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The Inner Lawyer is NOT a team player!

July 28 2019/Jenni Stahlmann Jody Hagaman/

There are two people who live inside our kids. We’ll introduce you to a great one next week, but for today, we want you to meet their Inner Lawyer.

Whenever our kids make a bad choice or a mistake or they fail somehow or even when they mess up royally, we have to confront them. But HOW we confront them determines what part of them joins the process. If we confront our child with anger and accusation and condemnation, we will evoke shame, and shame will call upon our child’s very best defense mechanisms to join the conversation. We call this their Inner Lawyer. The Inner Lawyer has a job to do. It’s job is to protect, preserve, and get our child off the hook and out of trouble by any means necessary.

Some of the Inner Lawyer’s most routine practices are

  • blaming other people or circumstances
  • defending the person’s bad choices
  • lying
  • withdrawing emotionally and checking out of the conversation all together.

Remember, the Inner Lawyer’s only job is to get our child off the hook and out of trouble, and to protect our child, and preserve his or her reputation and privileges. The Inner Lawyer is not a team player. And this is a big problem because we don’t want our kids preserved in the mindset that led to the bad choice. We want them to

  • see the problem with new eyes,
  • uncover their motives,
  • realize the need they were trying to fill when they made a bad choice,
  • recognize any hurt or damage that their choices caused, and
  • brainstorm ways to meet their needs in a healthier and more appropriate way.

We want our child to emerge from every failure armed with new tools and new mindsets that will empower him or her to solve the problems that the bad choice created.

So if we’re angry (and let’s face it, our kids can make us angry like no other human on planet earth), we need to work our way to a calm place before we confront our child’s misbehavior. And when that time comes, we might need to remind ourselves how great our child really is (in spite of this bad choice) before we confront him or her. Then, we need to help our kids figure out what need they were trying to meet when they made the mistake, and brainstorm healthier and more appropriate ways to meet that need next time. But for that, we’ll need to call upon the other person who lives inside our kids. We’ll meet that person next week. Stay tuned...

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