Children lack power. They can control very little in their lives, until they get a license to drive and the keys to the car. So, when they don’t get choices, they seek power; they just find ways to push our buttons, in the hope that perhaps we will give them choices. You can’t blame them for wanting to have a little control over their lives. They are human (most of the time ☺), and humans by nature want freedom, even if it’s just a bit here and there. But when humans are backed into a corner and have no choices, they rebel. They find a way – any way – to get a little power, a little control, a little something that makes life more enjoyable for them.
“Children, quite naturally, find out that parents are defenseless against disrespect. Thus parents are terrified by it…So we need a way to manage ourselves so these guys will have no success in pushing our buttons, no matter which way they poke and prod our psyche…” (Loving Our Kids on Purpose by Danny Silk p.101)
Before you can give a child a choice, whether it’s in the classroom or in the car, you have to be in control of yourself. You cannot, must not, give children choices (power) because you are sick of hearing them whine and complain. Instead, you have to get yourself into neutral gear, not frazzled, fried, or frustrated. That’s easy to say, but what do you do when your child (or student) is angry and you are losing patience? You have to downshift. Decelerate.
“When your child wants to argue with you, these one-line phrases are your best friend. They are your sanity. They are a way for you to kick your brain into neutral while the other person is trying to drive you into the Crazy Ditch. They help you become sort of like a cloud, something that doesn’t react – something that cannot be controlled. When your kid is throwing a fit, it is absolutely the worst time to have a reasonable conversation with that person. Your child is absolutely emotionally wasted. Your child is not looking for solutions at this time; he or she is looking for victims. This is a good time to just be a cloud. Say, “I know. I’m sorry.” You are telling your child, ‘I am going to manage me while you struggle with you.’” (104-105)
To decelerate an argument, you have to stop lecturing and start giving very short responses to your child’s complaining, whining, worrying, and begging.