I just got a call from a frustrated friend. Her eight-year-old daughter Peggy refuses all her mother’s suggestions for lunch at school. Peggy doesn’t want to eat hot lunch; she hates sandwiches of all kinds, she doesn’t want to take meat rollups. Mother and daughter ended up yelling at each other, and Peggy stomped out to the back yard to play.
Mom feels hopeless. “Everyone needs to eat,” she says. “Kids spend a lot of energy at school. They need to refuel at lunch time.”
Mom and Peggy are locked in a power struggle. What is to be done?
Whenever a parent finds themselves in a power struggle with a child, withdraw. What does that mean? It means to stop trying to impose your will.
There are several things in a child’s life that they can take care of themselves as they grow up:
So how does a parent allow a child responsibility for themselves?
1. Share the problem with your child.
2. Talk about the general principle you want the child to learn.
3. Brainstorm solutions.
4. Write down all the suggestions—both yours and your child’s.
5. Decide together on a plan.
6. Turn the plan into action.
7. Revisit the problem with steps 1 through 6 until you find solution.
As Mom and I talked, she decided that she could share the problem with Peggy. Growing kids need lots of energy, and lunch is a great time to refuel. Then she could ask Peggy to suggest all the possible healthy foods she would be willing to eat for lunch. They can set the week’s menu and go to the store to buy the food together. Peggy can get her lunch ready and refrigerate it the night before. It make take a few tries to find the plan both she and Peggy can live with. But that’s okay.
All life is a learning process.
What if Peggy forgets her lunch or refuses to eat at school? She can eat when she gets home from school, and it will be a great time for Mom to visit with Peggy while she has a late lunch.
Look at the great skills Peggy will be learning. These general rules apply to all of us. Everyone from business owners to educators can use steps 1 – 7 to keep their companies and classrooms running smoothly.
My friend decided that Peggy’s problem was really a blessing in her life because it gave her the opportunity to teach correct principles and allow Peggy to learn to govern herself.
Christy Monson, M.A., (retired) established a successful counseling practice in Las Vegas, Nevada, as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. www.christymonson.com