No! A word that universally drives parents mad when they hear it, especially when you really don’t ask for that much help or that much cooperation from your kids.
A recent couple related that their 12-year-old refuses to do anything asked of him; instead, he regularly states, “No Mom. It’s not my job, it’s your job.”
Now, how would you respond? Wouldn’t it push your buttons?
Getting Numb to ‘NO’
While my intake was frustrated by their son’s behavior, this is not what brought them to get help; it was his failing grades.
From a behavioral perspective, they had come to accept that their son is lazy, and doesn’t want to help out. I discovered this as I asked about daily routines, and how responsibilities are taught. They weren’t even going to mention it!
“We Lose Every Power Struggle…So Why Fight?”
In many ways, these parents were numb to their son’s disrespect and lack of cooperation. They were so accustomed to his non-compliance that they simply didn’t want to battle every day. I get it – if you are going to lose every battle, you wouldn’t fight either.
The key here is to shift your perspective. If we view this as a power struggle or a battle of wills, then there will be a ‘war’ at home. No one wants that. Thus, we want to look at this differently.
Don’t Get in the Ring
You can’t lose a fight if you never get in one, right? With your children, we want to avoid getting in the ring with them, as these power struggles end up as battles we ultimately lose.
Yet, at the same time, we want respect and cooperation with requests from our children. This is a requirement, in my view.
There are several keys to getting control of such situations, and avoiding the epic showdown over ‘NO.’
1. Abandon all that demanding, controlling language. We look foolish.
For many of these ugly battles over doing something mom or dad wants, the opening conversation begins with something like, “Put down that game and go do your homework.”
This type of demanding or controlling language almost always fails us, especially as kids get older. And the presupposition behind this is that the child should respond to such talk when in reality, no one likes to be spoken to that way.
We must accept this reality: we don’t have control of our kids. We can influence them. We can teach them. We can reinforce and support and nurture them. But we don’t control them. (And a child easily ‘controlled’ by a parent will be easily controlled by someone else someday and we don’t want that!)
When we communicate by using controlling and demanding language, we will often get an oppositional response – especially from children that are more defiant in nature. It’s like a knee-jerk reaction for many kids.
Just remember: most adults don’t like to be bullied around by a control freak. Do you like when someone demands you to follow their direction? Do you like to be ordered around? Probably not. The same is true for children.
There are times when the biggest changes are made just by a simple shift in how we speak to our children. While this works in some situations, it is not the answer all the time. It is the essential, respectful first step. Other changes must also take place. The next step is to…
2. Learn to ask or inform, not command. The magic words: “It’s time to…”
When we give up commanding, we still need to communicate. Sometimes simply asking is the easy thing to do. At other times, we need to inform the kids that some action is now required.
I find the most useful phrase on the planet is a very simple one: “It’s time to…”
You are not demanding anything from the kids, but simply informing them of an event. Just make sure you keep the energy moving in that direction. Do not wait for them to respond. Keep moving. In the example above, mom would simply say, ‘It’s time to put that away, and get to your homework.”
At times, you will still get resistance. So, if you hear ‘not my job’… walk away. Don’t try to win the argument because you won’t. It will go away, as long as…
3. When you want your kids to do something, make it in their interest to do it.
This is really key. Your kids often don’t care about the things you care about, particularly in the pre-adolescent to the adolescent stage. Thus, we have to abandon using our words to get cooperation, as these are weak and often worthless.
Instead, we must turn to the use of leverage. Your children will become interested in doing anything you want if you control what they want.
Think about that. When you easefully control what your child cares about, you can easily control what needs to be done BEFORE they get those goodies.
Thus, rather than asking kids to stop playing and go do their homework, turn that around. Have them do their work, and their chores, before they can play on their phones, computers, videos, etc. In many ways, you must gain easeful control over those electronic goodies so you can then withhold those UNTIL the work is done.
Don’t try to use your words to convince them to cooperate. Instead, just let them know that the goodies are not available until their work is done, and done well. Then, wait for the storm to pass. It will come! And it will pass. Then, they will get to their work and their chores because they realize that it’s in their interest to get the work done. This is the magic!
That’s the basics of the game plan, to eliminate the ‘no’ and bring both cooperation and respect back to your home. Each point needs to be honored thoroughly, and if you do, success will follow.