|Parent:||“Sid, it is very important for you to be home at night at a reasonable hour. Why is that so important?”
Note : Again, don’t tell the child something that he or she already knows. Let the child tell you.
|Sid:||“I know you want me in early, but I don’t know why. There is nothing the matter with me being out late. I’m doing okay in school, I’m not getting into trouble, so what’s the big deal?”|
|Parent:||“We know it annoys you when we talk about this, but it is very important. Why is it so important?”
Note : Rather than responding to the child’s questions and getting side tracked, the parent showed empathy and understanding then came right back to the original question.
|Sid:||“I really don’t know why it is such a big deal. I suppose you think I need my rest or that I’m safer when I’m home.”|
|Parent:||“Those are good reasons, Sid. You do need your rest, and home is certainly a safer place to be at night, particularly late at night.”
Note : Here, again, the parent cut through all the extraneous, distracting, age-typical junk behavior and found those pearls of wisdom that were worth paying attention to. Everything else was just junk and was left alone.
|Parent:||“All things considered, Sid, we have concluded that you should be home on school nights, and that includes Sunday nights, no later that 9:30, and on Friday nights and Saturday nights no later than mid night. Those are the times by which we expect you to be home.”|
|Sid:||“What! 9:30 on school nights and 12:00 on weekends!’ What do you want me to do, lose every friend I’ve got? That is just flat-out unreasonable. I won’t do it and you can’t make me do it.”|
|Parent:||“You are correct, Sid, we can’t make you do it, but we expect you to do it anyway, and when you meet our expectations, you will continue to earn the privileges of this family that you really like. What comes to your mind when I use the term ‘those privileges of the family’?”|
|Sid:||“I suppose that you are telling me that if I don’t get home at night by ridiculous times, you are not going to let me use the car anymore. Is that what you are telling me?”|
|Parent:||“You are correct, Sid, in assuming that the use of the car is one of those privileges that you will deny yourself if you decide to stay out later than 9:30 at night on school nights and midnight on weekends. What other privileges will you deny yourself?”
Note : The parent put the burden of responsibility squarely on the child’s shoulders, acknowledged the child’s accurate perception of the parent’s expectation, and moved forward with the discussion without being drawn off course.
|Sid:||(Sarcastically) “Well, I suppose you could lock me out of the kitchen or out of my bedroom or even out of the house.”|
|Parent:||“No, we are not going to starve you into submission or invite you to leave home. You mean far too much to us to do a thing like that. Sid, we are sorry this kind of discussion annoys you, but it is because you mean so much to us that we feel it is important to have this discussion.”
Note : Again, empathy and understanding were used while at the same time reassuring the child that he is a valuable member of the family unit. Though the child may appear to be disinterested in this expression of affection, and even say things to that effect, the probability is very, very great that he is glad to have heard it and is reassured by it. Never conclude that just because a teenager says some-thing rude and ugly in response to a tender expression of affection the child didn’t appreciate that expression of affection. Remember, he is still in the process of becoming civilized and has a lot to learn about how to respond appropriately to parental love and affection. Some kids will have learned this well by late adolescence. For others, it may take awhile. Everyone learns at a different rate whether we are talking about learning to read or do arithmetic or to deal appropriately with expression of parental affection. (Chapter 9, “Dealing with Hate and Anger,” has more to say about this.)
|Sid:||Sid:”Frankly, I don’t know if the use of the car is that important to me. After all, I have a lot of friends with cars and I’m sure they won’t mind using their cars when we want to go some place. So it’s really no big deal to me. If I don’t get to use the car, so what! I have options, you know. I’m not the baby you think I am.”|
|Parent:||Parent:”You are certainly correct when you say you are not a baby. In fact, you are a very able young man and when you are ready to assure us that you will comply with our expectations, the privilege of using the car will be yours. Give it some thought, and if you would like to discuss it later, just let us know.”
Note : The parent has once again assured the boy that he is valued and that the privileges that are under parental control will be extended to him as soon as he is ready to comply with parental expectations. The boy hasn’t been told that he will not be able to stay out longer than the parents want him to. To do this is very risky and can persuade a child to do everything he can to make sure the parents’ expectations are not met.
Unless children are willing to comply, either because of their respect for their parents or because of their wanting to enjoy the privileges of the home that are under parental control, parents of older children must not delude themselves into believing they can “make” their children do anything. Expressions to that effect are simply invitations to a child to rebel even further. Rather, parents should wait until the child wants the privileges of the home that are under their control and then make those privileges available (contingent) upon those expectations being met, all the while being on the lookout for opportunities to reinforce those behaviors that are consistent with parental expectations. For example, when the child does come home by the expected time, the parents should reinforce that with such statements as, “Hi, son. Glad to see you home safe and sound. And by the way, thanks for being home early.” Then, if possible, accompany this with a hug, a pat on the back, or some other appropriate physical contact. Furthermore, if it’s not awkward to do so, it’s a good idea to engage the child in a pleasant, non-judgmental, non-moral-bound discussion about something that has happened during the day, or recently, which was of interest to the boy: events surrounding a ball game, something that was reported in the news, a family happening, something at school, or whatever. These discussions don’t need to be long. A discussion of this type need last just a few minutes, and if pleasant can have a great effect in bonding the child to his parents and increasing the probability that he will continue in the future to comply with their expectations.
With older children, achieving the desired level of compliance takes longer and might even find the child engaging in what we call counter-control behaviors; for example, deliberately doing exactly the opposite of what is expected. A sort of extinction burst. Don’t be intimidated by this. Remain calm, proceed in a positive, direct manner consistent with your expectation, and carefully observe the direction of the behavior. Give the treatment time to work. Usually within a week to 10 days, you’ll begin to see improvement. You won’t likely “be there” in that length of time, but you’ll likely see behavior moving in that direction. If you do, acknowledge it in a positive, reinforcing way. If you don’t, restudy the consequences then make adjustments accordingly. Don’t expect miracles. Be systematic.