together and they want to please their parents. Even children who are defiant and demand power in unsuitable ways, can succumb to the good feelings they have when they feel important and connected to their family through dialogue and problem solving together.
It is therefore important for particularly challenging children, to not only feel connected during problem solving, but for them to feel connected while you are giving a direction.
The dialogue below is an example of a parent setting a limit with a challenging 13 year-old. First, she sets the limit and gets resistance even though she is using the highly effective “It’s time to” strategy. After two tries without compliance she realizes she needs to connect so she acknowledges her son feelings. Then she states the expectation again and amazing her son complies.
This true example blew me away when I heard it because these parents came to me because of an extremely adversarial household full of arguing. Learning how to connect and use language that isn’t confrontational and doesn’t lead to power struggles changed their family dynamics immediately. immediately.
Situation: My son was playing with the dog in the morning rather than getting ready for school first which was the new family rule.
Parent: “It’s time to brush your teeth and wash your face”
Child: “I will”
Parent: I repeated: “It’s time for personal hygiene.”
Child: “I’m playing with Cody.”
Parent: “It looks like Cody is having fun playing with you. You can finish playing with Cody after personal hygiene.”
She beautifully connects emotionally by telling her son how valuable he is to his dog. Wow. Can you imagine how good he feels about himself and his Mom at this moment? Then she states that he can continue to have fun after he completes the expectation.
Child: My son got up and got ready without any arguing
Both the previous and the following dialogues were a result of a family discussion about how to make the mornings run better. The parents acknowledged that they don’t like yelling and the kids agreed that they don’t like it either. The family created an ally atmosphere by everyone working together to improve family harmony.
Keep in mind that just because your kids agree to be more cooperative during the problem solving session, that when their needs are different from yours in the moment, they forget their promise. Their prefrontal cortex is still underdeveloped so don’t get angry with them and say something like, “But you said you were going to ……Why are you arguing now?” These shaming statements only hurt and make your child defensive and disconnected from you.
Here is another example of how this mom stated the expectation, then connected with her son’s feelings, and then restated the expectation. This time instead of pointing out how her son was loved by his dog, she acknowledged his dislike for the rule. Both are great examples of how creative you can be when you keep in mind that emotionally connecting with your child will enable her or him to feel good about you because you validate her feelings and can then cooperate with rather than resist you.
Situation: My son wanted to play on his phone before school.
Parent: “The phone is off limits in the morning”.
Child: “I know”.
Parent: I repeated: “I know you don’t like this rule.”
Child: “I don’t.” (then handed me the phone)
Parent: “You can have it back when we get to school. Thank you for your help, our mornings are much smoother””.
Child: “I know” (and then smiled!)
If your directives are not working, check that you haven’t shifted from directing as an ally to commanding as an adversary. For example saying, “If you don’t brush your teeth, then…” rather than “After you brush your teeth.” Also check how connected you are to your child’s experience at the moment rather than focusing on getting your needs met first.
Learn how to successfully set expectations by reading How to Parent as an Ally, Not an Adversary
©2016 Cynthia Klein, Bridges 2 Understanding, has been a Family Success Coach since 1994. She works with parents and organizations who want more cooperation, mutual respect and understanding between adults and children. Cynthia presents her expertise through speaking and private parenting coaching sessions. She writes the Middle School Mom column for the Parenting on the Peninsula magazine. She works with parents of 4 – 25 year-old children.
To learn how Cynthia can help you solve your specific challenges, contact Cynthia at bridges2understa.wpstagecoach.com, [email protected], or 650. 679.8138 to have a complementary 45-minute discovery session. Why keep suffering? It’s time to change!