Why It's OK to Sometimes Let Your Teens Change the Rules
Some child-development experts say negotiating with kids is a big no-no, but moms of teens are trying differents way of creating a win-win.
The teen years are a time when it's just as important to implement the rules and your expectations as it was when they were younger—maybe even more important since these are the years they experiment and dabble in things that can be potentially dangerous for them as well as others.
When my oldest child, who is now almost 15 years old, was giving me a lot of push back when he was one, I was watching a television show about disciplining your children. An expert was discussing how as soon as you start to negotiate with your kids, you are making a huge mistake.
Her take was, when you do that, you are letting them know you aren't serious if you ask them to do something or when you’re trying to teach them important life skills like sharing or using manners. If you let your child call the shots in certain situations because it's easier for you, that is what they will do all the time.
It made me hyper-aware of the fact that I did that; I negotiated with my son, especially in public so he wouldn’t cause a scene, and according to the expert, I was creating a monster.
He watched me change my mind in order to keep his behavior under control, and in doing that, he was becoming aware I would change my mind and get him the snack or toy, or let him play with the contents of my purse just so I could get through the grocery store or talk with a friend who had stopped by.
I quickly changed my parenting style, and after having two more kids on his heels, I was glad I did. It changed his behavior for the better. Trips through the store were a little dicey for a while after he saw I wasn't into the negotiating any longer of course, but before long he got the message and I was glad I stuck to my guns.
But as my three kids have turned into teens, there have been a few times they have changed my mind about certain things, and I'm not sorry about it.
If there is a rule in our house they'd like to change, or if I've said or done something they think is wrong, they know better than to say, "but everyone else's mom does it," because as all moms know, that's the oldest trick in the book, and it doesn't really work.
But what they have learned is if they come to me in a respectable way with legitimate reasons as to why I should change my mind about rules or the way I run the household, I'll listen; sometimes I'll even change my mind.
Such was the case when my son felt his bedtime was too early. He explained he just wasn't tired at 9 pm when I told him it was time to hit the sheets.
According to him, lying in bed awake was unbearable, and made him toss and turn all night, but the time I let him stay up just an hour later, he went right to sleep, and felt much better the next day.
We agreed to try it out, and lo and behold, my son not only seems more rested, he is just happier all around.
My other son felt it was unfair I wouldn’t let him ride his bike a mile in town to meet friends if I wasn't home. While this is something they do all the time when I am home, if I'm out running errands, I feel too out of touch, far away, and distracted. I'm worried if something happened, I'd be too far away.
My son reminded me I was usually only seven miles away, and in the end, there wasn't much difference. Just because I was six more miles down the road, it didn't mean the likelihood of getting hurt increased. It wasn’t like I was an hour away.
He approached me in a calm way, and didn't just say, "Mom, your rule is dumb," which is something he would have said in the past.
The fact my kids realize that way of communicating with me isn't effective has empowered them to take a more adult-like stance on certain issues and allowed us to have good discussions about things.
While it's something I appreciate very much—it's helped keep me more open-minded—I have to remind myself I'm not turning them into monsters by negotiating with them. Old habits die hard, and as my kids have gotten older, I've realized there are times they know better than I do and end up making a lot of sense.
And I'm okay with that as long as they always know this mama reserves the right to change her mind.