By Randy Cale, PH.D
Parents frequently complain that their kids have to have “the last word.” We all know what this sounds like, and it can be remarkably frustrating to try to get kids out of this pattern, but here’s how:
1. Let them have “the last word.”
That’s right. Unless you are prepared to put duct tape over your child’s mouth when they keep talking, you can’t really stop them from having the last word. Instead of trying to control this behavior, they need to learn that it’s not really worth it. But, first you have to start in your own head. You have to get clear that you are willing to allow them to have the last word (for now!) and then determine what to do in order to teach them that it is not the wisest choice.
In order to do that, it is essential that…
2. You give no attention to “the last word!”
Once you have said “no,” or given feedback, or made a request, there is no need to explain yourself. You don’t have to justify your decision or repeat it—even if the last word is coming from your child’s lips. Give no energy to “the last word.” Don’t give it a look, a sigh or a verbal explanation. Give it no attention. Just walk away and leave them talking to the wind!
After a week or two, when you have stopped investing in “the last word” your kids will too. Once you break this desire (on your part) for the last word, you now have a choice to walk away from most of the small stuff.
But, there are times when you are trying to teach important lessons. In those situations, focus your parenting on….
3. Teaching with powerful actions—not repeated words!
Action on your part will teach where your words will not. If you say, “No, you can’t go to Jack’s house” and your son just keeps asking “Why,?” just walk away. Your action doesn’t mean your son will stop right away; it just means that you have now set the conditions where there is no “return” for the argument.
Or perhaps your 12-year-old is starting to talk back when you ask her to pick up her room. She says, “I’ll do it later.” You say, “Please take care of it now.” She says, “I don’t want to. Nobody else has to clean up on Saturday morning.”
Rather than getting into a useless verbal struggle, just keep my Rule of Responsibility in mind: No fun…until your work is done! Once this rule is in place, you know exactly what action you need to take—you just wait her out. No computer. No phone. No TV. No friends…until her room is clean.
If you pause for a moment, you may begin to realize how often you can use this simple principle to teach the critical lessons you want to teach. It is particularly useful when you need to wait out “the last word.”
This is a critical lesson. We don’t teach limits on behavior with lots of words, or lots of yelling or screaming, or threats or negotiations. We don’t teach it with dirty looks, threatened consequences, or attempts to induce guilt or fear. When we throw our energy into what we don’t want, things only get worse. Instead, be more action oriented. Either walk away (this works for most of the insignificant stuff) or stick to the Responsibility Rule. Magical things start to happen when you apply these simple ideas.
Dr. Randy Cale, a Clifton Park based parenting expert, author, speaker and licensed psychologist, offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. Dr. Cale’s new website, www.TerrificParenting.com offers valuable free parenting information and an e-mail newsletter.