My husband and I reached out to Cynthia for help with the many challenges we were facing in parenting our 12-year-old son. The first major problem we wanted to address was our son’s insistence on playing video games and his subsequent yelling and use of negative language when we tried to get him to stop.
From the outset, my husband and I weren’t on the same page about how to handle this issue. My husband approached our son with anger, while I argued with him and eventually give in. I noticed that I would often put my husband in the position of having to be the “bad guy” in order to make our son comply. Needless to say, my husband wasn’t happy about playing this role. The relationship between my husband and our son began to suffer, and the conflict negatively impacted our relationship as a couple.
We knew that we needed a more effective approach, and with Cynthia’s support and expertise, we were able to create a plan of action. After two months of working together, our situation has improved dramatically. Here is how we were dealing with this problem before making changes.
After the conflict, my husband and I examined with Cynthia what our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors regarding our son and each other were that created more conflict. For instance, since our son was swearing at me, I had to look at the ways in which I was part of the problem, rather than just continue to tell him to stop. Instead of blaming our son, my husband and I took responsibility for creating change by changing ourselves first.
When we tried to set gaming guidelines in the past, our son would argue, and I would eventually give in and allow him to continue playing. As a result, our rules were ignored, our son badgered me even more, and I resorted to forcing my husband to do the dirty work of taking away our son’s gaming devices. After examining my role in the problem, I realized that I was using ineffective language, such as, “I want you to…,” “You should…,” “Why can’t you…,” “If you don’t…,” and “Okay.”
My husband and I also resorted to taking away items and privileges and sending our son to his room as a means to punish him and gain power over him. My husband would get frustrated and angry, which led to yelling and giving warnings. We eventually discovered that neither of us knew how to listen to our son’s thoughts and feelings. Frequently, we used communication blocks, which caused our son to see us as his adversaries and feel that he was totally at fault.
Making changes has been difficult, so we needed frequent support from Cynthia to discuss our problems and develop solutions together. Here are some of the changes we made that turned our conflict around video gaming into more respect for the rules and easier enforcement of the rules.
We talked to our son about our communication blocks and received feedback from him on what we needed to change. After this conversation, our son realized we were serious about changing ourselves. I also acknowledged that I hadn’t been sticking to guidelines because I would get intimidated by our son’s anger and give in, so I developed the skills to stop arguing. I learned that fewer words are better, although it takes constant awareness and effort to remember this. I also realized that I had been giving too many commands and saying “no” too often, so I stopped this behavior.
We had collaborative family discussions about the evening routine. Even though this wasn’t directly related to setting gaming limits, the discussions improved the relationships within our family. Cynthia taught us that when kids feel better about their parents, they are more likely to collaborate. Now, we’re learning to become an ally to our son rather than an adversary.
In contrast to the collaborative family discussions, my husband and I used the Director Role to create gaming rules. We knew that we had to make the rules ourselves since our son didn’t want any rules. After creating these rules, we shared them with our son and let him know that not turning in his gaming device when asked would result in losing his next gaming opportunity. We also told him that he could try again in the future to return the device without arguing. Per the rules, I would give our son a 30-minute warning followed by a 15-minute warning that gaming time is almost up. My husband would set the final limit by stating, “Video game time is over.” We posted the rules in our home, and although at first our son would get mad and tear them down, the rules stuck. I’m still working on overcoming my fear that our son will yell at me. I’m learning to state the limit and if he complains, simply say, “You know the rules. Make good choices.”
The changes we’ve made have created so many positive results in our family. We no longer allow video gaming Monday through Thursday. Whereas our son used to continually ask for his device and become angry, belligerent, and argumentative when he didn’t get it, he no longer even asks for the device during the Monday through Friday time period. The rules have made our son feel more secure and breathe a sigh of relief. Since he now understands that gaming is reserved for the weekends, he doesn’t push back anymore.
The guidance we received from Cynthia enabled my husband and me to be on the same page about our parenting. I’ve learned that our son is happier when we calmly set and follow through with clear rules and expectations, and so are we. We are now working as an Ally Parenting team. I am continuing to watch out for giving in to my son when I feel sympathy for him and I want him to feel better if he is sad. This does not help…. so it’s continual self-reflection and practice to stay strong and look at the long-range picture.
Copyright 2019 Cynthia Klein To learn more contact Cynthia Klein at www.bridges2understanding.com or call her at 650.679.8138