Have you ever run into stonewalling when you are trying to work through a problem with your tween or teenager? First of all, we want to work through every problem. If your tween or teen is aggressive, back talks, is noncompliant, is argumentative, or is critical of their sibling, we the parents want to take time to address the problem. What is unhealthy parenting? Unhealthy parenting is sweeping things under a rug.
Have you ever come across old food in your kid’s drawer? If you have, you know how nasty it is. It takes an apple one month to decompose. Bananas may go faster. At one point, you may recall, there was an argument over that last piece of fruit. Now, it represents nastiness. This is what happens if you don’t put forth effort to address problem behaviors in our children. We reap what we sow. In this case, you reap what you left and the problem multiplies. Like a wound that festers, problem behaviors left unattended grow into character defects and problem behaviors.
It is in our best interest to work through criticalness, condescending behaviors, manipulation, and back-talking. As you work through these problem behaviors, you may run into additional problems like blaming and defensiveness. Yes, ideally, we hear instant humility from John. “You are right Mom. I was wrong. I should have been more considerate with Bobby’s space. I have been inconsiderate. And, in the past, I have been defensive when this problem has been addressed. Today, I want to take responsibility for my behavior and furthermore, I want to receive the correction that you have for me. Thank you for being a terrific mother – someone who cares enough to give me feedback and discipline me enough so I can become a better child and a more loving brother.”
Most of us don’t hear this. Depending on age, developmental issues, fatigue, or present-level stubbornness, we may run into defensiveness. Charlie may stare off toward the window appearing to not listen. Jenny may cover her ears like she did when she was six. John may exclaim, “I told you 100 times, can’t you hear!” Leah may target your parenting, “Are you that out of touch, that you can’t even take the perspective of a 16-year old?”
EDUCATE ON DISMISSING AND DIMINISHING
It is not easy, but parents need to focus on two things: (1) Dismissing and (2) Diminishing.
The dismissing part involves educating the child about how they are dismissing their parents’ perspective. “When you dig in and argue (i.e. “I didn’t touch the lamp with my hand [just their foot]”), you are dismissing your mother’s perspective.” Some arguments can become word games with kids who are logical and argumentative. “I told you not to touch the lamp.” “I didn’t technically touch the lamp. You should have said, ‘Don’t go near the lamp.’” Rather than play word games, the emphasis should be on how they are dismissing their mother’s point of view.
The second important part is acknowledging to the tween or teen that what they are doing is DIMINISHING their parent’s viewpoint. The job of the parent is to help them. We might ask them what believe the role of the parent is. At the same time, we don’t want to go down a rabbit hole. We want to inform them that our role is important in their life. Their job is to value the parent’s point of view and vice versa. The key to this being successful is focusing on very specific behaviors.
The goal is To Encourage DISAGREEMENT on the specific point
Many of the manipulative, passive aggressive, or dysfunctional behaviors keep your teenager from specifically disagreeing about the topic at hand. Our mission in these circumstances to help direct them toward their specific disagreement. When Charlie stares off toward the window appearing to not listen, he can be encouraged to disagree specifically. When Jenny covers her ears like she did when she was six, she will grow in her confidence when she is coached to articulate her disagreement. When John exclaims, “I told you 100 times, can’t you hear,” he can be taught to present himself respectfully and professionally, but to emphasize what he is disagreeing (in those cases when his ‘100 times’ comment is not actually articulating his disagreement). Leah may target your parenting, “Are you that out of touch, that you can’t even take the perspective of a 16-year old?” Don’t be defensive. Instead, help Leah to present her disagreement rather than attack the person with whom she disagrees.
STEPS IN HEALTHY DISAGREEMENT
Here are the steps you walk your child through, say, “I hear what you are saying Mom. You are saying ……………. And, this is what I am saying ……………..”
John can say, “Mom, this is what you are saying. I should have been more considerate with Bobby’s space. I should not have been roughhousing with Bobby. What I am saying Mom is that Bobby and I are encouraged to wrestle, and have fun, but his injury was an accident in the middle of an activity we were both engaged in.”
THREE OBJECTIVES OF HEALTHY DISAGREEMENT IN YOUR FAMILY
1)The teenager will learn to state the other’s perspective. The goal is to develop your child’s perspective taking skills.
2)The teen will use “I” statements. The goal is to help your child stop blaming.
3)The teen (or tween) will develop the skill of staying on subject. The goal is to eliminate “dumping” – which is a word that represents all of the behaviors mentioned in this article.