Be Switzerland. What does that mean? Switzerland is known as being neutral, the country that doesn't take sides in a war or conflict. It stays neutral and doesn't get involved.
When I say 'neutral' I don't mean that you have no feelings about what's going on. Of course you do. The trick is to talk to your child without intense emotion, and sometimes not get involved. A non-intervention policy can really be helpful. These are mindsets that can get you through some aggravating or confusing situations. Not sure where and how this applies? Check out these scenarios that just about every family has experienced.
1) Your children are fighting, again, over something trivial. "Mom, make him stop!" Unless you see blood, or heavy things flying across the room, stay out of it. When they have to handle it themselves, they learn to negotiate, compromise and problem-solve. You're letting them experience how relationships work. Will they always figure it out themselves? No, but they won't learn by you being the mediator, either. Give them a chance to try it out, and step in later if necessary.
2) "But everyone has a ...." Why are you saying no? It could be about money, he has too much stuff already, he doesn't take care of what he has. The reason doesn't really matter. The key is to stay calm when discussing it. Acknowledge your child's disappointment and anger. Don't yell, defend, criticize, or try to make it better. Why? It's important for kids to experience and learn to cope with disappointment. Limits are important, too. And when you stay calm and quietly firm, you can't be manipulated and guilted into changing your mind, just because you'd rather not fight. You need to be calm, especially when your child is not. You might have butterflies while standing your ground, but the good news is that both you and your child will survive and recover.
3) Truth or consequences. You caught your kid lying to you. (Sooner or later, every child does it.) Talk about a hot button, especially with older kids. Did they think you wouldn't figure it out, that you're oblivious or stupid? Well, yes, they probably did. So you're presented with the lie. Stating quietly that you know, and maybe that you're disappointed, can be very powerful, in a way that yelling, tears or recrimination are not. To your teen, that quiet voice means it's serious. The issue isn't only what she lied about. More importantly, it's about losing trust in her and her word. And make no mistake about it, she values your trust in her. She's also feeling embarrassed, so go slowly, quietly and thoughtfully. The goal is for her to self-correct, not to back her into a corner.
Take a breath. Take five minutes. Disengage when you feel yourself being dragged into something the kids can or should handle themselves. Express your feelings without drama. Be Switzerland.
Fern Weis is a parent coach, specializing in supporting parents of teens and young adults who are going through difficult situations (including underachieving, disrespectful behavior, addiction recovery and more). With parent-centered coaching, Fern helps parents release guilt, end enabling, and confidently prepare their children to thrive through life’s challenges. Learn more about coaching and workshops at www.fernweis.com or www.familyrecoverypartners.com.
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