February 4, 2010


BabersTeresaBy Teresa Babers
Program Manager
New Parent Services
Child Abuse Council

For most parents, discipline issues begin around age two and continue full speed through adolescence. This is a time where even the mild mannered obedient child may begin to resist and question the rules they have always followed. An even the most patient parents may lose their cool. Often, I am tempted to just say yes to avoid conflict. In fact, I am sure I have.

Parent’s desire to give teenagers everything they didn’t have, has left the typical modern teenager with lots of stuff and lots of freedom. Thus, the adolescent today has cell phones with internet access and texting, lap tops, pricey name brand clothing and a car the day after they get their driver’s license. I am not sure how I lived through teenage years with nothing more than a small black and white TV, a close and play record player, the corner bus stop for transportation and a mother who was rigid about where I went, what I did and who I did it with. I am not criticizing progress, I am only suggesting that perhaps it is healthy for parents to occasionally say no, because it what their children need to hear.

I realize that a positive response is always more popular than a negative one. It does feel good to have the approval of your soon to be adult children. However, according to theorists conflict is critical part of your adolescent’s development. In a typical parent/child relationship there is a strong and loving bond. The seven year old child is likely eager to please and make you happy. When my youngest daughter was seven she told me that when she grows up she wanted to move next door to me. Today she is 14. I recently reminded her of this. She implied that I made this up and informed me that she would probably not even live in the same state, but that I would be welcome to visit her from time to time. While it is difficult to see your children distance themselves from you, imagine what would happen if they didn’t. You could have you forty year old residing in their childhood bedroom while you did their laundry, cooked their meals and reminded them to pick up after themselves. It is much easier for a young adult to launch themselves from the nest with a little healthy conflict. It is a declaration of their growing independence.

“So, I for one remind myself of this when I have to say no. No, you may stay out until 2 o’clock in morning. No, you may not go to that party in the home of someone I do not know. No, you may not talk on the phone all night.” Somewhere I read you should say five positive statements for every negative one. Some of my favorite follow ups are, I am proud of you, a big hug or it’s all in love.

At some point every parent worries if they are doing the right thing. A few years ago I had a reminder of the things that matter most to our children during the funeral of my husband’s grandfather. He died just 29 days after his wife of 71 years. Together they had eight children, 20 grand children and 24 great grand children. It is safe to say that they were experienced in raising children. Judging by those who loved them, they did a good job. A grandson who was named after his grandfather and in part raised by his grandparents gave a testimony to the things for which he was most grateful. His list included the following:

  • Thank you, for leaving the light on
  • Thank you, for checking on me and bringing an extra blanket on a cold night
  • Thank you for being at my kindergarten, high school and college graduation
  • And thank you for saying “no” and sticking to it without explaining why when I needed to hear it most.

For information about the Child Abuse Council’s prevention and education programs, you can visit us at www.childabuseqc.org or call us at 309-786-1466.