But, Mom, Everybody’s Doing It!
Picture this dialogue:
You: No, you can’t go rollerblading downtown.
Your Child: But, Moooooom, everybody’s doing it!
Every mom loves that sentence. Here are some responses that you can offer your child after that doozy.
The Tried and True Response
You: Well, if everyone jumped off a cliff, would you do that too?
The Reasoned Response
You: Every parent has to assess how much risk he or she is comfortable with. I am worried for your safety. The sidewalks downtown are not well maintained. There are cracks and uneven surfaces that could cause you to fall and injure yourself. Additionally, the downtown merchants don’t like kids to be rollerblading on their sidewalks because they feel it discourages shoppers from coming downtown . . . and we need to be respectful of their feelings. And, of course, the downtown area can sometimes attract a group of kids that make life choices that are very different than yours . . . and I worry for how these troubled kids may harm you. I’m hoping that you will consider these concerns for a moment, and then perhaps, when you are ready, we can discuss this further. Maybe, with further discussion, we can come to a solution that meets your needs without your taking risks that I (or you and I) can’t live with.
The Questioning Response
You: Don’t you think that rollerblading downtown is risky? Have you noticed how cracked and uneven the sidewalks are there? Did you know that the downtown merchants are unhappy with the kids rollerblading on their sidewalks because they think the rollerblading discourages shoppers from coming downtown? Have you heard the gang, drug, and crime statistics coming out of the downtown area? What would you do to protect yourself from all of that? What motivates you to want to rollerblade downtown? Is there another activity that would meet your needs or wishes and wouldn’t be so risky?
The Emotional Response
You: It would scare me silly to have you down there with all the crime and ugly statistics coming out of that area! You don’t want to frighten your ol’ mom into an early grave, do you? How about you and I brainstorm on alternate activities that won’t cause you to have to bury me next week?
The Humorous Response
You: Absolutely! And when you get done rollerblading downtown, why don’t you head on over to the city park next to the projects. I hear they have lovely sidewalks there. You could get really good at rollerblading there, what with dodging all the bullets and stuff.
The Authoritarian Response
You: I am the parent; you are the child. When you are a grown-up, you can make your own life choices, but while you are a legal minor living in my house, I’ll decide. My decision is that your rollerblading downtown is unacceptably risky for a bunch of reasons that we’ve already discussed, so you simply will not be rollerblading downtown. Case closed.
Each of these responses has its place. If you have a serious way of relating to your child, your initial response may be the questioning response. If your child continues to press for rollerblading downtown, you can progress to something on the order of the reasoned response. If your child is not yet persuaded, you can try the emotional response and finally the authoritarian response. (Note: if you have to resort to the authoritarian response, you can expect some blow-back from your child. Prepare for it by offering your child something that will soften your approach. For example, you may add, “I’m sorry that I have to take such a firm position on this, but I love you and want to protect you from harm. It’s my job as your parent. I know you have your head set on this subject, and so do I, so let’s take a time-out, let the subject simmer a bit, gain some perspective, and come back to this conversation tomorrow when we can hopefully find an alternative that suits both of us.”)
If you have a humorous way of relating to your child, your initial response may be the humorous response. If your child continues to press for rollerblading downtown, you can progress to the tried and true response, the emotional response, the questioning response (modified to add humor), and finally the authoritarian response. (See note above regarding use of the authoritarian response.)
No matter how you choose to proceed, may you proceed successfully.
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