Parents should break free from routine power plays

  • Sun Oct 21st, 2012 2:38pm
  • Life

By Heidi Stevens Chicago Tribune

Problem: Your second-grade daughter expects you to pack her homework, grab her lunch, carry her backpack and just shrugs when you threaten to stop. Should you send her to school without her things?

Solution: There’s a way to alter this routine that removes the tension and reminds your child that a successful school day is actually her responsibility, not her parent’s.

“The daughter expects her mom to do these things because her mom has given her the impression that they’re her mom’s job,” said clinical psychologist Roni Cohen-Sandler, author of “I’m Not Mad, I Just Hate You! A New Understanding of Mother-Daughter Conflict.”

“If the mother knows this little girl is capable of putting her homework in the backpack and carrying the backpack, then she needs to be comfortable expecting her daughter to do that.”

Resenting the dynamic and threatening to send her to school empty-handed just turns each morning into a power play, one that your daughter is clearly winning if she’s shrugging off the threats.

A better approach, Cohen-Sandler said, is to prepare the lunch, set it somewhere prominent, and then go about getting yourself ready.

“As you’re ready to go out the door, ask in a cheerful voice, ‘Do you have everything you need today?’”

If she doesn’t, remind her to grab it. If she refuses, continue to walk out. No arguing, threats, cajoling. “If she doesn’t have her homework, she’ll experience the consequences. If she doesn’t have her lunch, she’s not going to starve. These are very low-risk consequences at this age.”

But the habits that are forming are important ones to break. “You need to enlist your child to think for herself,” Cohen-Sandler said. “Make this her problem instead of your problem.”