How many times do you find yourself saying, “My son/daughter has to have the last word? I can’t get them to just listen!” In the first article on this topic, I discussed the fundamental problem that exists when we, as parents, MUST have the final word. Ultimately, we can’t control or stop our child from inserting their ‘final word’ over our ‘final word.’ Thus, a battle unfolds as we try to insist upon having that final word ourselves.

What’s the Structural Problem? You Want the Final Word.

And guess what? Often, you can’t have it.

Why? Because you can’t control your child’s or teen’s speech? You can’t (without duct tape applied) end up controlling speech. And I understand, of course, that you simply want your child to accept an answer and move on with responsible action. That is the ultimate goal.

But first, we must understand how we have influence, and how we teach. The goal is not to control. The goal is learning to be a responsible, happy and productive citizen of society. In becoming that citizen, hopefully, we will promote free speech and free-thinking, with the essential understanding that choice comes with a consequence.

In last week’s article, we reviewed the foundation for eliminating the battle over the final word. The main points covered were:

  • Let them have “the last word.”
  • Give no attention or commentary to “the last word!”
  • Your Child Only Seeks the Last Word When You Seek the Last Word

It may be useful to review that article, to understand how important each of these three points become in order to have a home with fewer arguments and none of the futile, frustrating negotiations. For today, we move on to discuss the critical second part of this lesson: How to connect choice with consequence.

Final Lesson: Teaching with powerful actions…not repeated words!

Many times, when your children are seeking the last word, it simply doesn’t matter. How so, you might ask?

Well, first, there is the well-proven fact that repeating yourself, again and again, is only an act of utter frustration if your child keeps arguing with you. Secondly, most of the time what they say doesn’t matter IF you have controlled what they care about adequately. In these circumstances, it will be action on your part that will teach, where your words will not. Thus, with most of the last word moments, you can comfortably walk away knowing that you are not a) feeding your child’s resistance with your attention and b) controlling what matters (i.e., their goodies).

If you have done this, then all their words matter not. Your actions and the consequences that occur based upon their choices will be what ultimately matters.

If you have said, “No, you can’t go to Jack’s house” and your son just keeps asking “Why?’…you then just walk away. That’s the only action you really need. It doesn’t mean your son will stop right away. It just means that you have now set the conditions where there is no “return” for the argument.

Or perhaps your 12-year-old is starting to talk back when you ask her to pick up her room. She says, “I will do it later.” You say, “Please take care of it now.” She says, “I don’t want to. Nobody else has to clean up on Saturday morning.” Rather than getting into a useless verbal struggle, just keep this in mind:

Dr. Cale’s Rule of Responsibility: No Fun Until Your Work is Done.

Once the “Rule of Responsibility” is in place, you know exactly what action you need to take. You just wait her out. No computer. No phone. No TV. No friends…until her work (i.e., cleaning her room) is done! If you pause for a moment, you may begin to realize how often you can use this simple principle to teach the critical lessons you want to teach. It is particularly useful when you need to wait out the final word from your teen. Just ignore, don’t repeat yourself, and keep your action focused on no goodies till the request is done.

When we throw our energy into what we don’t want, things only get worse. The more you try to “force” your son or daughter to accept your input, by demanding the last word, the more you can just watch the frustration rise. Even worse…your words FEED their behavior…and make it worse!

Instead, be more action-oriented. Either walk away (which is what works for most of the insignificant stuff) or bring a powerful teacher when needed, by honoring the Responsibility Rule. Magical things start to happen when you apply these simple ideas. It forces you out of the habit of feeding “the last word” with your energy and attention. Once you become more action-oriented, your children will get it.