According to Newton’s Laws, any force we exert will result an equal amount of force in the opposite direction. Somehow this principle escapes us when our child refuses to do something.
My clients, Sara and Mark, are keen examples. Force hasn’t worked–their efforts are backfiring when it comes to their seven-year-old son, Brendon. “He just doesn’t listen!” Sara said in a state of full exasperation.
This monster, in a cute-little-boy costume, connives daily to bring misery to his parents’ lives. He refuses to pick up his toys, pretends to brush his teeth, jumps on the bed, and takes an immense amount of time to get dressed.
Is Brendon a monster? Not really. He’s just guilty of trying to be in charge of himself at a very early age. No one can fault him for that, but he’s not the wise one here–his parents are. I first told them about Newton and then advised them in ways I do all parents with young children.
Click here to read about Abby and Bryan with a similar problem.
By our next session Sara and Mark had some successes to report. Brendon was asked, “Do you want your snack tonight, or do you want to keep throwing your fit?” He decided against the fit-throwing, and when given the choice of putting his shoes on at home or in the car, he balked–refusing to make a choice. So his dad made it for him. Without a single word spoken, Brendon and his shoes were quickly ushered out to the car. Driving down the road, Mark broke the silence, “Are you going to walk into your school with shoes on or off?” Brendon cooperated.
Giving children appropriate choices empowers them. Parenting then becomes about teaching your child to use their power wisely, instead of him or her fighting you to obtain power.
Names used in this post are changed to honor client confidentiality.