Thank you Fiona Gatt of MetaPlume. She has made this electronic issue of my first book possible. It takes a village to raise a child, and this book is one of my children. Fiona has been the doctor, mid-wife, cheer leader and peditrician for the this newest blessed event. Blessed for me at least, and I hope it will provide at least a few others with some strategies.
One of the things Fiona would like me to discuss are the Gottcha Wars. These are not specific to teens. I watch my two year old grandson’s eyes light up when he “Gets Grannykat Going.”
Any situation where you know you are in the right, your reasoning is dead on, but you end up feeling like a fool, usually signals you have been drawn into a A Gotcha War. A dedicated Gotcha Warrior sees himself as caught in a will struggle, and winning matters more than anything else. Here’s an example:
Girl in therapy. Tells therapist she wants an allowance. Therapist tells family to offer one at the next family session. Parents offer a really nice allowance. Girl refuses arguing, “Now you are just trying to bribe me to do things your way.”
A common place to spot a Gotcha Warrior is in the parking lot of most elementary schools when school lets out. Often you will see one of two things that says a Gotcha War is brewing. Often, two teachers will be tightly holding onto one kid’s arm. He is smiling and struggling. The teachers are grim faced and probably cursing under their breath. Other times, you will see a kid running in and out of the cars and buses followed by several grownups. The kid is smiling, the grown ups panting and angry.
Determined Gotcha Warriors often feel powerless, over-controlled. They turn the tables and make the adults feel powerless and out of control. Causes abound. Some Gotcha Warriors are from large families where attention is only paid when the behavior goes against the parent’s grain. Some kids are just born more needy when it comes to getting attention. Others are overly sensitive to efforts to control. Some are very strong willed and their nagging or needling gets them what they want.
Teens have several different reasons for provoking a Gottcha War. The most common is to save face among their peers. “You should have heard my father go off when I asked him to buy a keg of beer for my birthday party. I’m lucky he didn’t cancel everything.”
Another need is to avoid doing something tempting that their better self doesn’t want to do. One girl whose boyfriend was pestering her to have sex, managed to get herself grounded every weekend. He broke up with her in time and suddenly her picking a fight every Friday stopped.
Finally some feel free to mis-behave if you provide an excuse by blowing it. This was often the case if a child in our care wanted to violate our rules or the rules set down by his or her probation officer. Going to a weekend party at home often led to behavior designed to push our buttons so the kid could run.
What’s a parent to do? The general rule is respond as little as possible. Non-verbal shrugs, nods and head shakes. Humms, or nothing more than a “yes” or “no.” Easier said then done, but a skill that can be learned.
Practice kindness: Share if you know someone who might find this helpful. Help me, help them, help yourself for kindness always circles back.