A reader asks, “How do you deal with a child who threatens to run away from home, or if your child has done it, how did you deal with it?
I don’t know what my options are, but my 10 year old lately has been acting very immature, and when I told him to clean his room, or I would do it, it turned into this big power play. After he tried to assert himself as the boss of me, I let him know that that bedroom and everything in it was NOT his, but mine, so his response was “Well, I’ll go live somewhere else.”
I’m just not sure how to handle this. He’s not abused in any way, he’s too big for spankings, but he’s really unreasonable and stubborn when he doesn’t get his way and he likes to try and assert his power and is immature. I’m not looking for discipline advice, but for advice on how to handle this running away thing.”
This is such a challenging age! Even before you see any physical changes, the hormones which cause them are flowing and that means they are full of extreme emotions at a time that their brains are changing rapidly. The part of the brain that decides, “This is not a good idea,” the executive functions, are particularly challenged. Let me tell you how we handled that kind of thing.
First, pray for help to leave your own emotions at the foot of the cross. Kids this age can be maddening, but losing it yourself won’t help.
Then calmly say, “Let’s sit down and talk about this. Tell me what’s this all about?” and *let him talk.* Let him get it all out until he starts acting more or less rational again.
Then it’s time to give him a reality check. Explain, “I get that you are angry and you don’t think it’s fair, but threatening to run away is another thing entirely. That’s a dangerous line of thinking and I want to talk to you about that.”
Then I’d give him a very frank lesson on what generally happens to run aways. Make sure no younger children are around to be frightened. We don’t live in Mayberry anymore. Tell him you love him so much that you want him to understand that would be a horrible decision.
Then, and only then, explain, “As you know, you’ve got to have some consequences for the way you’ve behaved…” and deal it out: extra chores, losing privileges, push-ups, whatever.
If he actually does something towards running away, you need to take it more seriously still. Any child who can’t be trusted needs constant supervision for a time for their own protection. Of course, following Mom and Dad around all day gets old pretty fast, but that’s not a bad thing.
||Yours in the battle,Hal and Melanie
A lot of the frustration of this age is what they are going through emotionally, mentally, and spiritually in the changes of the preteen years. It’s a critical time of parenting. So much so, we’re in the process of writing a book about it.
We also have a webinar series for parents focused entirely on this age range, called Boot Camp 9-12.
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