Teenagers’ prefrontal cortex is in high developmental drive during the teen years. You can tell this because they can argue as if they were a lawyer. This means that their reasoning, logic, judgment, and planning skills are being developed and practiced.
Teens can be so good at sounding logical, or blaming you for their misery, or making you feel guilty that too many parents give in after setting a non-negotiable. Their non-negotiable rule becomes negotiable and the parents end up feeling beaten down.
When teens pick up on any sliver of hope to change your mind, they will try to. Their goal is to get their needs met. So, it is crucial that you state non-negotiable rules and do not listen to arguments about the rule because this tells them that you are open to change.
You are not being rude when you don’t listen to their feelings and thoughts about the rule at that time. It is best to state the rule or decision and leave:
“You may not play the video games anymore today because it’s already been 2 hours.” Then exit.
You can try either leaving after this statement or if you listen to a complaint such as, “I’m in the middle of this game.” Then just shorten your non-negotiable without moralizing or using sarcasm such as “Your smart enough to find something else to do. ”
Just say, “Enough for today.”
One couple I’m coaching created a non-negotiable list for their 16 year-old son because Mom would listen too much and end up giving in. Here is their list.
Introduction to my client’s list for their 16 year-old son:
Please don’t bother arguing about it. I’m not ignoring you or being disrespectful – these are not up for further interpretation or discussion.
Adherence helps build trust quickly.
- School work is always #1 priority.
- Sunday family dinners.
- Be home on time.
- No drinking and driving: that means you yourself or getting into a car with someone else who has been.
- Until you have had your license for 1 year, you may not drive anyone around.
- You may not receive rides from anyone who has not had their license for 1 year.
- You don’t need your phone while you are driving. It should not be in the front seats with you.
- Video game time is earned. Video game responsibly. We will determine if it becomes too much or unmanageable, and we are the ultimate deciders of this.
- Follow the law: no pot, smoking, edibles, drinking, driving under any influence
So, start with a clear list so your teenager is not surprised. Then comes the hard part of what to do when they don’t comply. That’s a whole other discussion.
What non-negotiable rules do you have?
I invite you to read my article
How to Give Kids Directions that Are Followed
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©2015 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. Contact Cynthia at bridges2understa.wpstagecoach.com, cynthia@bridges2understanding,com, or 650. 679.8138 to learn more about creating the relationship you want with your children.