A great question prompted the topic of meeting your kids where they are: “I was raised in a family of discipline, and I have a kid who doesn’t react well to it. How do I adjust to meet him or her where they’re at?”
First of all, I love that the person asking is aware that what was effective when he was growing up may not be effective today. Second, I love that this parent is looking to meet his child where he is and willing to adjust to do so. The marks of an awesome parent.
How does one meet their child where they are? Here are a few things to consider.
It does not mean you are relinquishing your authority or shirking responsibility. It means you are looking for alternatives that are more successful. It also means you are searching for a way to be more influential rather than more forceful. That willingness to shift what you are doing to be a more effective parent is highly responsible and very loving.
Explore what your child’s reaction to your parenting style or discipline is saying. Get curious. Do you feel like you are speaking a foreign language when you make a request? Make eye contact and give a gentle touch on your child’s shoulder to garner more focus on their part. If you see avoidance, make sure your child knows how to do what you are requesting. Break the task into smaller components. If you encounter opposition, provide choices and greater leadership for your child.
Making requests as opposed to commands means less resistance. This involves monitoring your tone of voice and making your requests conversational. “No” does not mean the end of a conversation. It can mean the beginning of a discussion. When you find yourself engaging in a power struggle, take a break, take a breath and take a look at the big picture beyond doing homework, getting ready for school or leaving the party.
Focus on what’s behind your child’s behavior. Get curious about what is going on behind the scenes rather than getting stuck on an agenda item, such as “making” your child do something. What need is your child expressing? Are they looking to feel powerful by resisting or fighting? Are they looking to belong or feel valuable? Identify the need and guide them to get it met.
Have a discussion with your child. Let your child know what you are noticing and how you feel. For instance, “I feel frustrated when I ask you to clean up your room and nothing happens. What I want is for you to clean your room when I ask. Will you?” If the answer is, “No,” keep the inquiry open with, “What’s going on that you will not be helpful, because I know that you are?”