Let’s say your child says, “Mom, can I hang out with my friends after school?”, or “Dad, I want my own Instagram account, okay.” What do you say? How do you decide when it’s time to give your child more freedoms?
You’ll have around 10 years of granting new privileges so it’s best if you have a system rather than reacting emotionally and just saying “No” to be on the safe side. They’ll just sneak instead, anyways.
First, it’s helpful to acknowledge that there is often a clash of needs or goals between parents and maturing kids. Your first goal is probably to keep your child safe, which is good. Then, when you are calm, you can think about a second goal which is to teach life skills that your child can only learn by you loosening the leash a bit at a time.
Your maturing child is looking away from you to fulfill many, not all, goals. For instance, your child wants to belong to a group, have power over their life more, protect themselves when they feel hurt, have more time alone, and spread their wings by challenging themselves. These five goals can be met with positive or negative behaviors. The difficult task is to direct your child towards fulfilling their goals in a manner that you approve of. I have yet to see that happen, however, since the parents main goal is safety and preteens and teens don’t recognize risk and instead think, “Everything will be fine. You worry too much.” Read about Goals of Behavior
I recommend that you put the responsibility of changing your initial “No”, to a “Yes” on your child. This means that you express your concerns and tell your child that he has to address each concern logically. He may or may not sway you to say “Yes” at that time. Begging and whining will get an automatic “No.”
With this approach, you aren’t the bad guy for saying No”, they just haven’t provided enough evidence to prove that they deserve a “Yes”. Make sure you have discussed the process of considering their requests in this manner at a calm time so they know what to expect. They won’t like it, but at least they will understand the new system.
First- Have your child present their request
Second – If your first response is “No”, tell your child that you need time to write down your concerns so they can address them.
This step will be very difficult because kids don’t plan, and they will spring a request on you and want an immediate answer of yes. Don’t cave in. If you are considering giving this new freedom, remind them of your Freedom Giving Process procedure calmly and that they can respond to your concerns once you’ve shared them.
Use the 3 Step Freedom Giving Process below to allow for open communication. Details of each step can be found in another article and in my book, Ally Parenting: A Non-Adversarial Approach to Transform Conflict Into Cooperation.
The 3 Step Freedom Giving Process
A communication block is any remark or facial expression from the adult that has an underlying message that feels hurtful to the child, leading to reduced self-esteem and a shut down in communication.
Step 2: Listen openly
In this step, you are only allowing your child to express their emotional feelings about their new request without a logical discussion. Possible empathetic responses are, “You seem excited about…”, “It sounds like you’d feel left out if you didn’t go”, and “Tell me more.”
Step 3: Discuss concerns, hear arguments, and then you decide
This is where your child has to address each of your concerns. You might start out saying, “Here are the concerns that I have.” Then continue with plans such as, “We need to set up a plan so you call me at the set time. Also, I will only consider letting you go to the mall if you understand that you must answer the phone when I call you. If you don’t, then this privilege will be taken away for a while.”
Having a system to rely on will give you confidence that you don’t have to cave in to their demands for an immediate response. When they pressure you, and they will, say, “You know the way I decide on whether you get a new freedom or not. If you badger me, then the answer remains No. It’s up to you.”
Stay tuned for more details on the 3 Step Freedom Giving Process
©2017 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, private parenting coaching sessions, and her book, Ally Parenting: A Non-Adversarial Approach to Transform Conflict Into Cooperation. She works with parents of 5 – 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!