You’re standing at the bottom of the stairs with your face tilted up towards the second floor. You’ve been standing like that for about 20 seconds, thinking about your next move (………). It’s time for your son to be done with his computer time and move on to his homework. Even before you say the words, you know what the reaction is going to be. There will definitely be huffing and puffing as well as an exasperated tone of voice and perhaps even a yell in your direction. The prerequisite warnings have been given, but they don’t seem to alleviate the resistant response of this particular request. You consider for another 20 seconds and then retreat to the kitchen. Another few minutes of peace won’t hurt anyone, right?
Confrontation can be defined as “coming face to face with” or a clash of ideas. It can also be defined as a conflict involving armed forces (which some parents may agree has seemingly happened in their houses). While many of us have a negative association with the word “confrontation,” confronting a problem is one of the best ways to solve it.
Parents have to decide every day what confrontations they are going to take part in with their children. For the parent whose son is still using the computer, that confrontation has probably been deferred but has not disappeared. So when and how should that parent proceed?
I know. That doesn’t help you when you’re already in the dreaded situation, but laying the groundwork for a different kind of “confrontation” is the best way to avoid the current one. Therefore, if you say that he has 15 minutes on the computer, make sure that it’s only 15 minutes. Don’t raise your voice about it or predict the fight that you’re going to have when you tell him it’s time to be done. Just remind him of the time limit, giving warnings if you like or setting a timer (yes!), and then let him go.
If he gets used to the time limit or the fact that you actually mean what you say, chances are good that your negative confrontations will decrease. He’ll think, “Mom said 15 minutes and that always means 15 minutes, so I guess I should just be ok with my 15 minutes. Argh.”
2. Don’t show fear in the face of a possible confrontation!:
Don’t yell at him to get off. Do tell him calmly that it’s time. Don’t avoid it because of the negative response you might receive. Do gird yourself with options should you get a negative response. Don’t continue to tell him that it’s time if he is ignoring your request. Do tell him once without any addendum, if another request is required then move on to #3!
3. Have a consequence prepared if your request is ignored or met with disrespect:
So, you’ve asked him to be done with the computer (after his allotted time is up) and he starts blustering at you. Explain to him calmly that if he raises his voice at you his computer time for the next day will be cut in half. Or if the problem is that he is ignoring your request, let him know (again calmly) that if he does not stop his computer usage, then he will not be able to use it at all the next day. If he then complies, but is angry with you, simply remove yourself from the situation. Try to avoid encouraging disrespectfulness with an argument. He’s allowed to be angry so long as he’s not yelling at you.
If all of this works and you get really good at confronting problems, maybe your children will see that they too are capable of being brave in the face of a little fuss. Then you might be able to confront those problems together! Huzzah!