Passing the Test


“Your child is testing you to see that you are stable and consistent.  He wants you to pass” – Hal Runkel, ScreamFree Parenting

I was working with a mom recently who was struggling with finding solutions to the perpetual behavior with her son who was recently diagnosed with ADHD persistently displayed.  As our conversation developed she had one of those ‘AHA’ moments.  I love when these happen!

She was sharing with me situations that happened over and over again, each day that never seemed to change.  The constant badgering when she would give an answer that her son did not like – you know that relentless conversation that they  continue in order to try to get you to break and change your mind.  She didn’t understand why it continued, why her son felt the need to be disrespectful and argue or try to blame her for his choices.

As we dug a little deeper into these situations, I asked a very poignant question……

“How does your husband respond to these same situations?”

She stopped, thought for a moment and said, “Well, when he says no to something, my son stops.  He knows that he means it.”

So I asked her why she felt her son would continue to badger her and not accept her answer as the final answer.  She determined that she was the biggest part of the problem, she had made a habit of continuing to defend her position, rationalize her decision to him and also felt she could reason with him.  All which ended up continuing an engagement with him that created very negative patterns of behavior.

Her ‘Aha’ moment is one that many of us can take ownership of as well.  Even me!  I admit, I have become quite clever in my responses and ways to navigate myself out of engagements with my children when the continued conversation will amount to nothing but a negative outcome.

Let me share with you some ways to help you overcome to tendency to respond and engage with our kids when it proves to be incredibility damaging to the relationship.

Your Final Answer

Do you really have a final answer?  Does your child know that when you say no to something or ask them to do a task that it is an answer and not a beginning of a discussion?  So often we find ourselves entering into these long discussions or reasons of why we are answering the way we are or making the request.  This creates a sense of uncertainty in our children when we constantly have to give them a reason or back up what we say.


I love having this tool as an option in my mom toolbelt.  Kids are just like grownups in a lot of ways, they don’t like always being told exactly what to do and when to do it.  Yes, there are times when we are the parents and there are no choices or options, but when you can find times to give those options, things will work out much smoother.  There are many ways this can look but I will share a recent example of how I used this in our home.  My kids know that on certain days they are to bring down their laundry before they leave for school.  I am happy to do their laundry as long they do their part, which is to have it in the laundry room before they leave.

There are times when time begins to run short in the morning because of their choice to waste time being unproductive and they want to try to negotiate their way into a different arrangement with the laundry.  When this happens, I have one response and it allows them to make a choice rather than for us to get into an argument about the amount of time left, that they will miss the bus or _______________  (you name it!).  I say this:

“No worries if you don’t have it down, you can just do your own laundry after school.” 

They know that they now have a choice to make, either stop the nonsense and get the job taken care of, or they will be using a lot more of their free time doing their own laundry.  You see, they still have a choice, I am not insisting they bring it down.  I do not get anxious about them missing the bus if they don’t hurry.  It is their choice.  I do not respond to any other comments from them after I have shared what will happen if the laundry does not make it down.  I do not engage.

This gives a clear message that I am not open to negotiating, which leads me to the next tip

Ban Negotiations

There are certain times to initiate negotiations with your children and it can often have really good results with older children, but until you have established very clear boundaries with your children it is best to steer clear of doing any type of negotiating.  If you begin to fall into the trap of having to negotiate new terms to requests or answers to their requests you are setting yourself up for never being taken at face value.  Your child begins to know that they can put the request in their own terms or negotiate a different answer about spending the night at their friends on a school night.

When I sense that a negotiation is about to begin, or my child is starting to come up with their own terms to comply – this is my new favorite response which puts an end to it immediately, “This is not a discussion.”  If they continue, I will stop what I am doing, look them directly in the eye and state the same thing.  If they continue to badger me, they are asked to leave the room.

If you are having patterns that continue to repeat themselves in your home and they involve you – that might be the answer to the problem.  You see we tend to look elsewhere to blame or find fault in negative and stressful behavior, but if we truly examine situations we often find that it is our continued behavior in situations that continue these annoying patterns.

Just as with the mom I was talking about at the beginning of this post – she clearly saw that her child knew he could continue to engage with her because she allowed it.  Actually she was almost encouraging it and inviting him to do it because she had not changed her behavior.

She was the biggest part of the problem.

The good news is when you are the biggest part of the problem, you have the power and control to change and you do not have to rely on the other person.  That is one of the main principles which give hope to moms who journey through the Becoming a Calm, Cool and Confident Mom Online Coaching Series.   Realizing you do not have to wait for someone else to change is freeing and puts hope back into the future.

Yes, change is hard – but it is a lot easier to change yourself than wait for someone else to change!

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