The stress and strain that we have all been through over the past year or so has taken a toll on our patience and tolerance with our kids. We hear this reflected in calls from parents who ask for help with their disobedient kids. These parents often tell us that their kids will not obey their orders or demands, no matter what they say or how they say it.
Barking orders and making demands are characteristic behaviors of drill sergeant parents—these are parents who try to command and direct the lives of their children. A drill sergeant parent implies, “You can’t think. I have to do your thinking for you.” They tend to avoid giving children opportunities to make decisions on their own so they can learn from their mistakes.
Drill sergeant parents are easily recognized, even in profile. They’re the ones with the jutting jaws, ramrod spines, and admonishing index fingers. They’re also known by the familiar word sequence, “I don’t care how you feel. I want it done, and I want it done NOW!”
I know those words well. Growing up, I did a lot of saluting to them. When my father said those words, I jumped up and did it, whatever it was, right then. I swore I was never going to be like him.
My first words in a classroom and as a parent were those familiar words. Starting out I succeeded with not being like my father. I was a good helicopter instead. However, when I was stressed, strained, or running on automatic pilot with my children, every time I opened my mouth, my dad popped out. Let’s look at an example of a drill sergeant mother and a solution for her.
Crossing the Line
Tony's mom has had it. She's tired of waiting for him to empty the dishwasher.
"I’m tired of this," she yells. "Get in there and take care of your job and do it this minute! And I mean it this time!"
In Tony's mind, his mom crossed the line between allowing him to feel some control over the situation to not letting him have any control. Typical kids, at this point, will try to regain control, and when they do, it’s not a pretty situation.
"Yeah, you can forget it," he screams. "You can't tell me what to do. I'm not your slave!" Here, Mom used fighting words as she tried to take total control. Tony retaliated by escalating the fight.
Use Thinking Words Instead
We create thinking words when we tell others what we are going to do. We create fighting words when we tell others what they are going to do. After learning the difference between fighting words and thinking words at her Love and Logic class, Mom tried a different approach.
As it was getting close to the time when Tony needed to be taken to his soccer game, his mom told him, “Tony, I'll be driving you to your soccer game when you've got the carpet vacuumed.”
Tony responded as he usually did by saying, “I'll do it later, Mom. I've got to get my equipment ready.” She simply replied, "No problem, Tony."
This caught him off guard and he asked, "What do you mean, no problem?" Mom turned and walked away.
When she reported the results to her class, she said, "A few minutes later I heard the vacuum running. I didn't recognize it because that was the first time I ever heard it from a distance. It was at that point I knew my life was changing for the better and that my son was learning to accept responsibility."
Love and Logic believes that being consultant parents is the best way to help kids learn how to make responsible decisions in their lives. Our MP3 audio, Helicopters, Drill Sergeants and Consultants, has more insights for how Love and Logic can help you become a consultant parent.
Thanks for reading!