For those lucky enough to have grown up in a home with both parents, we may have been exposed to one parent who is gentle and kind and the other being rigid and uncompromising. This balance seems to have worked to raise children for generations somewhat successfully. However, the flaws of this approach are apparent, namely that both parents in this arrangement end up feeling unsupported and the kids learn that you can only be one way or the other.  Either your are understanding or you are firm.  This pattern is then repeated when they have children and so it continues.

As with anything, it is balance that we should seek to find. I will often point to the principle of finding balance as it is foundational in anything we choose to do.  There is a balanced way to address our kids that shows both compassion and firmness.  And why, you may ask, are more parents not doing this? Two reasons: 1. People repeat the patterns they know, so if this is how their parents were, you can bet they will be the same way and 2. It’s hard to strike a balance between these two values.  This is because a parent is now responsible for both withholding what their child wants and empathizing about how hard it must be not to have it.  Sound cruel?  It can be, when done with malice.  When done with love, a parent is able to vulnerably show their child the hurt they (the parent) feel by not giving them what they want while calmly remaining firm on the boundary.  This creates safety for the child and teaches them the lesson that actions have consequences.  They may not now, but someday they will appreciate this, both for how it positively molded them and how difficult it was.

For an example, I’ll point to the idea of privileges.  As kids, our parents give us things with the understanding that, if we don’t abide by the rules of the house, we will lose them.  This is a great system as it replicates the adult world (jobs/relationships) and trains us with an understanding of how this might work in the future.  So, when given the most coveted privilege of adolescence, the cell phone, many young people are thrilled.  In the event that major rules are broken, however, this privilege may be taken away.  To be balanced in your approach, calmly bring up with your child that a significant rule has been broken and, as a result, you will be taking away their phone for a specified amount of time.  Are they yelling? Telling you that they hate you?  Screaming that they are going to run away?  Calmly let them know that you know this is a bummer for them and that they can earn the phone back in no time by making the choice to follow the rules.  They won’t give it to you?  Let them know you’ll shut off service, change the Wi-Fi password and that each day they keep it adds two days to the amount of time it will be taken away.  Do this with respect of the fact that you are taking away their most prized possession.  Don’t belittle their relationship with their phone and don’t threaten more time for yelling or being upset.  Let them know that you understand why they are upset and that you still have to take away the phone.  Do this consistently and your child may begin to feel safe enough to display their deepest emotions with you instead of at you.