Children can be adept at shutting down, and shutting you out—leaving you with unanswered questions and a whole lot of frustration. If you find your child is shutting down every conversation with “Leave me alone!” or “It’s none of your business!”, here are some ways you can handle their response—and make sure the issue at hand gets addressed in the appropriate way without getting into a power struggle.
By the way, one important thing for parents to remember is that sometimes when your child says “Leave me alone,” it’s appropriate. Kids should have times when they have their own space. You can set a limit on that, but you shouldn’t overreact to requests for space or time alone. Don’t get stuck on your child’s tone unless they’re rude or demeaning.
Child: “Leave me alone!”
Translation: “I don’t want to talk to you about this/perform this task and I’m going to shut you down so I don’t have to.”
Ineffective response: “I will not leave you alone. I want your attention right now.”
Effective response #1: Again, if your child’s request is appropriate and they’re not being rude or demeaning, simply say, “Ok, we’ll talk later,” and walk away. Or better yet, set a time: “OK, we’ll talk at 7 o’clock.” Another way to handle it is by saying, “OK, when would you like to talk about this?”
Effective response #2: If it’s something where you can’t leave your child alone, simply say, “No, we have to address this now, then you can get back to what you were doing.” If it comes down to it, you can say something like, “OK, we don’t have to talk now, but there will be no more phone use until we do talk.”
About James Lehman, MSW
James Lehman, who dedicated his life to behaviorally troubled youth, created The Total Transformation® Program, The Complete Guide to Consequences™, Getting Through To Your Child™, and Two Parents One Plan™, from a place of professional and personal experience. Having had severe behavioral problems himself as a child, he was inspired to focus on behavioral management professionally. Together with his wife, Janet Lehman, he developed an approach to managing children and teens that challenges them to solve their own problems without hiding behind disrespectful, obnoxious or abusive behavior. Empowering Parents now brings this insightful and impactful program directly to homes around the globe.