Experienced parents know that exercising good parenting skills can be very confusing. You have a good relationship with your teen, you treat them with respect, and listen to them when they speak. How do they react; by snapping back at you and being arrogant! It seems that they are trying (and almost succeeding) to sabotage a great relationship and you don’t know what you are doing wrong.
Sounds familiar? If you want to stay calm, undaunted and continue to love your child become familiar with and learn “The Law of the Soggy Potato Chip”.
Psychologist Fitzhugh Dodson wrote in How to Discipline With Love (1977) that children would rather have negative attention than no attention at all, just as children would rather have a soggy potato chip than no potato chip at all. Simply put, the “Law of the Soggy Potato Chip” states that, when there is no choice, the second best is also good.
Jay McGraw in Life Strategies for Teens speaks of an extreme case of this with his friend who was popular and whose parents were very busy in their respective careers. He was once caught at a party where there were drugs and his parents sent him to rehab. He wasn’t a heavy user at all, but his parents wanted to be on the safe side. While he was there his parents visited him every day and when he finally came out he looked great. Life returned back to the norm, his parents returned to their work, … and he was back in rehab. He was settling for a potato chip (his parents attention)that was soggy (going through the pains of drug abuse and rehab)! This repeated itself a few times until the drugs got the best of him and a little while later he became a statistic.
This “law” doesn’t only apply to the crave for attention but for everything that we really want. For instance, on the one hand your teen (pre-teen) really wants a relationship with you and they truly enjoy your company. However they also want to feel independent, the way that they perceive adulthood. Therefore when they feel that you are too close, they forfeit the relationship (the crispiness) in order to feel independent (the potato chip). They would like both of them, but since the feeling of independence is more important to them right now they settle for second best; independence without the relationship.
What should you do? Realize that their reaction is showing the whole picture and keep up treating them with respect and listening to them. You’ll see than eventually, after they are more sure with their identity, they will show their love towards you in a more positive way.
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