"Most parents love their children, but it is important that they not have an urgent need to be loved by them every minute of the day."Dr. Haim G. Ginott
There are a lot of gray areas in parenting and it's easy to become unsure of the decisions we make with our kids. Should I have said no? Is it easier to just give in and make my child "happy"? Children of all ages may sense our ambivalence and jump at the chance of either changing our minds, and/or making us feel bad for saying no or setting limits on their behavior. When a parent is fairly certain he has done the right thing for the right reasons, he does not get easily upset or feel like he has to defend his actions to his child. But what happens when a parent feels unsure of his decision? What happens when a parent thinks he must defend his decision to a child? Defensive parenting comes into play when somehow the parent is nervous or worried he has done something he should not have done. Defensiveness makes it hard to stay in control.
I'm thinking back to a time when my 11 year old son told me he and a group of 11 year old boys wanted to take the bus and go to the mall and hang out. I was 100% sure it wasn't going to happen. It is a parent's job to keep a child safe and I knew, for various reasons, this was not a safe good environment for my son. So, I told him exactly that. I acknowledged his feelings, I told him it sounded like he was really looking forward to going, he sounds excited. Then I added, it's my job to keep you safe, and 11 years old is not the right age to be hanging out at the mall. He wasn't thrilled but he could tell it was a red light for me and it wasn't going to happen. He called a friend and told him "my mother says no". That was that. Then the phone rang and it was another friend's mother. She said "I heard you said no to the mall." I said "Yep, it's not where my son should be right now." She said "Oh good. I couldn't say no to my son because he would get angry at me, but now I can tell him you said no, so it's not going to work out." Why was it so much easier for me to say no? I think it's because I had the confidence my decision was the right decision. Why did this mother have to defend her no by using me as an excuse? I think it was because her relationship with her son was different then my relationship with my son.
Dr. Haim Ginott, in his book Between Parent and Child, writes "Most parents love their children, but it is important that they not have an urgent need to be loved by them every minute of the day. Those who need children in order to derive justification for their marriage or significance for their lives are at a disadvantage. Afraid of losing their children's love, they dare not deny anything to their children, including control of the home. Sensing their parents hunger for love, children exploit it mercilessly. They become tyrants ruling over anxious servants."
Yes, not every decision you make will be the "right" decision, but you probably felt it was the right decision at the time. If you find yourself beginning to explain yourself with some long explanation and rationale behind your decision, STOP, take a break, breathe, exude confidence and say "I hear how much you want ice cream. I have decided too much sugar is not healthy." End of sentence. Use your feeling of defensiveness as a tool to improve your reaction. When you think about defending your decision to a child think "Why do I feel insecure about my decision? How does this child push my insecurity button?"
It's actually true in all relationships. When you are working to turn conflicts into collaboration, remaining non defensive is the single most important thing you can do to increase your effectiveness towards a positive outcome.