How do I respond when I am met with resistance from my kids?
This is an interesting thing to reflect and notice about yourself.
When you ask your children to do something and they tell you an emphatic “No”, what do you do? Do you react with anger and intimidation? Do you yell at them and demand they do what you told them to do right now? Do you ignore their No” and just do it yourself because you are just too tired to engage the conflict?
There are many different ways people respond to these moments of resistance. I respond to these situations better on some days than others as I am sure you do as well.
The question I try and keep at the forefront of my mind is what am I wanting from my child right now? Am I wanting more resistance or more cooperation? Is my reaction in this moment going to illicit the former or the later? The answer to this question will then dictate my response to their apparent act of defiance.
How then do I turn resistance into cooperation? This question has been asked in so many different ways throughout the years. The bookstores are filled with books helping CEO’s and leaders understand how to accomplish this very thing.
Most parents that come to my private practice in Tulsa or call me from around the globe for help are looking for an answer to this question. I have noticed that previous generations saw resistance from their child as an act of defiance and the beginning of a power struggle that needed to be squashed.
If the parent didn’t react in a very strong, decisive and many times scary way towards the child they feared the child would think they had all the power and start trying to run the household.
Over the past 20 years the latest research on the brain, child development and even on leadership development has helped people see these moments in a different way. Now the research seems to show us that meeting resistance with resistance actually breeds and cultivates even more resistance.
We are inadvertently teaching our children how to resist us in better and more subversive ways. For example, when a parent punishes a child by taking away things they love, I have noticed that the child just stops caring or loving anything.
So if resistance breeds resistance then the question switches to how can I model cooperation in these conflictual moments of defiance?
If resisting a child’s behavior models to them how to resist my behavior, then how can I as a parent model cooperation instead? This is an important question on this journey of parenthood. If we aren’t able to do this when they are young it can become incredibly difficult when they are teenagers because then their resistance can be much more violent and scary.
The key to moving away from resistance and modeling cooperation begins in acceptance. What I mean by this is I must first accept the fact that my child is not me and has every right to think differently than I do (this is called differentiation).
The goal is not to raise another person who thinks and acts like me. I want to raise a human being that can think and act for him/herself and do it all in a respectful and healthy way. It helps me to see my child’s resistance/defiance as them expressing that they have different thoughts and opinions than I do and this a good thing.
It is only through the acceptance of this truth that I can then model cooperation. I am gong to model this by flowing with the resistance. I am going to verbally acknowledge that I hear their resistance (this will cause connection between us to occur) and then I will provide a few options or pathways for them to do what I am asking them to do but in a way they would most like to do it.
This is modeling to the child how to accept different opinions people may have and then buy in and cooperate to a mutual vision you can both participate in. This works really well with all age kids and especially with teenagers who desperately want to be heard and given more autonomy. These are also great tools in marriage.