What is the worst thing a parent can feel, in your opinion? I’ll give you a few seconds to think about that before I give you my answer.
From my perspective, the worst thing a parent can feel is “hopeless.” This is when you’re feeling like there’s no hope for you, your child or your family because everything, absolutely everything, is going wrong and there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
I’ve talked with many parents who have been on this road; I’ve been there myself.
You’re standing in a spot, looking toward the future and everything you see is bleak. The only word that can describe how you see yourself as a parent is “failure.” It’s a pretty awful feeling. You wake up in the morning and as soon as your daughter sees you, you get some sort of negative, snarky comment. Or, you go into your son’s room and see he still hasn’t cleaned up the mess that’s been there for weeks (months!) and when you ask him about it, you get a “F-you, Mom” as a reply. There is a fear that seeps into everyday life that your children will never develop the skills to be productive members of society. The responsibility of it all can make you feel overwhelmed and defeated, and your day hasn’t even really started yet. It can be enough to make any parent wonder how you could have ever thought having children was a good idea.
What can a parent do to change this seeming downward spiral?
Most of us are trying to raise our kids using the same tools and techniques our parents used. And, while those techniques may have worked with our generation, they are not very effective with this generation of kids. Where I would never even consider talking back to my mom (at least not while she was in the same room as me), kids today are growing up in a different culture, one where disrespect and defiance towards adults are much more accepted and often glorified in media. The line between children and adults has become blurred, with many kids not seeing the boundary at all.
When working with parents on the Empowering Parents 1-on-1 Coaching service, we talk about how it all starts with assuming control and conveying the calm self confidence of an empowered parent. Does this mean you will actually feel like you are always in control? No, probably not. When I’m faced with a situation where I’m not really feeling in control, a saying that we used a lot when I worked in a residential facility comes to mind: “Fake it till you make it.” In other words, act as if you are in control even if you’re not feeling like you are. You will get to a point where assuming control comes naturally and you’ll no longer be acting.
Let’s say you are asking your son to clean his room for the umpteenth time. Be clear with your expectations and let him know that, until he cleans his room, he’s not going to be able to use the car. Link the task to one of his privileges. Start having him earn those things he considers rights by linking them to what you want him to do. He may respond to your request with “Whatever” or something equally irritating. How do you respond? If you’re like many parents, you might jump into the fray, feet first, saying something like “How dare you talk to me that way? Who do you think you are? Let me tell you something…” He responds with something even more disrespectful, and a fight begins. Now, the issue is no longer about whether or not his room gets clean. Instead, it’s about the power struggle you are now fully involved in.
So, try something different. Instead of getting into that argument, ignore the remark and walk away. Go into another room, go for a walk, do anything other than get into an argument. Even though it may feel like he’s winning, the truth is, you’re still the one with the power. He’s not going to get the privilege until his room is clean, so what is he actually winning?
There are many other tools in The Total Transformation Program that will help you respond to your child’s behavior more effectively, helping you turn what seems like a hopeless situation into one with a much more promising outlook. Believe me, there is hope — I help parents find it every single day. All it takes is a little courage on your part to start doing things a little differently, so you can assume control of your parenting and your family.
Denise Rowden is a parent of two teens: an 18-year-old daughter and a 19-year-old son. She has worked in Special Education, Alternative Education and adolescent group homes. She has a BS in Psychology from the University of Southern Maine and is currently working on her Life Coach certification from the International Coach Federation.