When Children Talk Back
The other day I was at a friend’s house for a visit. He has a small child who is maybe 7 or 8. It had been sometime since I last saw the little guy so I was intrigued to see him again (I love children.) However, what surprised me was the child’s attitude or at least the way he spoke to his parents. Perhaps what was most shocking to me was the way his parents reacted when he talked down to them. They didn’t address it; they chuckled to themselves and went on as if their child was just kidding. Except he isn’t kidding.
Over the years I have met many teens who treated their parent’s the same way. Now they were much older and bigger, they were master manipulators and out right defiant of their parent’s authority. By the teenage years the parents were alarmed and completely helpless. My young friends, these same teens, have gone to extremes, I have witnessed them cuss their parents, I have watched outright acts of willful disobedience and then later in life, when they are out of high school, I have seen these same young adults struggle to get along in the world. They struggle because they can’t get society to acquiesce to their selfish demands. Imagine that! Such behavior especially at a young age is both disturbing and completely unnecessary.
Parents who stay united in their decisions are going to have a much easier time of teaching their children discipline in the early years and therefore through their adolescence. When a child detects a divide in the support of the parents for each other they will take advantage of that breach. If either parent does not support the decisions of the other parent the message their child receives is simply that his parents are incompetent. You may be the cool parent, but your child also sees you as a pushover. Many therapists I have worked with over the years have stated that a child does not feel safe when he has no boundaries.
Most of the young people I have worked with had very few rules in their lives. As a matter of fact in most cases at very young ages they felt that they were equals their parents and spoke to their parent’s as if they were equal. The fact that they were children was not an obstacle to them. They were granted this distorted way of thinking by their parents, who allowed their children at early ages to talk to them and treat them as if they were buddies not authority figures. A lady once told me she didn’t want to be “mean” to her children and impose rules much less consequences on them. I asked her at what age she intended to begin setting rules and limits on her children then, because, after all, the world is full of rules and limits. She told me that she did know and said, “What is the worst that could happen?” My reply was simple, “They will have a hard time getting along in society. They will believe they are entitled to do as they please and along the way while do so they will break the law and pay the consequences for their decisions.” In her case both came true.