Punishing vs Collaborating
I’m grateful to my readers! A number of parents responded to the last newsletter, concerned that punishment was not mentioned in collaborating. What should they do to Jane when she blows off her homework and fails History; or to Rachel when bedtime becomes a hassle again; or to Nick who has already missed the bus twice. What will the consequences be for not following through on the collaborated agreement?
These are valid questions. Things don’t always go as planned. Life is sticky and complicated and unpredictable. Just when you were feeling confident, a disruption occurs.
It’s tempting to revert to the old hierarchy system of you being the expert parent issuing directives to the imperfect child. Being punitive and authoritarian sounds good and feels familiar. But you already know they result in power struggles, push back, and emotional fall out. And, you are perceived as the bad guy.
As I see it, every consequence must correlate 100% to obtaining the desired behavior. It must be a learning opportunity. Does taking Nick’s phone away or grounding him guarantee that he will not miss the bus again? No, it narrows his focus on keeping his phone and freedom. The big picture is that you want Nick to develop the habits of being punctual and responsible.
So, when Nick misses the bus, it’s time to revisit the agreement. You’re not letting him off the hook when you invite him to start fresh. You are shifting the energy from his failure to you two solving the problem together. As you collaborate be curious about what the blocks were, what else needs to be considered, and what he needs from you and himself. Together you’ll create a new agreement that may not need maintenance!
All the best to you. I’m here if you need help.