Changing From Direct To Indirect Control
The change from direct to indirect control can also influence the way parents discipline their teenagers. So many opinions exist on the issue of discipline that many parents often don’t know which way to turn. For example, some schools of thought suggest a “tough love” approach while others advise parents to befriend their children. So where does the answer lie? Let’s take a look at a common scenario that happens to parents whether their teenagers are at risk or not.
You come home from a long day of work or have had a stressful day at home with your younger children. Your teenager comes home and tells you that she failed a test, and you know she didn’t do her homework. She also refuses to help you with laundry and tells you she is going directly to her room to play video games. To make the situation worse, she’s rude and doesn’t want to talk to you. So you start yelling at her, “What’s wrong with you? Why don’t you prepare for your tests? Look, no more video games, no more allowance … no more fun until you get your life together!”
Does this sound familiar? Look back at a time like this when you lost your temper and ask yourself if your yelling made a difference or if it was just a way of discharging your frustration and anger.
In general, the value of discipline can be measured only against the backdrop of the total parent-teenager relationship. If, for example, a parent is focused on a child’s inner needs and the discipline is carefully measured, then it may have a chance to affect the child in a positive way. If, however, discipline is a product of a parent’s frustration or embarrassment, then a teenager will immediately sense that the parent is merely releasing anger.
The relationship is always the key to wielding indirect control on a teenager at risk. Discipline, therefore, can only be used in direct proportion to the strength and quality of the relationship. If a parent has invested in developing the relationship with a teenager, then, when discipline is needed, the child will view it as an extension of the parent’s love and concern. If, however, a parent hasn’t taken the time to invest in the relationship, then discipline is like throwing gasoline onto a burning flame of juvenile anger and disappointment.
Parents who are stuck fighting with their teenagers about their behavior can feel as if they are on a conveyor belt that never stops moving. To change that situation, I suggest shifting parenting into “relationship mode” and creating a supportive environment where teenagers are able “to explore their experiences openly and to reach resolution of their own problems.”
In Part 11 we will take a look at how this worked in the case of a boy whose parents where fighting with him about how he dressed.
Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, MA, is the Executive Director of Shalom Task Force and author of “At Risk – Never Beyond Reach” and “First Aid for Jewish Marriages.” To order a copy, visit www.JewishMarriageSupport.com. For more information about Shalom Task Force, please visit www.shalomtaskforce.org. You can e-mail questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.