One of the most pressing questions parents ask is how to get their child to obey without having to gear up for battle. I usually begin my answer with an analogy that asks the parent “what do you do when a police officer stops you and asks for your driver’s license and registration?” Do you say, “hold on a minute” or “wait until I finish listening to this song on the radio”? Of course you don’t. You’re probably fumbling through your wallet even before the officer gets to your car window. Why is that? It is because you respect the officer’s authority and because you understand the possible consequences. The same should be true of your child.
Can you imagine the police officer screaming and name calling and threatening with empty threats? Can you imagine the officer stomping off in frustration? Neither should you as a parent. As the officer sees it, you have two choices; you can obey and go on your merry way or you can resist and suffer the dire consequences. Now, it’s true you still may get a ticket for your offence but you will not suffer the greater consequences in addition to the ticket if you are compliant.
You and your child will have a better relationship and a more peaceful household by using the same tactic. Offer your child two choices (both of which are yours) and allow him to feel empowered to choose one. For example: “You can come home by curfew or you can stay home”. Either way is ok with you as the parent, right? There is no reason for anyone to be upset or lose their temper. It’s pretty simple. Typically the child will choose the option that is in his best interest and all is well. Occasionally, he will force the issue and you will have to choose for him. In that case, be sure to choose the least favorable option. This way he will learn that when he doesn’t choose he will lose. The script to use when your child refuses to choose or wants to argue with you is, “I see that you have chosen to stay home”. This puts the responsibility on your child for his consequences. Then, walk away. Stand by your decision. Don’t buy into an argument or discussion with your child. Next time, he will choose more wisely.
This is a great skill to use from toddler to teen. It is designed to keep your emotions in tact while teaching your child to problem solve and make life choices with respect for authority and potential consequences or rewards in mind. It helps you to set healthy boundaries and maintain a calm and peaceful household.
Like any new skill, it requires a lot of practice and for both parents to be on the same page. Never undermine each other as parents. Your children will prosper and learn valuable life skills and you will maintain a healthy and close relationship with them.