The saying that it gets easier as kids get older is the biggest lie ever.
I was in the grocery store skimming over coffee flavors when I overheard what sounded like a trainwreck heading around the corner. I looked up to see a young mother, disheveled and out of breath, trudging behind one of those obnoxious kid carts that are nearly impossible to turn corners with (clearly not designed by a woman).
With a screaming infant in the front lap seat, another child climbing out of the plastic car and an older child pleading for his mother to buy something she had no intention of getting, she had the look of defeat all over her face. I must have heard her say, “No”, “Because I said so," “Stop it!” and “This is the last time I’m telling you” at least five times within 30 seconds.
I gave her look of compassion and with empathy told her that I’ve been there. This poor mother was getting nowhere with her argumentative and cranky kids, despite her repeated attempts at a firm and decisive tone.
It was all just words with no meaning to her kids. I instantly had flashbacks of when I had a similar circumstance while shopping with my kids years ago. I almost had a public meltdown as nothing I did seemed to control my kids’ antics. Anything I did or said fueled the fire even more as emotions peaked and patience waned. It was a humiliating public display of my lack of parental control, and by the time I was ready to leave I looked a wreck.
Older Kids Are No Easier to Reason With
Now dealing with a teen and preteen, the verbal challenges and rebuttals haven’t changed much; older kids just have different wants and demands. I am convinced that this generation is biologically resistant to basic manners and the ability to be content with anything.
In the past few years, I have tried different approaches regarding how I deal with my kids when they are rude, disrespectful or negatively persistent. It’s a natural tendency to immediately react to our kids when they cross the line that we’ve clearly drawn. This approach, whether we admit or not, does not yield positive results, renders us exhausted and doesn’t change behavior. In this situation, our spawn are not just gaining the upper hand; they are chewing it up and spitting it right back at us.
The Mom Who Figured It Out
The other day, I saw another mother being excessively challenged by her kids (which is a very nice way of putting it), and I was in awe of what I saw. She said nothing to them while they fought for her attention and went on with her grocery shopping as if they weren’t even there. She was calm, cool and collected, and before long her kids were quiet and back to being human.
So, I’ve decided to take a different approach completely, and it’s one that is not easy to do. I’m choosing the path of nonreactive parenting.
This approach requires that a parent delay a response to a negative situation with their child until it is clearly understood what the true need of the child is, and then react in a manner that strictly addresses that need. In my terms, it also means refusing to partake in justifying decisions or arguing back.
When your children constantly interrupt your conversations for what seems like senseless reasons, they may really be trying to tell you that they need you to spend more time with them. When we think we are taking back control by rambling our reasons and authority at our kids, we are doing nothing more than bickering.
Less is more. In a recent incident when my daughter made rude comments to me when I refused to take meet her request, I simply said in a very calm voice (trust me, my inside voice was screaming) that I refused to be spoken to in that manner and that I would have no more conversation under those circumstances. When she continued with her ranting and reasons, I walked away and went on doing other things, completely ignoring her behavior.
It infuriated her that she was not going to get a reaction from me, and within a few minutes she went in her room. I didn’t give in, and the situation diffused itself. I thought she would come out a few minutes later to either retaliate or restate her case, but she didn’t. I knew I was on to something here.
Being passive does not mean not responding. In a few other instances with my son, I tested this approach again. It puts the behavioral responsibility back on the kids. When kids learn this skill, it will only benefit them throughout life when dealing with difficult situations either personally or professionally.
Do I still raise my voice sometimes? Yes. Do I sometimes bark back if I’m already stressed? Yes. However, I am trying to make this nonreactive approach a conscious awareness, and I’ve seen the benefits.
Try this approach with your kids, and you just might find you have fewer ulcers and no added gray hair! Now it's time to go grocery shopping.
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