Guest Post by Cynthia Klein, Certified Parent Educator, Coach, Speaker, Author

When I work with parents, I present an approach I call being your children’s ally. You  set limits and expectations in a manner that usually feels like you are on their side. They can still get upset when their needs are blocked. Yet ultimately, they feel your love and support.

I’m in the process of writing a book that will give you a big selection of new thoughts and phrases so you can start to be an ally rather than an adversary. Below is a skit which is a sample of what you will find in my book. The parenting approach still applies whether you have a teenager or a school-aged child.

Learning How to Become an Ally Rather than an Adversary Skit

Interacting with your teen can be like walking on egg shells. At any moment, your comment or even a look could crush the “egg” leaving a gooey “mess”. I recommend instead learning how to parent as an ally rather than an adversary during conflicts. As an ally, you will resolve problems faster and build more cooperative and peaceful interactions.

Now, parents slide up and down the adversary-ally continuum depending on our fatigue, our children’s personalities and our parenting skill level.

An adversarial parenting approach has two main principles. The first is that a disagreement ends with a winner and a loser; the parent wins, the child loses.

The second principle is that the teen’s feelings and thoughts are not important during a disagreement. The quality of the relationship is not important as well.

In contrast, the first principle of the ally parenting approach is to strive for win/win solutions to conflicts. The parent is still the final authority yet the teen does not feel like a loser.

Secondly, the ally parent values the relationship and everyone’s emotional well-being.

Let’s put this theory into a real life situation. Remember that it is a continuum between being an adversary and an ally. I’ll demonstrate how an adversary, an ally-in-training and then an ally parent could respond to the same situation.

Ally or Adversary Skit

This is a three part skit illustrating different parenting approaches; the adversary, ally-in-training and the ally.

Here is the conflict. The teen will make the same request to go to the movies three timers. Each time the parent will answer differently demonstrating the three different approaches.  Let’s see how the parent talks as an adversarial parent.

Skit part 1:  An adversarial parent might sound like this:

Teenager:   “My friends have asked me to go to the movies with them on Saturday afternoon. Can I go?”

Parent:  “No, you can’t go.”

Teenager:  “Why not? You never let me do anything.”

Parent: “No, We’re doing something else.”

Teenager:  “You only think of yourself. You don’t care what I want. ”

Comment: This argument will continue with everyone digging in their heels. Everyone will feel like a loser in the end.

Skit part 2:  An ally-in-training parent could sound like this:

Teenager:  “My friends have asked me to go to the movies with them on Saturday afternoon. Can I go?”

Parent::  “No, honey. You can’t go because we are visiting grandma that day.”

Teenager:  “I’d rather go to the movies. Can’t you go without me?”

Parent:  “The movies sound fun and I know your friends are important BUT visiting your grandma is more important.”

Teenager:   “My friends are important to me even if they aren’t important to you!”

Comment:   What went wrong? The parent started out empathizing; “The movies sound fun and I know your friends are important,” then the parent made a very common mistake. The parent said “but.” When a person hears “but”, everything said before this word is no longer heard or felt. The parent became an adversary because the teen only heard, “visiting your grandmother is more important” than your friends are. My needs were more important than hers.

Skit part 3:  An accomplished ally parent will focus on finding a solution:

Teenager:  “My friends have asked me to go to the movies with them on Saturday afternoon. Can I go?”

Parent:  “I see. I had made plans for our family to visit your grandma that day. I forgot to tell you.”

Teenager:  “It’s important that I go to the movies.”

Parent:  “I wouldn’t feel good cancelling grandma. Can we talk more and see how we can work this out?”

Teenager:  “OK.” (Grumbling yet willing)

The reason the parent got to an “OK” to problem solve together is that the parent’s underlying goal is to reach a win/win solution. The parent tries to meet everyone’s needs, if possible. Even if, the reason for the “NO” was the movie selected, the parent continues to problem solve together until they find a solution he or she could say “Yes” to.

The way to minimize crushing the delicate teenager is to become their ally. As an ally, you will create a happier and healthier family with more cooperation and peaceful times together.

In what ways are you acting as an adversary? When is it easier to be an ally? What do you sound like when you are an ally?

©2014 Cynthia Klein, Bridges 2 Understanding, has been a Certified Parent Educator since 1994. She works with parents and organizations who want more cooperation, mutual respect and understanding between adults and children of all ages. Cynthia presents her expertise through speaking and private parenting coaching sessions. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and writes the Middle School Mom column for the Parenting on the Peninsula magazine. She works with parents of 4 – 25 year-old children. Contact Cynthia at, cynthia@bridges2understanding,com, or 650. 679.8138 to learn more about creating the relationship you want with your children.