Bringing up children in a blended family can feel as though you are walking on eggshells, second-guessing every decision you make. Matters are made worse by parenting experts and self-help books which insist that parents should always stand by their decisions. The underlying message being that backpedaling somehow undermines your authority.
But, let’s be honest, there are times when it’s ok to back down or change your mind as a parent. Situations and people change, new information comes up and what seemed perfectly reasonable last week might seem totally different now.
We know this and yet, changing our minds-and admitting it to our children– is one of the hardest things to do. More so where step-children are involved. We hesitate to do anything that might rock our fledgling relationship with them and as a result, things like disciplining them become much harder. We fear that backpedaling means that we are weak and indecisive and sticking to our guns becomes a matter of self-preservation and saving face.
The Art Of Graceful Backpedaling
So let’s say you’ve made a decision but in hindsight, you realize it was a mistake. How do you change your mind without losing face in front of your children?
- Timing is everything. Changing your mind when your kid is in the middle of a temper tantrum, argument or shouting match sends the wrong message that that kind of behavior is acceptable. You’ll also look like a pushover. Saying something like, “Let me think about what you’ve said,” helps you buy time until things calm down.
- Explain why you changed your mind. Avoid making a big fuss about changing your mind. Simply explain to your child the reasons that made you change tack. Was it something they said? Had their behavior improved or worsened? Whatever your reasons, communicate them as clearly as you can.
- Anticipate a backlash. Kids will always have an emotional response to their parents’ backpedaling so anticipate this. If your decision was in their favor, expect gratitude, smugness or relief. If your decision isn’t something they’ll appreciate, expect a negative response and decide beforehand how you’ll deal with it.
- Set and communicate new guidelines. Some of the guidelines you’d set for your children may no longer apply once you walk back on some decisions. It’s therefore crucial to come up with new guidelines and expectations once a situation changes. Communicating these to your kids will help to avoid any ambiguity that might come back to bite you.
- Consider the ramifications of your backpedaling. The last thing you want is your kids taking your backpedaling as a precedent for the future. You don’t want them questioning all your decisions or bringing them up for negotiation. So take time to consider how rethinking your stance on certain issues now might play out in future.
It might take a little getting used to but learning how to backpedal can go a long way towards improving your relationship with your child.