Holding hands

Saturday, February 13, 2010

When Your Child Is In Charge

When our children talk back, have an attitude or act like they are in charge by being demanding or defiant, it is easy as a parent to want to prove we are the adult and to demand respect by attempting to control our child’s behavior. Often we resort to threatening, punishing or demanding that our child may not speak to us “like that!” It’s an “I’ll show you who’s boss” approach.

It’s ironic then, that in our attempt to be the adult from this authoritarian place, we are in a strange way actually giving more power to our child. We are reacting to the situation as if it’s a battle between us and our child. The only option that leaves us is to WIN.

A key misunderstanding in this approach is our interpretation that our child's behavior is something they are doing TO us. Taking this a step further, it defines our "adultness" by our ability to control our child and makes the child our reference point.

I agree that we need to be the adult with our children, and that children need to learn respect. The real question is HOW we are to be the adult. Sometimes we attribute to young children a deliberate desire to be in charge, as if that could actually feel secure to them. If you think about that rationally it’s a little crazy, isn’t it? What I am asking you to try on is this idea: We, as parents, step into our adultness by modeling leadership rather than needing to win. We step into being the adult when we take responsibility as the adult for our children by understanding that when our children are trying to be in charge, what they are craving and what they need is leadership, not control.

We begin to model leadership by learning to manage our own reactivity when our children push our buttons: to pause, breath, notice how we feel and then respond with presence and lead our children to the feeling of safety and connection they need and can't get to on their own in that moment.