This is how I started my response in a local moms Facebook group, the second time in a week I was moved to respond to a post.
In this case, a mother was seeking advice for consequences for her 14-year-old daughter, who was failing her classes and spending a lot of time on her phone. She also mentioned that her daughter was smart and raged when she offered to get her a tutor.
Let’s just say I was CRINGING reading the comments. Literally. It was painful.
“Girl, snatch that phone up and put your foot down…Disrespectful behavior to a parent should never be tolerated especially not at 14…Raging mad?!? No way. You can’t let her get away with that.”
“I’d take the phone away. You are the parent, don’t let her control or scare you.”
“Remember ur the adult you’re the boss not her, she doesn’t get a say. Sounds like she needs some tough love.”
“Simple. Take away the phone. Problem solved! If she is capable of a passing grade she will definitely get one without a phone.”
“Well I’m an ahole parent and if I had to I’d get a landline. You bet your buns I’d take the phone away. It’s not your fault she’s taken advantage of your kindness.”
I think you get the idea.
I know these parents meant well and were trying to help. Heck – a decade ago I may have given similar advice. And, if your initial thought matched the comments above, it’s completely understandable. Most of us were raised with “traditional” parenting — the idea that “good” kids listen, and “good” parents make their children listen — so these reactions make sense.
But I’ve since learned – a lot. And once you experience that lens change, you can’t go back.
Here are a few things that stood out to me:
- The intensity of many of these responses. The moms sound like they’re getting ready for battle. Proud to be “aholes” and lay on the tough love. Bringing this energy to the situation is more likely to escalate, rather than solve the problem.
- The focus on control/compliance. Trying to control anyone but ourselves is a futile exercise that will just create more exasperation.
- The idea that simply taking a phone away will solve the problem – I mean if parenting was that easy…
- The shared belief that the child is pulling one over on the parent and taking advantage of the parent. No consideration that maybe the child is struggling with something else and isn’t trying to be disrespectful or ungrateful.
So here’s how I saw it:
- I saw the phone as a symptom of the problem, not the actual problem. It didn’t make sense, a smart child failing all her classes? Even if she just showed up to class and did the minimum, she most likely wouldn’t be failing. Taking the phone away won’t address the real issue she’s having and it’s not likely to make a difference in improving her grades.
- “Smart” doesn’t mean a child has all the tools they need to do well and meet expectations. Was she overwhelmed? Unhappy at school? Dealing with bullying? Is she a perfectionist that’s afraid of failing and is self-sabotaging? Are her parents pressuring her and she’s rebelling? Does she have a learning disability? Is she being bullied for being smart and is trying change her image?
- The thoughts the parents were having about the situation (that the child was disrespectful, making a choice to not do her homework, etc.), created intense (and very negative) emotions which would fuel the actions they would take. If the parents reframed their thoughts to “this child is struggling” or “this child must feel terrible to be failing all her classes” they would instead experience compassion, and their actions would be more focused on helping and guiding the child.
This story illustrates one of the many reasons that I decided to create a parenting membership. It kills me when I go into these groups and see well-meaning, but ill-advised responses. And sometimes the parents get quite heated, especially when their traditional parenting values are questioned.
I wanted to create a safe, non-judgmental parenting space, where parents know they are getting tools, strategies, and feedback consistent with the way they want to parent. Where imperfection is celebrated and like-minded parents support, encourage, and share ideas with each other as they work through their individual parenting challenges.
Want to learn more about the Flipped Parenting Membership? Click here to learn more.