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Does Your Child Say This? “You can’t make me!”

By James Lehman, MSW

At times, children will verbally draw a line in the sand, stare you in the eye and say “You can’t make me.” When they say this, what they’re looking for is a fight, and it’s important not to give them one. By responding with “Oh yes I can,” there’s a threat implied, and it’s only going to further escalate the situation. You’re giving the child control by joining into the fight that you’ve been invited to. It’s important to remember not to engage the child on her level. Instead, respond to your child by taking your emotions out of the equation and focusing back on the matter at hand.

“You can’t make me!”

Translation: “I don’t want to do what you’re asking, and I’m looking to start a fight with you.”

Ineffective parenting response: “I can and I will if you don’t do it right now.”

Effective parenting response: “I’m not here to make you. But there will be consequences if you break the rules.”

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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.

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