The growth equation that most children and adolescents tend to ignore, but which parents are ever mindful is NOW = LATER. What this means is that how the child is learning to act now, in the present, is how he or she is likely to act later on the future. Human beings are not simply creatures of habit, they are captives of habit, much of what they do based on what they have done before. Thus parents want to help the child learn good habits now that will well serve their son or daughter later on. Therefore, when the teenager, in frustration with parental opposition, uses name-calling and threats to deal with the conflict, they understand that by allowing such tactics now they will encourage the young person to resort to such destructive strategies in other significant relationships later on. So they say: "Before we discuss this matter any further, we need to talk about your manner of communication. The first rule in family conflict is safety, and you are violating that right now by using deliberately hurtful words and making threats. If we let you act that way in conflict with us now we are only preparing you to conduct conflict this way with with others later on. You could damage a future caring relationship if you acted like this. So,if you are feeling frustrated with us, then talk to us about it instead of acting that frustration out in hurtful ways."
Finally, it is useful for parents to engage in OUTCOME-BASED PLANNING as they prepare their child for the future. For example, around the issue of responsibility, parents can can ask themselves this question:"When our child graduates from our care into independence, what specific knowledge and skills will he or she need to support adult responsibilities?" Then list out all the knowledge and skills required for a responsible independence and ask a second question. "At what age of our child do we want to start teaching these later requirements?" By specifying later outcomes, parents can decide on what training and preparation they should be giving now.
Copyright 2001 Carl Pickhardt Ph.D. All rights reserved. For permission to use, contact author.
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