I worked with a 13 year old who learned he could manipulate his parents by “shutting down” and not talking any time he got upset because he didn’t get what he wanted. When he would do this his parents would go into an (unnecessary) mini panic mode and try to get him to talk. This could go on for hours at a time.
I suggested to the parents to leave him alone when he does this and he would eventually stop. I also suggested to not try to have a discussion every time he’s disappointed because he didn’t get what he wanted, rather let him deal with the disappointment and process it on his terms.
My takeaway for them: Their job was not to make him feel better because he didn’t get what he wanted. Life is full of disappointments and learning how to deal with disappointments and move past them is learning how to be flexible and develop resiliency.
When parents seek their children’s approval they disempower themselves and make themselves a much less effective parent as a result. All kids need consistent messaging and need to see their parents as powerful.
I worked with a family of a very active 8yo with ADHD. Whenever this boy would do something impulsively, say mean things, etc.. the parents would make him sit down and discuss the issue at length. This approach often set him off more. It was too much talk, too much rehashing events, too much processing feelings.
Because boys brains are wired differently than girls, they don’t use language as much. Boys don’t need to express feelings through articulating “feeling words”. Often, boys need 12-24 before they can process something in the past. Boys can’t process and articulate feelings on demand like girls do.
Here’s what is more effective:
-Change your expectations. Admitting wrongdoing, expressing empathy, labeling feelings are not necessary for him to understand the “bigger picture”.. This is a female-brain based approach that doesn’t work for boys.
-Go for a walk with your son or do something active in order to have a conversation. Instead of talking about feelings ask “what do you think about what happened yesterday?”
-Help him understand others’ thoughts/feelings based on his words/behavior. Don’t harp on this, just explain that his words/behavior has an effect on others and how others treat him based on how they feel about his words/behaviors.
Lets talk about how we can help you communicate more effectively with your son: www.ridethewavecounseling.com