Yikes! What if my kids DO listen?

My last post stated firmly that you can’t tell your kids what to do since you can’t make them do it. You can, however, make yourself do something (such as go to your room).

Only a couple days after the post, a teenage client reported with pride that he did exactly what his father told him to do, but, of course, that wasn’t what Dad wanted at all.

You see, Sam intensely wanted to join his wealthy friends on a New Year’s jaunt to the Bahamas.  His parents didn’t agree;  their budget didn’t permit. Sam angrily insisted, “It’s my own money; I saved it from work last summer. You can’t stop me.”

Dad, “If you can’t talk respectfully to your parents, leave this house immediately”!

And, for once, Sam did as he was told. He sure knew how to make his parents eat their threat. He left immediately, without stopping to pass Go or put on a coat, and hid in the alley.

What would you do?  What Sam’s parents did was call their son’s local friends and neighbors, frantically searching for him. He took pity on them after making them sweat for a good while, calling an older brother to report not his whereabouts, but his safety. When he finally returned, Mom made Dad apologize.

What options did the parents have once they had made the first foolish threat?  My advice: let Sam come home when good and cold, wagging his tail behind him. Give him the cold shoulder for 10-15 minutes, and then continue on as if nothing had happened. Don’t “discuss,” because you’ll just lose again–lose your temper and lose your power. Let him stew rather than you.

Sam’s folks multiplied their parenting mistakes by letting Sam triumph 3 times–making a mockery of their threat, causing them to chase after him, and then apologizing.

You can’t lose by walking away from your disrespectful child. Say less rather than more. Especially when you’re angry.

If it weren’t for a child’s need to hear human speech, we could raise our children in silence. What we do is the real teaching.


I help adults and adolescents through the particular struggles of our time: tension between couples, parenting frustration, blending new families, separation and divorce, (un)employment, cancer, and loss. When relationships come to an impasse, I use mediation techniques to try to ensure that each party will have his/her needs heard and accounted for in a dignified way. In addition to talking, listening, and reframing, I utilizes the tools of metaphor, active teaching, role-playing, visualization, and hypnotherapy.for families and businesses, as well as in cases of divorce.

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