What do parents need to do when breakdowns happen?
When faced with resistance from our kids, it’s easy to succumb to the temptation to back down, or become lax about our boundaries. From a child development perspective, this is a significant misstep. The more you relax your boundaries when your children fight against them, the more likely they will be to try to railroad you.
Being “nice” will get you nowhere. Being fair and consistent, on the other hand, is the best way to nudge your kids in the direction of more mature, responsible behavior.
Young people NEED firm boundaries, and when they challenge us and violate the ones we’ve set, it’s imperative to remain steadfast in reinforcing them. (I know, easier said than done!)
As an example, if your child bypasses or deletes the parental control tools you’ve placed on their device, the absolute worst response you can make is to suspend your rules. Parents who toss the whole issue of online safety into the too-hard bin because “they’ll always find a way to get past the system” miss the point entirely.
The strategy or tool is not the problem. The rule-breaking is. We would never dream of abolishing speed limits just because people didn’t always stick to them. Instead, we set clear consequences for breaking the rules.
The same principle applies to our kids. Research shows us that by reinforcing our rules, setting and communicating consequences, and being consistent, kids actually feel more nurtured and protected. The result? Negative behavior decreases.
When kids ignore our rules, it’s useful to remember a simple formula: ‘Acknowledge the pause, but stick with the cause’.