Fifteen-year-old Marian was, for all practical purposes, an angel. She obeyed her parents, was responsible, and was an “all-around good kid.” She had earned the amount of trust that her parents had placed in her.
That’s why it was a shock when her Dad reached out to me for advice.
“We’ve learned that Marian has been hiding some things from us,” he told me. “It could just be teenage rebellion, but we’re concerned about what could be behind it. On one hand, I want to confront her about it, but, I also don’t want her to shut down. I’m afraid pushing her too hard may make her shut down and that could be the worst thing for her in this situation.”
My advice was simple. Demonstrate, through the way you approach the situation, just how serious this is and just how much you love her. Do not let her doubt that you are intervening for her benefit. Show her that you would go a million miles to ensure that she stays out of trouble.
Quickly, we concocted a plan.
Within two hours, my friend was at his daughter’s school. He pulled Marian out of class and asked her to get any books she might need since she would not be coming back to school that day. He explained that a family emergency had come up and that he would explain more in the car.
Once in the car, he reminded Marian of his love for her and that there are some things that families have to deal with together. He told her that these things are more important than school and more important than the work meetings he had canceled. He explained that these things required the entire family to drop everything and support one another.
He then disclosed his discovery. He addressed it head-on and set the expectation that she was to disclose all of the details and motivations of the situation to him.
Over the course of the next three hours, my friend demonstrated extreme patience as he coaxed out of his daughter the full truth of the situation. His conversation was stern at points, but always compassionate. He poured his heart into the conversation and demonstrated that he would always love her. He affirmed her when she disclosed another tidbit of information and corrected her when she was caught in a lie. He listened to her perspective and was frank when she was wrong.
Sometimes it’s essential that you get your child’s attention. It’s important that they know that you mean business. In those situations, a dramatic action like pulling them out of school, canceling your own plans, and taking the time to have a deliberate, heartfelt, and honest conversation can be just what the doctor ordered.
As a parent, our job is not to be best friends with our kids. Our job is to protect them, love them, and guide them. Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not overlook wrongdoing, but it is slow to anger. Love is the perfect intersection of mercy and justice. It corrects what needs to be corrected in a way that builds up and promotes the person’s dignity.
With a little creativity you might be surprised by the “Shock and Awe” that you’re able to instill without even raising your voice.
What parenting techniques have you used to get your child’s attention?