Rolling Blackout

As my children get older, they’re resisting my discipline with more intensity. Help!

How a child responds to a parent’s discipline is a prime indicator of how that child perceives the parent and his/her legitimate right to discipline. Tragically, in modern parenting, perhaps the majority of parents are not perceived by the majority of kids to have strong, confident authority.

So what can parents do to change a child’s perception and slowly re-establish themselves as the resolute, loving leaders of their home? Allow my wife to illustrate.

A few years back my son Andrew asked his mother, “Mom, what would you do if you told me to do something and I just refused” At age 15, a weightlifter and feeling a bit like a young stallion, he knew he was now physically the second strongest person in the house. (His 12-yearold sister was first.)

My wife responded, “Andrew, I’d have to shut you down. All of your privileges, activities, favorite foods and electronic goodies would cease until you cooperate willingly.”

Andrew’s move: “Well, what if you grounded me like that and I just walked out?” Check.

Randi’s response: “Oh, that’s different. Then I would do two things. First I’d cry because I love you so much. Then I would blow my nose and call the police.” Checkmate!

Many times I’ve written about a technique called “blackout.” Let’s say you assign your daughter a 500-word essay on respect in response to her nasty or disdainful tone. She responds with some version of, “Yeah, right. Like I’m going to do that.” You now have two options. One, find another consequence she’ll agree with and accept. (Good luck.) Two, show her that you are willing to stand even stronger. Implement blackout. Blackout is immediate cessation of all perks and privileges — except love, food and, okay, the bathroom — until you get the consequence you initially levied.

How will Bliss get to soccer practice? All her transportation is shut down until you get the essay — which is now longer, as she refused to accept your initial length.

Gone too are the phone, computer, television, radio, CD player. If she uses any of her possessions of entertainment, they are taken. For a time or forever? Your call. As for school, Bliss now has to pack her own lunch, as there is no money supply. It too is shut off. Even eating out is a privilege, so, though Bliss must go with you, she eats at home before you all leave.

All kids misbehave. Some kids misbehave a lot. But when a child blatantly challenges our parenting by refusing to accept legitimate discipline, he has dramatically intensified his misbehavior. This is where a parent has to be at her most confident and resolute. Blackout is one way to convey that you see defiance as a serious offense.

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