When kids won't leave their room
Updated: Aug 11
I chatted with a mom today about her kids holing up in their rooms: "What are they DOING in there? How can I get them to hang with the rest of the family, or at least spend time out of their room? I feel like the only time I see them is when they want food!"
While this situation is typical of teens, it happens with any aged child. It signals a big growth moment, and can either strengthen or weaken our relationship, depending on how we play our cards. I teach my clients to examine every parenting obstacle through the lenses of Mindset, Management, and Momming, and all 3 easily apply to dealing with hermit kiddos:
Mindset - How stirred up are you over this?
Kids tend to become more introspective and private as they mature, and it feels downright weird for moms! Just yesterday, this kid was all over you like white on rice and now you only get a grunt when you ask about their day - WTF!? Thoughts like, "There's something wrong," and, "This kid is RUDE!" dominate our minds. Plus, there is a nagging worry that this is the beginning of the end - will this child just grow further and further away until they are lost to us? That sh*t is SCARY! Unfortunately, these thoughts lead to the exact power struggles which create kids who want to hide from us more than ever! But opting for a different perspective affords us an opportunity to grow and deepen our relationship with our kid instead of pushing them further away.
While to us, it feels like our kids are not themselves, they are actually becoming more solidly themselves than ever before, and many kids do that metamorphosis in a cocoon called their bedroom. How might you approach this differently if you felt confident that this new chapter didn't mean they were rude or that you were losing them? What if you saw it as a normal reflection of your child's maturity, and something exciting for them and your relationship with them?
When we are ready to own our thoughts and emotions about this new phase, it becomes easier to identify when our discomfort is just growing pains vs. something that is truly not right and needs redirection. We can quit the power struggles and knee-jerk reactions that will backfire, effectively discipline the behavior that needs it, and heal the worry and hurt so it does't sabotage us.
Management - (aka, the structure and rules that manage our family).
Got your head and heart back on track? Now's the time to create boundaries that can deepen, rather than weaken, your child's connection with the family. Clarity here is key and allows us to discipline around our boundaries when they aren't respected. Think about the difference between saying "You spend a lot of time in your room and I'd like to see you more, " vs. "I expect that you will join us for dinner and spend an hour with the family afterward." The first remark is so vague, it almost guarantees a blowout when our kid thinks spending an extra 5 minutes in the kitchen after wolfing down a sandwich is enough, meanwhile we expected some quality time around the dinner table!
Momming - Enforce your boundaries like a zen mom-ninja!
Even when you've achieved buddha-like acceptance of your child's isolationism, and established killer rules, your kid will still be a selfish butt-head and crap all over your boundaries - we all know this! Mindset and management work doesn't create better behavior, rather, it enables us to mom the sh*t out of kids when they suck. We can implement consequences for rule violation without getting twisted up in mind drama and power struggles, and THAT is when behavior changes. When they don't show up for dinner, when they whine throughout the whole meal, when they expect you to take them to the mall after ignoring you and their chores all day - we have consequences ready to go, and deliver them calmly so they work without undermining the relationship.
Strengthening relationships through a child's isolationism is not just a fantasy; it is absolutely doable. And for most of us, getting support is what makes it possible. Someone in your corner who sees the big picture and knows how to help you get there is a game changer, and makes it possible to navigate this challenge and come out the other side stronger and closer, even when you and your child are spending less time together. If you want some love, support and feedback to help right your ship with your kiddo, I am ready and waiting to pour it all into you! It starts with a free discovery call where I can hear all about what's hard for you right now and shine a light on how to make it easier.