This takes "Because I said so" to a whole new level.
It's day three of non-stop arguing with your teenage daughter, and you feel like you are about to lose your mind and your patience. You have done everything you can think to do. You have tried to listen, tried to reason, tried to offer suggestions. You have put your proverbial foot down and drawn a line in the sand. Yet, here you remain, locked in a battle of wills that is making you crazy.
No matter how many books you read and how many seminars you attend, there will always be new situations that no one prepared you for. New arguments and new challenges arise as your family and parenthood evolve. Here are 5 ways you can begin to set boundaries in your home and stick to them when the going gets tough.
1. Pick Your Battles: I hear it time and time again from parents. They are frustrated and feel like everything is an argument. It's time to learn what to stand your ground on as a parent and what to just let go of and allow natural consequences to take over. Fighting over putting laundry in a basket. When your kid goes to get dressed and there is no clean clothing, they will either put on something dirty, learn how to do their own laundry, or start putting their laundry in the basket for laundry day. We feel like we must be right with every single discussion, and that simply isn't the truth.
2. Do You Want To Be Right Or Do You Want To Be Happy? We would do well as parents to consider that sometimes our kids do know what they are talking about and can make some pretty stellar decisions themselves without needing a parent to be the final stamp of approval. Many times, gaining leverage as a parent is to let go and allow things to happen, good or bad. YOU know you're right. Your child knows that you're probably right. They still want to argue to be right themselves. The best thing you can do is to let go of the outcome and be there to pick them up when it falls apart.
3. Find A "Catch Phrase:" At my house, my kids now know when they utter "that's not fair" what my EXACT answer is going to be. "Life isn't fair, and it doesn't get any fairer. Build a bridge and get over it." They know, without a doubt what I will say when we start that mini battle. Find a phrase that you can pull out when the argument is going no where and you need to lighten the mood without throwing your hands up in the air and walking away. Another good one I have heard lately is "asked, and answered" when a kid persists on asking the same question over and over, expecting to wear you down.
4. Know Your Limits: Admit it, your kids push your buttons. They strategically choose the time to argue when they KNOW they will wear you down quickly and get their way. Be keenly aware of when and where the arguments start and set clear boundaries about how those conversations will happen. I made a rule that if my kids started an argument in the car on the way to the mall, we turned around and went home. Black and white. No questions asked. I simply turned the car around and went back to the house. After two or three missed shopping trips, my teenager learned to either have a discussion before we left the house or after we returned. My experience was that she persisted on having the discussion continue in the mall, and I was not going to have a battle of wits with a teenager at a public venue.
5. You Are The Adult: Repeat after me, "I am the adult here!" You are in charge. You set the rules. You set the boundaries. You decide. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Be clear from the beginning what you are willing to have an intelligent discussion about and what is off limits. I do not discuss chores, allowances, bedtimes and curfews. Those are limits set by me for each kid and they do not have a say in what happens for the other kids. As I said in point 3, life isn't fair. Sometimes, things are going to happen in your home that aren't fair. Too bad! Jobs aren't fair. Parking isn't fair. Sometimes, people are going to get more, do more, have more and be more—it's just the way it is. Parenting can not be dictated by what is fair. It's negotiated by what needs to happen at any given moment.
It is possible to be a happy, healthy, peaceful parent. You can decide whether you will parent from fear or parent from love. When you flip the switch from fear to love, you will find those arguements are fewer and farther between.