Have you ever found yourself in a very toxic pattern with your child? Maybe it is a constant power struggle, a battle of wills, talking back, not listening, yelling…the list goes on and on.
How do you get out of it?
This first part can be very tricky, until you understand what I am going to share with you here. When we are locked in a battle (aka, Dysfunctional Dance pattern) with our child, it is hard to be anything but the participant in the dance steps of the pattern. And thus, the cycle just continues, leaving us feeling more and more frustrated and disconnecting us further and further from our child.
The first step to resolving any issue is awareness. You must first be aware that there is an issue and then understand what the actual issue is. Let’s use getting off of of Fortnite at dinnertime as an example.
Perhaps you and your child have been going around and around with this issue for quite some time. You let them know that it is dinnertime and they need to turn off Fortnite. They ask for five more minutes. You either tell them to get off right now or give them more time, which invariably takes more time than they had asked for, leaving dinner cold, but you steaming mad.
Each night at dinnertime you wage this battle for days or weeks on end. And because you know it is coming, you are braced for the battle. This is a Dysfunctional Pattern, or Dance as I like to call it. And maybe it has resulted in you yelling at your child or threatening to take away Fortnite or actually taking it away. You may feel a bit vindicated, but you certainly don’t feel closer to your child and your child simply resents you now. And this utopian dinner that you had envisioned in your mind ends up with you and your child eating in frustration, resentment and anger and your child probably counting the bites until he can get away from you.
Who wants it to continue like this?
But how can you break out of this Dance?
The first step is to notice that there is this Dysfunctional Dance going on between you and your child. Awareness is the first step in resolving most conflicts. When you are locked in the battle, it is hard to notice. If you were not aware of and observing this Dysfunctional Dance, I can guarantee that your child was not either. It requires us to step out of the Dysfunctional Dance as a dancer and become an observer of the Dance; to notice what is actually occurring between us and them.
Ok, so I am aware. Now what?
This is where the Reset Conversation comes in handy. But before we do that, we must first bring ourselves back to a place of calm. The heat of the moment is never the optimal time to address things with our child. Once things have calmed down, we are then ready to have this Reset Conversation. But this must be conducted when things are quiet, there is no need to rush out to the door somewhere, and you are not locked in another battle and you and your child can have a productive conversation.
Here’s how that Reset Conversation might look:
You: Johnny, can we talk about something that’s been bothering me lately?
Johnny: Sure, mom.
You: It seems like Fortnite has been causing a lot of [tension/yelling/arguing/frustration] between us lately.
Johnny: Silent but listening.
You: I don’t like it when we are angry with each other. I don’t like it when I yell at you. I also don’t like it when you don’t seem to be listening to me. And I don’t think you like that stuff either. Is that right?
You: Let’s see if we can figure out something different that we can do that works for both of us moving forward so that we can get along better. Does that sound good?
Johnny: Yeah, mom.
A Reset Conversation sort of clears the air and allows you to move forward with your child no longer locked in that Dysfunctional Dance.
I used the Fortnite example because this actually happened in my own home with two sons. When Fortnite was rather new, they were obsessed with it (along with many of their friends) and I was finding myself with this same challenge many nights at dinner time. I would give whoever was playing the game five more minutes and it would invariably take 10-15. Meanwhile, the rest of us would be sitting at the table together eating dinner while that son’s food was getting cold and his seat was empty.
Finally, I sat down with both boys to have this Reset Conversation. All three of us agreed we did not like the way things had been going around this issue. After we reset the tone between us and all got on board to try something different, my sons went on to explain the game to me, which prior to that point I did not come close to understanding.
They were playing Battle Royale in Fortnite, which means that you get dropped onto an island with 99 other people and your goal is to be the last one standing after everyone else has been eliminated. All along the way you could be eliminated, or you could end up winning the Battle Royale by being the last one standing. With each round, your participation in it could last 5 minutes or 25 minutes and there is no way to predict really. It just depends on how long you last against the other 99 people.
With this new knowledge of the game, I now understood why a 5-more-minute agreement was not working. What we came up with is that I keep an eye on the clock when I am making dinner. If one of them is playing Fortnite, I let them know about 15-20 minutes before dinner will be ready that we are getting close, and I ask them to please make the round they are currently in the last round before dinner.
This plan works much better, gets them to the table in a much more timely fashion, and has eliminated this particular battle between us. A Reset Conversation can work in almost any struggle we are having with our children.
What are you battling over with your child?
Can you see how a Reset Conversation can help you move towards breaking the Dysfunctional Dance?
I have also created a FREE guide to helping you navigate the issue with your child AFTER you have the Reset Conversation. You can grab your copy of that below.