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Relationship Maturity

Over the past 32 years of counseling parents and families I have heard hundreds of parents say: “My child isn’t responsible. What can I do to make my child more responsible?” Often these parents have punished their child when they have done wrong things. They have yelled, threatened and grounded their child but their child still is defiant, unmotivated or in some way not becoming more responsible with their life. Beyond the common parent approaches what else develops responsibility within children? My suggestion; create a healthy relationship beyond punishment. This is, a relationship that believes in the child while holding them accountable for their maturity in their experience. The following might be one kind of example of maturing responsibility.

Julie, age five, came to her Mom. “I’m bored.” “I’m sorry,” said Mom. “What are you going to do about that?” “I don’t know.” replied Julie. Mom asked, “Would you like a suggestion?” “Yeah, like what?” responded Julie. “Well,” said Mom, “some children mop floors or clean rooms for their parents.” What?” said Julie, “no way.” ‘Other children color, play with their dolls, how would that work?” responded Mom. “I don’t’ know,” Julie stated. Mom continued, “Well I’m certain you’ll figure it out, if you can’t, I’ll keep this mop handy for you.” “I’ll find something,” said Julie.

Someone might say that’s fine if the child wants something. But, what if a parent wants the child to do something and they won’t. Let’s visit another situation that develops maturity.

Julie, age five, is watching television. Mom comes to her and says, “It’s time to clean your room, now.” “Yeah, I will,” says Julie. Mom waits a minute or two and Julie remains in front of the television. Mom proceeds to the television and says, “It’s time to clean you room now, not later.” “But Mom, I want to watch this show,” snapped Julie. “I know,” responds Mom, “but it is time to turn off the television and clean your room.” At that Mom switches off the television, goes to Julie and in a calm secure voice says “Let’s get your room clean.” She then guides Julie by the shoulders in a calm secure manner as they proceed to the room. Julie doesn’t like it but Mom doesn’t get caught up in her daughter’s emotions. Mom sees what is needed for the situation and acts in a calm secure way to make it happen.

In the first situation, Mom had no real needs other than to help her daughter work through her own problems in order to mature. In the second situation Mom’s need was acted on in ways that caused maturity through actions causing her daughter to overcome Mom’s expectations.

Use your relationship wisely to help your child mature. Powerful effective relationship processes are more important than punishment in causing maturity in your child’s life.

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