PARENTS

This Is The One Time When Parents Should Mind Their Own Business

Step way back.

09/22/2017 13:52 EDT | Updated 09/22/2017 16:53 EDT
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Imagine your child comes up to you bawling, "Mommy! Daddy yelled at me and told me he was going to sell my bike because I left it on the driveway!"

You comfort them, get them to tell you what happened, and inevitably get angry with your significant other for how they chose to deal with your child.

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"Let me talk with your father," you might say. "Believe me, he will not sell your bike, and he should never have raised his voice at you."

Doesn't that sound like the appropriate response? I will argue it is not. In fact, you have unfortunately just crossed a line and have committed what we term in psychobabble as "triangulation." In other words, you just got caught putting your nose where it doesn't belong.

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When there is a rift between two people and another person becomes involved you are creating a relationship triangle that is unhealthy. This triangle has roles associated with each person: the victim (in this case, the child), the persecuted (Dad, who feels he is right) and the rescuer (Mom, who protects the victim by controlling the situation by being the nice guy).

When there is a rift between two people and another person becomes involved you are creating a relationship triangle that is unhealthy.

What happened here is the child tattled on their dad, Mom fought the child's battles for them, and Dad is sent to the dog house. This threesome dynamic can play out in other relationships your child has, such as with siblings, grandparents, coaches, nannies, tutors, and teachers.

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Now, I know that alarm bells are ringing for some of you. We are taught that to be good parents we need to protect our children and to advocate for them. Sometimes the power balance in a relationship is too skewed and a parent must step in, right?

I agree. But those situations are few and far between. Parents get very involved in stuff that doesn't require their assistance all the time.

Parents get very involved in stuff that doesn't require their assistance all the time.

So how is a parent to know what to do with all this new intel that is probably throwing them for a loop? Let's take a look at action steps you can make that ensures you're parenting effectively rather than failing to mind your own business.

Ask yourself, 'Who owns the problem?'

Before you jump in, take a moment to do an inventory of the situation. Can you recognize who owns the problem? Dad has a problem with his child for leaving the bike on the driveway. The child has a problem with their dad about how he yelled and punished them. Mom has a problem with how Dad is parenting. Can you see those distinct situations?

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Recognize what actions you can take that pertain to your problem only

Mom can talk to Dad about his parenting since that is her problem. However, the content and outcome of that discussion should, in no way, solve the problem between child and father.

When the child opted to leave their bike in the wrong place, they set themselves up to experience the wrath of an unreasonable and punitive father.

Mom can talk to Dad about his parenting since that is her problem. However, the content and outcome of that discussion should, in no way, solve the problem between child and father.

Regardless of how we feel about the appropriateness of Dad's response, the important point is that the child knows full well what sets their father off. If the child wants their dad not to yell at them and to prevent their dad from selling the bike, they need to be made aware of what they can do to change the situation.

We as parents are serving our children best by teaching them about the empowerment and agency they have to make choices for themselves.

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Have faith in others

Our own need to rescue others should be re-framed for what it really is: a big vote of non-confidence in others to manage the situation.

Our assessment of children is that they can't be confronted with an angry parent, an explosive sibling, an autocratic teacher, a demanding coach, or an old fashioned grandparent. But it's not true!

Our own need to rescue others should be re-framed for what it really is: a big vote of non-confidence in others to manage the situation.

We must open our eyes and become aware that kids are part of the dynamic they co-create with others. Left to their own devises, you will see that they are very capable of making a variety of different choices to stay out of trouble with others, regardless of how outraged the other person is.

Coaching is not rescuing

If you have been stepping in and solving life's challenges for your children and rescuing them from their conflict with others, they may indeed be missing out on the opportunity to discover what some alternative choices might be to help situations go differently.

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A parent can help their child see their part in the problem and help them explore ways to avoid the problem in the future. For example, Mom could have hugged her child and said, "I am sorry you are upset. What might you do differently in the future to avoid getting your dad so upset that he acts unreasonably?"

This is not placing the blame on the child, but merely pointing out their agency in making life unfold differently. The same goes for siblings; if your sister is bugging you, you could choose to walk away, laugh it off, include her in the game, etc.

This is not placing the blame on the child, but merely pointing out their agency in making life unfold differently.

Of course, I always recommend to parents that they discuss their parenting strategies and tactics together, but side conversations to help you get on the same page are different than intruding into a dynamic that's underway.

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