For several years our staff benefited from a consultant who flew in from the East Coast and met with us a few times a year. He’d help us focus on our priorities and create practical ways to achieve our goals, and then he’d leave, without ever threatening us that we’d better follow his advice – or else face the consequences!
I’m in the middle of a great book called Uncommon Sense for Parents with Teenagers by Michael Riera, and he advises parents to stop being managers and start being consultants when their kids hit middle school. Think about the parallel: when your kids are tiny, or even in the primary grades, you need to manage almost everything for them. Bedtimes, menus, wardrobe – all these decisions are made by you (though I’m sure many of us had toddlers and first graders who gave their share of input). But once they reach 10-11 – what I call the Age of Reason – this is no longer acceptable. This is why the battles heat up in 5th and 6th grade, and may continue on through high school.
But if you can take a step back from a controlling role into an advising role, those battles may be fewer and far less heated. Instead of delivering commands or ultimatums, try asking questions and making gentle suggestions. “You’re not wearing that to school!” will lead to a battle. Try a question: “Are you thinking it’s going to be warm out today?” or “You haven’t worn that in awhile, have you?” Then you might be able to ease sideways into a discussion about the appropriateness of the item. (Don’t ask, “You’re wearing that?“)
Sometimes a consultant just has to let the client make bad choices and live with the consequences. If it’s not a major issue of safety or morality, you might reconsider how much control you need in a situation. Try just listening and making a suggestion or two – and then stepping back and letting your “client” make the final decision.
You might be pleasantly surprised at the outcome!