Doesn’t this one just drive you mad! I can tell you what though; a “life isn’t fair” answer will certainly not tame these outbursts. What you have to do here is call their bluff.
Generally their claims of, “It’s not fair” really means, “You are not giving me what I want! I am not getting what I want and I am angry and cross about it. I think you are not listening to me or understanding my point of view. That frustrates me and makes me think you are not being fair.”
So now you know what they really mean, you can do something about it. The first option is to get it before it even raises its ugly head.
Here is the common situation as I see it so often. A teenager asks for something like, “Mum, can I go out tonight?” Without a second though the parents says no and the teenager storms out with a torrent of, “it’s not fair!” Really, I mean they could have a point, have you really listened to them?
I heard someone say recently that if you look at the word listen. Ten: we should be listening ten times more than we are talking. So there is a lesson for you in itself.
So, the first thing to do is to listen, not to trigger the behaviour. If they ask you if they can go out or have friends over, just take a moment to think about the answer. If you want to say no, why do you want to say no? Is it because you are tired? You want to spend some time with them tonight? You have no food in the cupboards? They don’t do what they say when their friends are over? They keep you up all night? – What is it? When you are clear on this, you can then move on. Instead of saying no you are going to say yes, but that does not mean that they get things their own way. Here is how it works.
“I would love to have your friends over, however I am really tired at the moment and when they are here you keep us awake all night. Let’s look at doing it another night and see how this can work for everyone.” Do you see how we have taken the resistance away, so a “not fair” in unlikely to come out. We have stated what we wanted and offered a solution. Notice too how I did not use the word “but”. I want you to take it out your vocabulary when talking to your teenager. Use “and” or “however”; these words will move the situation forward more.
If you use this method the “it’s not fair” is unlikely to surface. You just need to carry on listening and attempting to find solutions that work for both of you.
However, if this does not work or you don’t take this route, you can always challenge what they are saying. If they say, “it’s not fair”, ask them what they think is unfair about the situation. Tell them that you are trying to understand their point of view and would really appreciate them sharing. You can even challenge them, asking if it was really what they wanted to say, or were they just frustrated at not getting their own way?
The key, as I stated before with this one, is not to react, but call their bluff. They will soon realise that their “it's not fair” is not getting them what they want and will eventually give it up as a bad job.
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