Have you ever thought about what type of “dance” you are doing with each of your children?
Some parent-child interactions look like a beautiful waltz and some like a frantic jitterbug. The parent-teen dance can even turn into an adversarial passé double or perhaps no dance at all.
I have always felt like I was dancing with my daughter. I was leading her with my arm around her while also tuned in to her moves and her resistances. If I tried to force her in one direction, I could get such a strong reaction that I couldn’t move her at all. If I kept pushing, then she would totally shut down and leave the dance.
So I learned how to change my moves to best suit her temperament. I wanted to maintain an engaged relationship while trying to teach her life skills and keep her safe. This was particularly challenging during the teen years.
A ” dance move” I effectively used to get important chores completed was the after ….then… approach; also known as the work before play strategy. If the bathroom needed to be cleaned and she wanted to go to her friend’s house I would state, “After you clean the bathroom then you can go to your friends.” Her typical response was, “But mom, they’re getting together now.” My response, “After you clean then you can go.” If she resisted again, I shortened my directive even more. “Bathroom first”, and then I walked away. This dance move was effective because I maintained the lead and she maintained power with a positive outcome. I always kept my voice calm and the chore was completed before she left.
She is now 25, thriving and we have a close relationship. The litmus test to our closeness is that she would rather stay with us in Redwood City and commute 1 hour to San Francisco during a business trip than stay minutes away from work in San Francisco.
What dance moves work best with each of your children?
©2014 Cynthia Klein, Bridges 2 Understanding, has been a Certified Parent Educator since 1994. She works with parents and organizations who want more cooperation, mutual respect and understanding between adults and children of all ages. Cynthia presents her expertise through speaking and private parenting coaching sessions. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and 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.