Here’s a scenario I see often in my work. Parents are having difficulty with their child over Problem X (doing homework, getting up in the morning, getting ready for school, or managing time on electronics). Parents join me and the child for a meeting about this, and the parents have been thinking about the problem and have come up with a proposal. Very often these bright and successful parents have really good ideas. They say, “I’ve been thinking about this, and here’s what I want you to do from now on. After school you get half an hour to relax and have a snack, but then you do your homework. There will be no electronics until your homework is done.” I imagine that most parents have tried this or a similar approach, depending on what the problem is.

Now I think this is a fine idea. If the parents are lucky, their child will think it’s a fine idea as well. We will talk to iron out a few details, like can she watch TV during the break time, and they go home happy. However, many of the children in my practice are rigid by nature, and they do not deal well with changes in routine. When the change is superimposed from on high, there it is less likely that the child will cooperate. Often the family returns frustrated in a week or two. Parents feel that the child is unreasonable and oppositional, and the children feel that their parents are overly controlling. It might sound like this:

Child: “I get my work done.”
Parent: “I have to nag you. And you don’t start until 8 pm, and you’re up too late.”
Child: “It works OK for me.”
Parent: “Actually, there are problems for you. When you ask me for help with math after 10 pm, I won’t help you. I’m too tired.”

Have you been there? Maybe not about this problem, but about another one?

Here are my thoughts about this conundrum. Children and parents are more cooperative with plans that they have helped develop. These days I tell parents who come up with great ideas that they need to step back first.

Talk to your child about the problems you and she are having about getting homework done. Find out what she thinks is going on. Tell her in a non-judgmental way what your needs are. Getting your child’s input doesn’t mean you give away the farm. For instance, “I get really grouchy when I have to remind you over and over to get started. And I have to go to bed at 10, so I can’t help you after that.”

Ask your child for some suggestions. You might get a plan that you had not thought of, but if it sounds like it will work for both of you, give it a try. I find that often when children are new to this approach, they are not good at generating solutions. In that case, you’ll need to offer your solution, but now it’s different. You have already listened to your child’s point of view, and you have a more cooperative partner. You agree to try out the solution to see whether it works for everyone. If it doesn’t, you talk again to come up with a better plan.

In some ways it would be lovely if parents could just tell kids what to do and kids would comply like employees. But kids need help developing ways to resolve conflicts, and simply complying with orders won’t teach them.

Author's Bio: 

Parent Coach and Licensed Psychologist, Carolyn Stone, Ed.D. ( educates parents of children with learning disabilities, ADHD, Asperger Syndrome and anxiety about their children’s needs using humor and evidence-based practices. Parents learn new strategies through role play and homework. She teaches children to manage their anxiety and attention and to understand their learning styles. You can learn about Dr. Stone’s work from her blog at