Laura was so frustrated with her 15 year-old daughter, Kelly, she was ready to give up and walk away.

Kelly had always insisted that her rules should rule their home.  The older she got, the more demanding and threatening, the more bullying and abusive she became.

Laura finally saw this as the logical consequence of her merely trying to teach Kelly polite and civil rules without any consequences, and of her ultimately letting Kelly win and do what she wanted.  Kelly had become selfish, narcissistic, unappreciative, ungrateful, entitled; with an “I can treat you any way I want and you’ll still give me what I want” attitude.

When Kelly was a child, Laura had lectured her about manners at the table – simple “Please” and Thank you,” simple eating politely and not bolting off to her room to chat with her friends.  Laura tried educating Kelly but Kelly snarled that Laura was old fashioned and her generation didn’t have to follow those silly rules.  And she stormed out.

Laura couldn’t think of a justification for manners so, after mild protests, she finally gave up.  She let Kelly do what she wanted.

Kelly became consistently negative, critical, sarcastic, rude and demanding.  She expected to get everything she wanted immediately.  She became like Veruka Salt from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”

For example, she never said “Thank you” for any birthday or Christmas presents.  She demanded a huge birthday party but after Laura had made huge preparations, Kelly and her friends never showed up.  They went to the mall without telling Laura.

Why rules of behavior matter.
Rules of behavior or “manners” are crucial in any society.  They enable us to live peacefully with each other in a crowded world where we’re surrounded by many more people than our family.

The earliest “manners” were probably the “guest-host relationship” rules.  Imagine a stranger coming to a family or village seeking shelter from a storm.  We need a basic rule, accepted by both sides, in order to be safe.  In the middle of the night, the guest will not murder and steal from the hosts.  The hosts will not murder and steal what the guest has.  Manners lets both sides know that we’re going to follow that rule.

That set of rules was still maintained in the early 20th C out on the prairie: No asking personal questions and no horse stealing.

Arguing rules of polite behavior never succeeded with Kelly.
Laura had tried to educate Kelly peacefully.  She seemed to believe that if she lectured with exactly the right words, eventually the lesson will sink in.  Some kids accept their parents’ teaching and behave.  Others do not; they resist with every ounce of their strength and determination.

Laura knew Kelly knew what was wanted because the mothers of Kelly’s friends praised Kelly’s politeness.  But Kelly wouldn’t change at home simply because she didn’t want to and didn’t have to.  Laura kept teaching until she eventually gave up.  She wouldn’t accept what Kelly was showing her.  

Consequences might succeed.
Bullies and abusers show you what you have to do to change their behavior.  For a long time Laura was unwilling to do anything “harsh” or “nasty” or “punitive.”  She thought those were not the way to raise a nice person.  But Kelly was showing her what would not work.

Laura faced a choice: continue the way she’d been going and pray real hard for a miracle, or start applying consequences despite Kelly’s protests.

Laura decided to apply consequences with a calm smile.
She wouldn’t debate or argue.  She’d simply state the way it would be.  And she made clear the connections between Kelly’s behavior and the consequences.

For example, when Kelly was nasty about a meal, Laura simply picked it up and dumped it in the garbage.  And made sure there were no candies or extra food in the house.  She didn’t buy Kelly a birthday present because Kelly never said “Thank you” so Laura assumed Kelly didn’t want one.  When Kelly demanded a big party, Laura said she wouldn’t because of Kelly’s behavior the last time.  But she did wish Kelly a wonderful next year.

The climax for Laura and Kelly came when Kelly finally saw her mother was adamant.  She blew up, ranting and raving that Laura’s job was to make her happy.  By not letting her do what she wanted, Laura was ruining her life.

Laura simply smiled and told Kelly she was childish, weak and cowardly.  It was easy for her to try to beat up her mother, who loved her.  It took strength and courage to act civilized to people who loved you and who would give in.  It took strength and courage to try to get what you want from people in the world who didn’t care about you.

Laura continued referring to Kelly’s behavior as childish, weak and cowardly.  Kelly said Laura was blackmailing her.  Laura smiled and said, “Of course.  That’s life.  If you want something from me, you pay with good behavior.  If you continue to treat me badly, I won’t pay for a phone, a tablet or a car.  I know you can do better.  You’re a wonderful person.”

Kelly finally gave in, reluctantly.  Her senior year was much happier for Laura.  Would Kelly maintain her civility once she moved out?  Laura decided to deal with that when she got there.

Of course, there are many complications depending on your situation.  The best way to learn how to take power in your life and to be the person you want to be is to hire Dr. Ben for personalized coaching and counseling so you can:

  1. Develop the strength, courage, will and determination to be and to act your best resolutely, diligently and effectively.
  2. Develop a plan and master the skills necessary to create the life your spirit has always hungered for.

Since all tactics depend on the situation, call me at 1-877-8Bullies for expert counseling and coaching by phone or Skype.

AuthorBen Leichtling