From chapter 4 of Growing Great Boys –100s of practical strategies for bringing out the best in your son, by Ian Grant. Published by Random House 2006
I suggest to mothers that your boys receive the clear message that you are a leader who is not easily threatened. So if your son calls you a silly old bag (or something worse), instead of trying to get back at him through guilt by telling him about all the things you’ve ever done for him, just walk away. Don’t try to engage or yell back; just withdraw your availability. Several hours later, when he comes to you asking, ‘Hey Mum will you take me down to the shops, I need to get some stuff for school,’ respond by saying something like this, ‘I’m sorry….mothers do things like that – but ‘old bags’ don’t.’ Don’t, under any circumstances, take him. Always require some level of restitution and restoration for what he has done or said. Otherwise he will learn to use ‘phoney’ sorrys, which carry no level of regret or responsibility for the action.
A single mother told me that her eleven-year-old boy had called her a ‘b…b…’. She had attended a seminar and remembered the above illustration. So she responded with, ‘You will not use those words to me,’ and walked away. She thought about how she could withdraw her services from her son.
The next morning she didn’t provide his usual wake-up call, leaving him to take responsibility for his own morning routine. He got up in a panic, after sleeping in, as he had the responsibility of working the overhead projector at his school assembly that morning. He begged his mother to drive him to school, at which point she said, ‘Mothers do things like that, but I’m sorry b….b…s’ don’t.’
He begged, pleaded…and even promised to do the dishes for a year! It was such a good offer, she said that she nearly took it up – but instead she remained firm. He had to walk to school. However, being a smart woman, she rang the deputy principal and told him what had happened. The deputy principal followed up by calling the boy into his office and asking why he had failed to be there in time to operate the overhead projector.
The boy fabricated a terrific story: a car had taken out a power pole at the top of the street. Everyone was without electricity, and he had assisted the little old lady next door in her crisis…that had been why he was late. The deputy principal patiently listened, and then asked, ‘Your reason for being late wasn’t because you called your mother a disrespectful name, was it?’ The blood drained from the boy’s face!
The mother is now the proud possessor of a note on school letterhead congratulating her on using tough love and a useful parenting skill – that of withdrawing resources.