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How Not to Battle Your Child this Back to School Season: Part 2 - What to Do

“There’s no tug of war if you don’t pick up the other end of the rope.”

Battles are predicated upon the perception of opposites; right and wrong, my way or your way. To avoid battles with your teen this back to school season, first, stay aware of how you are opposing your child, potentially setting up a battle that neither of you will enjoy.

Second, starting with sharing the observations you are seeing as the alternative to the battle is to not let a behavior go unnoticed and to address it. “I’m noticing a pattern where you are staying up really late as well as struggling to get up when your alarm goes off in the morning creating a situation where you are late for school.” Just state the facts, simply and to the point. Let them know how you feel about this: “I feel concerned, frustrated and confused about what I am observing because I heard you say that you were committed to better sleep habits and being on time for school.”

Third, state in a clear and concise way what it is you need and/or want as a parent (FYI, parents are allowed to have needs!) “I need understanding and clarity about your choices and why it seems as if you changed your mind about your commitments.”

Lastly, have a clear and firm request: "So I’d like to ask that you shift how you are doing things and take responsibility for getting to bed on time and getting yourself up in the morning. If you continue to be late for school, we will start to implement consequences. And of course, let me know if we can help you problem solve and create a better plan to meet your commitments and our expectations".

Hopefully you won’t be faced with too much defensiveness with this approach, and you and your teen can talk about what motivates them to show up and do well in school and follow through with their commitments. As always, bring a curious mind to your child’s struggle, for example if it's to get to school on time: “I’m wondering if there’s anything that might be going on that’s making it hard for you to get up in the morning (besides staying up all night)!” Then listen, listen, listen and work to problem solve together.

Remember to make expectations clear ahead of time. Have a planned response for when your children struggle. Recognize your role in the “battle”. How would you as the parent look different if you shifted from battling to navigating their ups and downs alongside them?

Focus on messages of empowerment. "I know you've got this, I know it can be hard, let me know what your plan is and if you need help from me."

Be really clear about what role you are happy to play. For example, “I am more than happy to offer 1-2 wake up calls to see my sweet child's face in the morning (the appropriateness of this can depend on the age of your child) and I am not willing to give you more than that or engage in the an emotional back and forth where it seems like I am dragging you out of bed.”

Always, keep the focus on what you have control over rather than on trying to control what your child is doing.

  • I can keep an upbeat attitude
  • I can keep my old behaviors and reactions out of the morning conversation when it looks like they are running late
  • I can set healthy boundaries for myself and be clear with myself and my child as to what I am willing and not willing to participate in when it comes to the morning routine
  • I can implement short term consequences to try and disrupt the behavior pattern and give my child the opportunity to try again

Parenting is a hard job especially surrounding academics and navigating the school year and all that comes with it. We are often desperate for our children to do well, to have successes that will help them in the moment and in the future. As parents, we are under many pressures, some self-imposed and many that are not.

Continue to seek out resources and tools that will allow you to show up as the parent you want to be in the yearly battle we all often engage in when school is back in session. Set goals and celebrate wins, for yourself and with your child.

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