The cycle of insanity in my family looked like this: parents responding the same, ineffective way, yielding to the erroneous belief that somehow THIS time the response would be different. With my son, we went down a boundary-less road of second chances and manipulation that handed over way too much power and landed him in a therapeutic wilderness program after he was court-ordered out of our home due to marijuana abuse.
Now my pre-teen daughter was starting to act out. The difference this time was in my reaction: my threshold had finally been exceeded; I had been down the chaotic, crazy road of insanity once before, doing and saying the same old, same old, yet expecting different results. It was time for action. I would not tolerate any more yelling, screaming, control antics from my daughter. My response was about to change, and rock her world in a big way.
“What are you doing?” she screamed as I picked up the phone.
“I am calling the counselor,” I calmly replied. Sure, I had threatened several times before…empty threats, more of the same old, same old.
The only thing that was different this time was my response, not hers.
That day, I decided to take back the reigns of parental control.
“Noooooooo….” she wailed, stomping her feet, quickly promising not to scream anymore.
I calmly ignored her and stepped inside the bathroom and leaned against the door, holding it shut with my backside, made wider from all the stress-eating I’d been doing.
The phone conversation was brief, but the noise on the other side of the door communicated our situation pretty clearly: Mother with no control, no respect and a child in control. It needed to change and I had taken the first step.
That was several months ago, and things are much better now, in large part to my calm demeanor (at least on the outside) and the soft spoken oft-repeated mantra of “I expect, you decide.”
Boy does she hate those words, but to me they are a new lease on life.
I calmly and clearly (no more yelling) state what I expect and then calmly and clearly state and affirm what her choices are if she decides to do (or not do) what I expect. Repetition and consistency are key. Over the last few months, there have been fewer battles and more victories. Sanity has been reintroduced to our family. If you’re in this situation, be forewarned: clearly the boundaries will be tested, so be prepared to follow through with help at first.
If you’re in this situation with your teen or pre-teen, tell me about it. What isn’t working very well? What do you do that’s effective? Remember, you can take back parental control.