“Success or Failure is the child’s responsibility. Privileges and Parenting are the parents.”
Privileges, Discipline, Consequences, Punishment, Rewards…There is no perfect parent nor a perfect model for parenting and navigating through the millions of articles, books, and posts discussing what works for parenting the perfect teen can be daunting. This morning I listened to a fantastic interview with a family therapist Neil Brown from California as he talked his upcoming book about ending the parent-teen control battle. I’m excited to read his new book as I thought he presented great tips for parents stuck in control battles with their children.
Whether its school refusal, anger management, sibling rivalry, risk-taking behaviour, or drug and alcohol taking, change in the family dynamics can start with a new type of talk with our children. “The Talk”, as it’s referred to, begins with a discussion of all the things we hope do not change about our son or daughter. Whether its their musical talent, athletic abilities, or passion for helping others, acknowledging their strengths and assets will let your child know that this discussion has nothing to do with control. We begin with the positive vision of our teenager that can slip away during times of stress.
Both you and your child know that this conversion is occurring because there are some concerns you are having about the direction your child is headed. Bring them up and talk about it. However, this is also your time to be firm about the changes that will take place.
For this post, we are not going to talk about punishment, consequences, or rewards…but privileges. You can explain that privileges are earned regularly. For instance, having a mobile phone is a privilege. Staying out late with friends or going to a party is a privilege for getting done what needs to be done. They are not punishments or bribes that will be taken away for bad behaviour but what you’ll need to earn each week. Privileges are about your child managing their relationships, family, school, self-care, and work responsibilities.
For Example: “Because things have been difficult at school we are going to need to make some changes. First of all, whether or not you succeed or fail is up to you. I cannot control what work you do and do believe that you are capable of anything you put your mind to. I’ve seen you do your homework thousands of times and be great at it. But today, success is your responsibility, and I cannot control that. Parenting, however, is my responsibility and things like going out late with friends, your mobile phone, spending money, etc. are privileges that will need to be earned. If you’re trying your best in school and struggling to improve your grades, that is ok. What we do need to see is that you are attending all your classes, completing your homework, and being respectful at home. School is your responsibility, and you need to do your responsibilities just like we need to do ours. When this happens, you will have earned your privileges. Like we said before, that is fully up to you. I’m on your side, and I want you to earn your privileges. I want you to have them, be happy, and be successful because I love you. Today you have let me know that you are not ready for these privileges. When you have shown that you are ready to earn them, then you’ll get them back.”
This Talk is delivered with a positive tone while being assertive and firm. That is the parent responsibility. Your child’s responsibility, however, is earning the privileges back.
Important to note with this talk is that it is not critical, demeaning, blaming, or controlling. It does not invite a power struggle and does not offer one. It respects your child’s responsibility and ability to choose while exercising the parental leadership required in the parent’s responsibility.
I found it interesting to hear Neil Brown go through this talk during the interview and could see the art of delivering this talk with assertively but with a firm tone. If you’d like some more information about this type of talk or family therapy, do not hesitate to contact me.
See you on the trail…
True North Expeditions, Inc. provides adventure therapy programs and services for children and teenagers in Australia. Based in Adelaide, the TNE team writes about child and adolescent psychology, family dynamics and how adventure therapy programs can connect with struggling adolescents.