Fingers of blame and shame point regularly at parents. When your kid is doing the blaming and shaming you are dealing with a Gotcha War.
A Gotcha War is my term for a nasty tool used by Good Kids to shrug off their own mad, bad, or sad feelings. Their goal is to make you act and look like an idiot, so they can play “Holier than thou.”
When you don’t react strongly enough to whatever provocation is hurled you way, your basically good kid starts pushing other buttons to get you angry. A skilled Gotcha Warrior can push buttons you didn’t know existed.
I learned to become a Gotcha War negotiator during my years as a foster parent trying to live peacefully with an every changing group of teens. All were sent to us by the Juvenile Justice System. Some were juvenile delinquents, but a great many were what were called Status Offenders. These had not committed a crime, but were considered beyond their parent’s ability to control and provided me with a major lesson: Status Offenders were expert Gotcha Warriors- good kids, not into law-breaking, but for a thousand different reasons out to put parents on a hot seat.
Quick mental health fact: The shrinks say extreme Gotcha Warriors suffer from a mental health disorder called Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Supposedly a disorder of childhood only, I bet you know a few adults who meet the criteria.
If you have not had all your buttons pushed by a Gotcha Warrior you have been blessed by all the benign forces of the universe. Say a million and one “Thank you’s.” For those of you who know the drill here is a bit of advice.
Tip one: Temporarily disown the kid. When a kid flipped me the bird in public I had an easier time of it, because they were not my kids. That became my advice to a parent engaged with a Gotcha Warrior who destroyed every diner out by pushing her buttons during the meal. I told her when he started shouting at her to turn to the next table and say loudly,
“Not my kid.”
Not what the parent advisers would suggest, but it worked. After twice stumping away from the table and missing out on two dinners, this Gotcha Warrior stayed at the table and ate in sullen silence. Mother could handle sullen silence.
She used the same ploy at home, “When the kid I know and love can talk to me kindly I will listen, but for now I disown you. I have better things to do then to let you abuse me.”
Tip two: Reframe the battle. The kid doesn’t hate you. You are not a failure as a parent. Quite the opposite, the kid feels safest with you; he knows in his heart you will not abandon him. Understand the battle is mainly within him. He is finding the real world painful.
Tip three: Stay strong. Don’t let sympathy woo you back to trying to use comforting words when he or she is throwing spears at you.
Tip four: If you do want to talk kindly, pick another time. If you have been a Soft Love parent, you might even consider apologizing for not adequately preparing your teen for life in the real world.
One parent wrote a note of apology that also declared she was becoming tougher on how she let her precious one treat her.
Tip five: Follow this blog, use its comments to tell me if my advice works or ask for advice.
Life as a parent is probably the hardest job in the world. Count your blessings for every good moment you can savor.
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