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Ask Rosalind: How to Talk About Peer Pressure and Friendship Feuds

Q. My husband and I found out our 14-year-old son was in danger of failing three classes last semester, so we took away all his electronics. He copped a major attitude, stating he didn't understand how unplugging him would help. We tried explaining, but he wouldn't listen. How do I stand my ground and get his respect back?

A. It's not that he doesn't respect you. He doesn't like you. And why should he? You took away something he values and forced him to concentrate on his classes. Rest assured, I'm not saying you should change your decision. I'm just trying to get you to see the situation from another point of view: his. With that in mind, you could say, "I get it. If I were you, I'd be mad at me too, but this is where we are right now. If you can develop better work habits, I am absolutely open to compromise."

Your authority, and ultimately your son's respect for you, is based not only on holding your own but also on acknowledging that he may have some pretty good reasons for how he's spending his time. Maybe school is boring. Maybe school is overwhelming. Whatever you do, don't demonize his toys or games. If you acknowledge that there may be reasons why he's struggling and don't blame the video games, he will respect you. He also may need some support to develop good study habits—which you can tell him will come in handy when he's working as a video game designer one day.

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