Parenting Advice: Explain Yourself Once and Move On

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Here’s a piece of parenting advice I often find myself giving to the parents I coach:

Explain yourself once to your child and then move on.

You usually can’t end an argument—or make a child do something—by trying to make them understand and agree with you.

The fact is, they don’t understand you. They’re going to see things differently. Children and adults have different perspectives. Parents can spend a lot of time and energy trying to make a child accept their logic. It’s just not going to happen.

This is a tough pill to swallow for parents. We all feel like things would be easier if only our children understood why we want them to do certain things. But most kids are not interested in the “why” and many are not even capable of understanding the “why.” And forcing the issue just makes it worse. Here’s what you can do instead.

Listen to Your Child When your child argues about a decision you’ve made or a limit you have set, listen to them. Tell them you admire them for sharing their opinions and fighting for their cause. But you don’t have to give in and you don’t have to keep explaining your reasons.

Walk Away When Necessary It can be very empowering to walk away from an unresolved argument. Different perspectives don’t have to be reconciled. It’s fine for your child to be unhappy or disappointed. And you don’t have to be drawn into an argument, it’s up to you to participate in an argument.

Work on Your Own Self-Care We all want to be understood, and we’re sure we can make others understand us if they would only listen. My advice is to take the time you would have spent arguing and instead spend a few minutes on self-care—go for a walk, read a book, give your mind a break from your child’s behaviour.

Explain yourself once and move on. You’ll have a lot more energy as a result.

By Denise Rowden, Parent Coach

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