Reframe Their Resistance
by Stephanie Hoffman Elms
The age old dilemma. Should we or should we not “give in” when we get a lot of resistance from our kids, especially in regards to school work? After all, if we don’t “make” them continue when they start complaining, then won’t we be rewarding them for that behavior? And if we “reward” the behavior, then won’t it just encourage it? Plus, don’t they have to learn that sometimes you just need to do things even if they don’t want to?
I will admit that when my kids were that age, I definitely erred on the side of “giving in” and now that they are 17 and 20, I am happy to say that the leap of faith paid off.
Here is what I found. Giving in did not mean throwing up my hands and giving up and letting them decide everything. What it did mean was that I recognized that resistance was their way of communicating that something was not working for them and that it was up to me, as the adult in the relationship, to try to better understand what that was. Yes, whining and complaining is a very immature form of communicating, but then again, kids are by definition immature!
Sometimes “giving in” took the form of just recognizing that an 8-year-old’s priorities and my priorities were naturally going to be different. Is it really that strange that an 8-year-old might not want to do all the school work that I deem is important? 😉
Reframing their resistance from them being stubborn or difficult or lazy to them being a typical 8-year-old little boy can open up lots of options that I might not have seen before…
- can I shift around when we do things,
- can I let something that is causing a lot of head butting go for right now (for both our sakes),
- can I “add brownies” and find a way to make it more acceptable,
- can I troubleshoot with him and see if he has any suggestions for making it work better?
The tricky thing with this approach is that it is one that takes a long-term view and does not always produce quick results. By focusing on our relationship, it turns things into an ongoing conversation and a series of experiments which might take awhile to hit on a workable solution. But it also makes life with my kids easier on the whole and more enjoyable (I just don’t have it in me to be the enforcer all the time!)
Contrary to worries that I had about reinforcing the resistance, the more that I demonstrated that I was willing to work with them, the more they became willing to work with me. I often shared that I really was not sure of what was the best thing to do…that I could understand where they were coming from, but still had my own concerns (which I shared with them) and we would go from there…sometimes giving what they wanted to do a try, sometimes me realizing that nope, I felt strongly enough about this to not want to give in this time.
Where this paid off was in the teen years. I joke that Jason listened to me way more as a teen than he ever did at 8 years old and that is the truth! Because I did my best to “give in” when I could when was younger, he did not get into the habit of pushing back against me. So as he got older and more mature, he started wanting and valuing my advice…he had learned to trust that I truly wanted to let him do what he wanted to do, so when I had concerns, he was more willing to listen.
It can feel like a huge leap of faith, though! Hoping my experience helps. I really worried about “creating a monster” (especially with Jason, my more intense, head strong kid) and there seems to be little support in much of the parenting advice out there in our society at large, so this is a topic I like talking about. I also wrote about this more on my blog: On Giving in to Our Children.