Behavior & Discipline

When Your Child Pushes Back

Team up with your preteen to prevent power struggles.

Acceptance of authority tends to decay during adolescence, and their desire to listen starts to rust
Acceptance of authority tends to decay during adolescence, and their desire to listen starts to rust

As kids approach middle school, parents are often puzzled by a change in their attitude. You find yourself locking horns with your 11-year-old over everything.

Most conflicts are rooted in the adolescent’s budding desire to control things. But parents are so used to coaching children through routines that they refuse to cede ground. In turn, kids with ADHD push back.

Problem-Solve Together

The best way to avoid confrontations is to team up. Instead of dictating orders, see if you can solve problems together. Day after day, Joe’s dad told him to stop playing computer games. Joe would answer, “OK,” but continued to play. His dad would start shouting.

Joe explained that he didn’t stop right away because he was trying to finish a level. He agreed that, when his parents asked him to stop, he would, as soon as he completed the level. Dad agreed not to nag. Complying with the plan earned Joe extra computer time.

Here are other ideas that parents find useful.

Present the problem calmly. Be clear about your expectations, not critical.

Don’t “overtalk” when you communicate. The rule should be that you give more “talk time” to your preteen than to yourself.

Find ways to help your child feel powerful. Ask her to help you solve problems. Solicit her advice on buying toys for her siblings.

Teach her to disagree without being disagreeable. Set an example by not raising your voice when you find yourself in conflict.

Stick to a structured routine. If your child knows that he wakes up and does homework at set times every day, there’s less room for argument. Managing his own schedule will help him feel like an adult.

Be clear about what’s not negotiable. Putting on her seat belt in the car and other safety issues are not.

Despite your best efforts, you might find yourself drawn into a power struggle when you’re tired. If so, leave the room. After the flurry, go back with new ideas and a reminder that you love your child.

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