Don’t Sweat the Big Stuff (Even When It Is)

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Don’t Sweat the Big Stuff (Even When It Is)
© Anne Geller

Has your older child or burgeoning adolescent ever done something you knew, as a responsible parent, you absolutely had to do something about, but that particular behavior of your offspring so confused, irritated or even enraged you that you couldn’t come up with what exactly the correct parental response should be? Something like sneak out his window after dark, or take some money from your wallet and have no memory of the event?

These are the moments when the immediate logical response, the only one we think is reasonable at the time, runs along the lines of "If you think you can do that and live under this roof you’ve got another thing coming Missy" or "You’re never leaving the house again!" (We do tend to go to one extreme or the other, don’t we?).

Of course, we don’t mean what we say and we end up feeling terribly guilty, deciding we are the worst parent that ever walked the face of the earth (although we would never tell THEM that!). Our children or, more often in these times, our hormone-driven charges end up feeling about the size of a pea. (By the way, a sure-fire way to a provoke a power struggle is to make your child feel the size of a pea.)

Anyway, it doesn’t work.

Here’s a simple second option.

Next time you find the delight of your life, the one who made your world complete (after your spouse or partner, of course) does something that makes you want to chain her to the kitchen table, try these three easy steps:

Take a deep breath.
Say the following words (or a close adaptation of these words): "This is not acceptable, I don’t know what I’m going to do about it, I’m really going to have to think this through."

Walk away
Although this response might appear to represent the epitome of parental ignorance, ask yourself this, "Who’s thinking now?" You can bet you aren’t the only one. You now have time to consider a truly appropriate course of action and you haven’t emotionally damaged the fragile psyche of your nemesis. It’s okay if you have a sense of glee over the internal struggle and turmoil you have created for your loved one, you deserve at least that for your years of service.

For more great ideas about parenting children and adolescents, check out Parenting with Love and Logic, by Foster Cline and Jim Fay. I don’t recommend this book for parenting strategies for children five and under, but I think anyone with older children and adolescents will find something they can use in Love and Logic.

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