Our 14 year old son has been refusing to wear a hat to school. It’s winter. In Canada.
This has recently been a source of tension between my son and my husband, and between me and my husband. My son’s position: I’m not cold. My position: If he’s cold he’ll start wearing a hat. My husband’s position: He’ll get sick if he doesn’t wear a hat. He has to wear a hat!
It was starting to become a real problem. None of us had been able to convince the others of the veracity of our opinions.
Yesterday we had a breakthrough. I sat down with my son after school and said “I know you’re not cold and you don’t want to wear a hat to school. But it’s really important to Daddy that you do. He is sure that you will get sick if you don’t wear a hat and he really loves you and wants you to be happy and healthy. There is nothing we will be able to do to change his mind on this. Can you please start wearing a hat? It’s *that* important to Daddy.” Guess what my son said? “Okay.” Later that night my son and my husband devised some temperature guidelines that they both could live with. (In case you’re interested: below -2 C/28 F= hat is strongly recommended, at -5 C/ 23 F or below= hat required.)
As children get older, they should make their own decisions. We can’t force a 13 year old to wear a hat. We could force him to wear it out the door, but we would never know if he stuffed it in his pocket the minute he was out of sight. (This was his 10 year old brother’s point!) Yet he agreed to wear a hat.
Why were we able to resolve this conflict? And what should you do when you find yourself fighting with your older child or teen? How can you learn to get along better with your tween or teen?
First– ask yourself if it’s a battle you should be fighting. By the time they’re 18, we want our kids to be successfully independent. To get there they need to practice making their own decisions. And they need to practice while they have us as their safety nets. We’re here to pick up the pieces if the decisions they make aren’t so great. Sometimes you might not agree with the decisions tween or teen is making, but let them decide anyway. If it’s not dangerous or hurtful to your child or someone else- back off.
If you really can’t let it go? (For my husband, the hat battle was one worth having.) Avoid a power struggle. Try to interact with these two principles in mind:
- Connection. Cultivate it and Invoke it. My son and his dad have a very close relationship. When asked to do something that he could see was really important to his dad, he agreed. If my son didn’t care about his relationship with his dad, he would have refused. The only genuine way we have to influence our children’s behaviour is through our connection with them.
- Respect. Treat your tween/teen like an equal. In the case of the hat, we all presented our cases as equals and worked out a solution everyone could live with. A my-way-or-the-highway generally backfires: older children and teens will often dig their heels in even more just because you are telling them what to do. Try to approach conflict with your older child as you might approach it with your spouse or co-worker.
If your older child genuinely doesn’t care what you think? You might want to check out this book: Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers by Gordon Neufeld.
PS- And of course working with me one-on-one can help you with your parenting challenges, large or small. Find out how to work with me here.
Sarah Rosensweet is a certified peaceful parenting coach, speaker, and educator. She lives in Toronto with her husband and three big kids (ages 13, 16, and 20). Peaceful parenting is a non-punitive, connection-based approach that uses firm limits with lots of empathy. Sarah works one-on-one virtually with parents all over the world to help them go from frustrated and overwhelmed to, “We’ve got this!”
Read more at: www.sarahrosensweet.com