1. YOU LOVE BRANDON MORE! This is one of those comments designed to prey on a parent’s guilt. This comment about how you love one of your other children more is often effective in getting moms and dads to launch into a lengthy discussion with the youngster—and that only encourages the youngster to debate the parent’s authority. The next time your youngster accuses you of loving her sibling more, say, “You know that’s not true. I love all my children equally, but I parent them differently.”
2. GET OUT OF MY BEDROOM! Somehow, kids have the idea that their bedrooms are off-limits, and that any parent who enters is trespassing on sacred ground. Generally, it’s O.K. to respect your child’s desire for privacy. But when moms and dads suspect that the child has stolen something, for example, they have every right to check things out. If your child accuses you of violating her rights, simply say, “Your bedroom is a privilege –not a right. When you get your own home and pay the bills, you can put a “keep out” sign on your front door. It the meantime, this bedroom is actually mine – but, I’m willing to let you stay in it.”
3. YOU DON’T TRUST ME! This is a favorite accusation of older children and adolescents. They’ll use this line to try to get you to relax an “established limit” (e.g., child has to be home from the Mall by 9:00 PM). How should you respond? Like this: “I trust you, but I don’t trust a bunch of strangers. That’s why I don’t think it’s safe for you to spend all evening wandering around the Mall with your friend after 9:00 on a Saturday night.”
4. THAT’S NOT FAIR! Since moms and dads feel it’s important to be fair to their kids, this statement can really throw parents for a loop. For their part, children tend to say this when they’re trying to get their mother or father to change a “no” into a “yes.” By accusing moms and dads of being unfair, children try to make parents feel guilty so they’ll change a rule they have established. How should you respond? How about: “You’re right – it’s probably not fair in your mind. And I have a lot of unfair things that happen to me too. Some things in life aren’t fair. And my answer is still ‘no’.” As a parent, you have to postpone worrying about what’s fair and remain focused on what needs to be addressed (e.g., your youngster’s misbehavior).
5. I HATE YOU! Your youngster may tell you that he hates you when he is forbidden from doing what he wants to do. A good way to respond to “I hate you” is to reframe what the youngster has said, eliminating the word “hate.” For example: “I know you’re angry, but that’s the rule. You can’t ride your after dark.” Kids often drop the “hate” bomb word when what they really mean is that they’re angry. It’s understandable, of course, that new or inexperienced parents would be hurt when their youngster yells “I hate you!” But try to remember that your youngster doesn’t really mean it. In a fit of rage, kids don’t always find the right words to express their feelings.
At some point in your parenting career, your kids will launch one or more of these comments your way. Like a broken record, your children may return to them again and again, hoping they’ll eventually wear you down and get their way. Use the responses above as a cheat sheet of sorts, relying on them when your children put you in a tough spot. But be sure to choose the language that makes you most comfortable.
Just remember that your youngster is saying what he’s saying to get his way. Stay focused on the current issue rather than getting derailed by your child’s comments and complaints. Your authority is not a subject open for debate.