Two parenting experts suggest some good replies...
“I’m sick of this family!”
“Everyone else is doing it!”
“I wish you weren’t my parents!”
What parent hasn’t heard these or similar words as the result of their adolescent’s major (or minor) frustrations? They’re words that hurt a father’s or mother’s heart at the time, but that can be avoided or mitigated if we try to explain to the child that we are acting first and foremost for his or her own good. But how can we make them aware of this? Answers from Bernadette Lemoine and Diane de Bodman, experts and authors on parenting, have a few suggestions (taken from their book in French Trouver les mots qui font grandir pour les aider à s’épanouir, “Finding the words that make them grow and help them flourish”).
“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”
“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,” as the saying goes. But it’s only an illusion. No family is perfect. If your child keeps praising the luck and merits of his or her classmates, remind him or her that from the outside, it is always easier to see the positive side of things than the negative ones: “Often, in your own family, you only see what’s wrong, what’s missing… In other families, on the other hand, you see what they have, what they are allowed to do…”
Explain that families have different ways of life, highlight the positive aspects of your own family’s way of doing things, and insist that you can’t have it all: “You tell me about this family that has been traveling around the world for a year. It’s beautiful and they’ve made a lot of discoveries. You, meanwhile, were able to continue to enjoy being with your grandparents/cousins, make new friends at school/basketball/dance…”
“It’s what’s best for you”
Between the ages of 8 and 13, “children haven’t understood yet that frustration is a part of life, and doesn’t prevent them from being happy,” say Bernadette Lemoine and Diane de Bodman. Hence the need to take the time to explain your parenting choices to them, rather than closing a claim with a dry, “because I said so!”
Whether it’s about limiting their smartphone use, imposing a curfew, or insisting that a child eat fruit, Lemoine and de Bodman propose saying something like: “Do you think we’re doing it this way just to annoy you? We’re aware that it’s difficult for you, or that it bothers you, but we know from experience that it’s what’s best for you.”
Another solution is to invite your child to see it from your perspective: “Imagine being the father/mother of a child who asks you to do this. You love them, you want the best for them: what would you do? What would you say to them?”
Knowing how to question yourself
While it’s important, in the short term, to remain firm once you’ve made a decision, you don’t necessarily have to remain immovable indefinitely. Parenting choices can change. “We should have the creativity (and humility) to be inspired by what works in other families. Children learn a lot by seeing adults reflecting and being able to question themselves,” Lemoine and Bodman point out. For example, by saying: “I understand where you’re coming from, and your mother/father and I will think about it.”