How to Stay Influential as a Parent

Isn’t it sad that our little ones, who once looked up to us as the role models, start to think of us as annoying as they grow up?

It’s frustrating that they would rather listen to their peers than us when we unquestionably have their best interest in heart.

At the first signs of losing influence over their children, many parents tend to increase the levels of strictness and control. Unfortunately, research shows that this has the exact opposite effect. Adolescents with parents who use coercive control are more likely to have problem behavior, school misconduct and substance abuse issues.

The solution is to use a more connection-based approach where kids are internally motivated to behave better and make the right choices, rather than act out of fear of punishment.

Here are 3 tips to create that kind of a relationship your teen and continue to stay influential in his or her life:

1. Choose your approach to discipline carefully

How you react when your child sneaks cookies from the cookie jar at five has a huge influence over whether he or she sneaks medicines from the medicine cabinet at fifteen under pressure from friends. 

Research has shown over and again that while punishment and strict parenting can temporarily curtail misbehavior, in the long run it leads to kids being less able to take responsibility and more likely to be rebellious and sneaky.

Instead of yelling at kids and punishing them for stealing cookies (or whatever else it is), use such events as teachable moments. By spending time to connect with our children and explaining why certain behavior is unacceptable, we have a better chance of raising responsible kids who can withstand peer pressure.

2. Rely on finding joint solution for unacceptable behavior

Not punishing your child does not mean you let them get away with whatever they want. Quite the opposite actually.

Let’s consider the example of sneaking cookies. The first time this happens, sit your child down. Let her explain why she did it. Try to truly understand her reasons. And then come up with a joint solution to prevent this in the future.

Maybe she was hungry and was having a hard time waiting to eat until dinner – could having a healthy snack option handy keep her from sneaking cookies?

Maybe she has a sweet tooth and can’t resist cookies – can you treat cookies as special treats and earmark them for special occasions?

As you discuss the situation with your child, coming up with a solution that is acceptable to both of you becomes easier. These tactics can also be applied when dealing with tougher issues that arise when your child gets older, such as finding out that your teen has been abusing over-the-counter cough medicine. Start an open conversation, which can help lead to a mutually agreed upon solution.

3. Set clear limits and consequences

No matter what you agreed on, there is a good chance that your kids will fail to keep their end of the deal, simply because they are human!
Anticipate this and have clearly agreed upon consequences in place.

For instance, failing to stick to the agreement once could result in no cookies the next day. Repeated setbacks, could result in no cookies on subsequent week’s shopping list.

Always remember that your goal here is to help your child learn the right behavior, rather than correcting the wrong behavior. Again, this practice of setting clear limits and consequences applies when your child is young as well as when he or she becomes a teenager.

With a few of these simple changes in perspective, we can forge a strong cooperative connection with our kids that makes it more likely that we stay influential in their lives – through adolescence and adulthood.

Isn’t that what we all want at the end of the day?

Sumitha Bhandarkar is the founder of a site dedicated to helping parents raise happy, well-adjusted kids based on a positive trust-based relationship. If this idea resonates with you, join her and 20,000+ parents in the A Fine Parent community and receive their popular 6-part mini-course How to Be a Positive Parent free. You can connect with Sumitha on Facebook and follower her on Twitter.