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Raising Good Kids in Tough Times: Why Are They So Stubborn?



How many times have you gotten into silly arguments with your children, and when it was over were at a loss as to how it got so far.  Roger McIntire, Ph.D., is the author of Raising Your Teenager: 5 Crucial Skills for Moms and Dads and Raising Good Kids in Tough Times (http://www.ParentSuccess.com) and four other parenting books sheds some light on some ways to turn those arguments around.


By: Roger McIntire, Ph.D

Parents looking for a little cooperation or a simple apology for a mistake often hit the stone wall of stubbornness. “It’s amazing he would rather give up TV and be sent to his room than say he’s sorry!”
At a time when both parent and teen are likely to escalate confrontation and volume, your teen will often follow your lead if you maintain a slower pace and lower voice. The situation will be easier — not always successful, but easier. Here are three of the most common situations that start the upward spiral of misunderstanding between parent and child.

1. The Misunderstood Defense.
Most confrontations begin with a childish mistake. You would think a teenager would own up to the mistake, fix it or say she’s sorry and it would be over. But self-centered blunderers have big egos and are thinking first of all, “What are you saying about ME?”
Even teenagers are not very good at expressing exactly what they mean, so confusion reigns. What they intended as a defense seems like offense to their parents:
     “Oh no, you spilled your drink. Pay attention to what you are doing.”
     Christine says, “I was paying attention, chill out.”
     “Chill out? Now you apologize or go to your room!”

A teen who only meant to defend herself, did it in an offensive way and is now tempted to dig in and resist.
A better strategy would be to help with the defense instead of demanding, “Say you’re sorry.” Here’s an opportunity to teach your teen to fix her own problems. Mom might say, “Oh, bad luck. Too bad the glass was so big and slippery. Please get a towel to clean it up the spill.” Mom can teach her daughter to make amends, to clean up her own mistakes. That’s better than merely teaching her to chant, “OK, I’m sorry.”

2. The Power Struggle Mode.
          David says, “I don’t have to do what you say!”
          “You had better do what I say or you’ll get the consequences!”
          “You can’t make me!” … and on it goes.

Instead of arguing about who has the upper hand, Dad might show David how to compromise on power. “If you want me to give you a ride to school and to soccer practice when you need it, you have to help me sometimes. You need to come halfway.”
This is not the end of the argument, of course, but at least we have points to negotiate instead of just a struggle of wills. In a power struggle, your teen needs a reminder of what powers you have.

3. The Trap of Falling to Their Level.
“I can’t believe she’s got me arguing about the color of her T-shirt!” At this point, it’s time to deliberately hesitate. Sometimes a noncommittal nod or grunt is all the subject deserves.
Your son might say, “Mom, are you going to get me the Powerman computer game or not?”
 Mom: (a little distracted) “What? Oh, no, it’s too much money and too violent.”


The main ingredient in each of these conversations should be the parent’s slow, reasonable pace. Keep in mind that to a parent, a teen’s arguments and defenses often sound like attack. And, to a teenager, a parent’s corrections often sound like personal criticisms if not done carefully.

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