One of the most important rules of child nature is that they can be completely unreasonable, and then blame you for not automatically seeing it their way. Don’t take it personally. Set rules, feel guilty about it if you must, but take a stand and don’t budge from what you know to be right for your child.
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“One of us has to go,” was Jane’s comment recently as she and her 16-year-old daughter, Stacey, settled into our church office. As a single mother, she enjoyed the ability to call the shots with her child, but she definitely didn’t like a growing altercation with her Stacey.
Lately, she had been on a campaign to prove to her mother that as a Form One student, she should be allowed to choose her activities and run her own life. As Stacey put it during this intervention, “Every one of my friends has no curfew and they can go to parties even if the parents aren’t home.”
Her current onslaught centred upon trying to convince her mother to let her spend a weekend with a friend, one whose parents were scheduled to be out of town during the stay. We obviously objected to Stacey spending a weekend with a friend in an unsupervised situation.
Stacey didn’t understand why all the adults, including her mother, were objecting to what she thought was a fine idea.
That was because she was 16 and immature. What we perceive as sensible may be seen as nonsense to a teenager, and vice versa. From Stacey’s point of view, the parent-free weekend sounded like a great idea because she and her friend could take care of themselves even if a few friends just happened to stop by.
On the other hand, we knew from experience that a few teens without adult supervision is a recipe for disaster. Even if their intentions were noble, things could quickly get out of hand.
When kids just don’t get it
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The fact was that Stacey didn’t get it because she didn’t want to. She didn’t want to think what would happen if some other friends joined them and an instant party emerging and getting out of hand, for instance. We pointed this and other issues including drugs on the scene.
Stacey was still grumpy but realised that the free-for-all may just not be worth it. However, had she not seen the light and compromised with her mother, we would have advised her mother to just say “no.”
The message is this: at times there may be no reasoning with the unreasonable. Parents must call the shots and if the children are angry, so be it. You’re not there to be her buddy-she can find plenty of friends at school or in the neighborhood. You are there to be her mentor and supporter, and to set limits on her behavior.
However, you need to try and understand her perception of the situation. Make sure you’ve listened well to your child’s request, considered it fully, and determined that your response is reasonable. If it is, stick to it, but don’t expect her to be happy with your answer. She may really believe that you’re the unreasonable one for not seeing things her way. Once you’re sure she has heard your side of the issue and that your mind is made up, move on.
The way forward
• Understand child nature:
This is what makes children so unreasonable - what kids don’t know is often significantly more important, greater in scope and more meaningful than what they understand. The problem is that many children think that they know it all and that the idea you’re trying to sell them is just some parenting plot to make life easier for you and more miserable for them. That’s part of normal human nature.
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• Understand they’re just kids:
Don’t be surprised when your years of wisdom, mistakes and experience fall upon deaf ears. It takes a while to get through defensive attitudes. And some children just seem to have to experience the pain before they begin to understand and finally get it.
• Don’t get angry:
Since you now understand child human nature, you should no longer be getting so irritated and can begin to understand why your idea of sense may be perceived as nonsense to your child.
• When the horse is dead, get off:
If you’ve tried reasoning and you child is still irrational or has a bad case of the attitudes, just move on.
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