Q: My child thinks he’s the boss in the family. Whenever I ask him to do anything, he thinks it’s a request and he simply says — no I’m not going to, I don’t want to! I don’t know how to handle him?
From what you say, it seems to me that there is a very definite power reversal in your relationship with your son. The natural order of things when you have children is that parents are in charge from the get-go. Parenting is not an easy job, but when children rule the roost and you feel persistently undermined, it is important to draw a line under whatever has contributed to the situation in the past, and work to re-establish your authority. This will be no easy task, but if you don’t act now it will become increasingly hard to get him to comply with your reasonable requests and in the end this will only be detrimental for his future and your future relationship with him.
I think, initially you’re going to have to don your emotional armour, get tough and take the flak as a result. I suggest you start by discussing with your partner what the ground rules should be. Try to avoid creating too many rules though. Think about two aspects of his behaviour you want to change and build a couple of rules around that. Clarity and consistency of message is what you are trying to achieve.
The next thing to consolidate between you is the consequences for not complying. This will happen again and again, and you need to be prepared to stand together and stand firm. The consequences should be proportionate and be deliverable. When he first refuses to do as asked, he should be given a clear warning. If he refuses again then the consequences should be applied. This is where you need the staying power. Effectively you have to show him that he is not going to control situations and that power is in your hands. It is a power you are not going to abuse but will apply fairly. You must both consistently deliver the same message and not be swayed by any emotional blackmail or outbursts!
If your son suspects you are not firm of purpose or that he can play one of you off against another, he will exploit this.
In my experience, if you stick with this, you will see the transformation you are looking for quite quickly. I’m a great believer in reward as a motivational technique, so when you see good behaviour, praise it and also build in more concrete rewards for him to work towards. Once a transformation has occurred, don’t feel it’s ‘job done’. This is an approach that needs to be reinforced until he is old enough to make his own choices. Inevitably, with a background of strong authoritative parenting, these choices are likely to be positive and lead to future success.
Russell Hemmings is a Dubai-based lifecoach and cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist, and author of The Mind Diet and Active Positive Parenting (russellhemmings.co.uk). Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.