So, here you are again. Your tween is asking to do something with her friends that makes you hesitate. On the one hand, you want to let her have freedom, but on the other, you struggle with just how much.
The conversation always goes something like this:
Your child: Mom, can I go see the midnight showing of Breaking Dawn with my friends?
You: No, you’re 11.
Your child: But… all my friends are doing it!
You: (exasperated sigh)
You certainly don’t want to let her do something just because she says every single one of her friends is doing it. So how do you say no without sounding — and feeling — like the bad guy?
It’s time to give you a new response to the seven most exhausting words on the planet.
Start by listening and keeping an open mind
No matter what your tween’s request may be — whether she’s asking your permission to see an R-rated movie or to go a to mall at night without a chaperone — resist the urge to shut her down immediately. Clinical psychologist Robyne Diller says it’s important to make your tween feel heard. “In counseling parents of adolescents, I always advocate for listening to the child and to keep an open mind.”
So, should you give your tween your full attention even if the movie she wants to see has nudity and bad language in it? Yes. Find out why she wants to go. Talk to her about how she thinks she’s going to feel after seeing the scenes in that movie. Is she sacrificing her own values just so she can hang with “all her friends?” Even when you ultimately tell her “no,” you will have had an important discussion with her, one that will hopefully lead to even better communication down the road.
You can compromise
Even if you’re not supportive of what your tween is asking to do, your answer doesn’t have to be an unequivocal no. Your tween’s request can also be tweaked to resemble a circumstance you are more comfortable with. Robert Nickell, of the DaddyScrubs blog suggests taking a look at the situation to see if compromise is an option. “For example, would you be comfortable having your child go somewhere if parents went along to supervise,” offers Nickell.
But if there is no way to compromise (the nudity in that movie isn’t going to magically disappear), Nickell says to explain to your child that the reason you are saying no is not because you don’t trust him, but because it’s your responsibility to protect him. Those words really will go a long way with your tween.
Don’t go into lecture mode
As parents, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of preaching to your kids. And while you may feel what your tween says his friends are planning to do is inappropriate!… Outlandish! And don’t forget… Unacceptable!… be careful not to get up on your high horse about it.
Joani Geltman, a clinical social worker, says that what your child wants most is to be understood and not judged. “Most parents, when confronted by this situation go into lecture mode: ‘Well I am not other parents, and these are our rules, blah blah blah.’ Most teens will have stopped listening at the word, Well.”
“In this situation a parent might say: ‘I get how disappointed and pissed you are at us. We get how hard it must be for you to see your friends go off and do something we don’t feel is safe. We are sorry that this can’t work out for you.‘ No raised voices, no lecturing, just understanding,” adds Geltman.