You've Got the Power
Do you ever forget that you are the one in charge in your house?
Despite being the tallest and strongest people in the house, parents can lose their way in the power department. And it can happen without you even realizing it.
There is a key distinction we want to make here when we refer to being “in charge” or having “power” with your children. We are not referring to authoritarian, “you better listen to me or else” kind of parenting. We can talk about that style in another post, at another time but the short answer on that parenting approach is it doesn’t work, it can lead to dysfunction and family distress. BUT you’re here at Work & Play so we are going to guess you may already know that.
So what can it look like to lose parental power at home?
When a toy or material is mainly resulting in unproductive noise, fighting or frustration, and you allow that to continue. You’ve lost the power.
When a child dictates what they will wear, eat or watch and repeatedly does not respond to the limits you’ve set, you’ve lost the power.
When a child repeatedly speaks to you in a tone that you feel is sassy, uses inappropriate language or straight up ignores you when you speak, you’ve lost the power.
These examples are ones that come from our own homes. We have been there and we have, indeed, lost the power struggle with our own children. So first, take heart that this is normal and a learning process. This can happen with toddlers, with young children, with tweens and with teens. These phases of development are cyclical and you will see that a behavior you thought you kicked, will likely show up again.
But fear not...next time you will know what to do!
So, what do you do?
When it is activities and toys that are at the heart of it (yes...even screens), you have a choice. Instead of policing, warning and negotiating, remove the item and take it out of rotation for a while. You will not win a popularity contest when you do this. You may even have to deal with a big, noisy fuss that interrupts time you’ve set aside for yourself. But you will send the message that you do, indeed, love them, know what’s best and have the power and responsibility to make choices, even ones they do not like.
Behaviors are another tricky area. Of course all kids have off days and seasons of disequilibrium where it all just seems out of whack. That’s natural child development. But when your child is pushing acceptable limits, talking back and ignoring repeatedly, it’s time to make a change because you have a choice. Acknowledge that you see them, that you hear them, you love them but what they are doing is not acceptable. Then set clear, consistent limits of what is acceptable. Set clear, consistent consequences that will happen when they step outside those limits.
Clear is key. Consistent is key. No warnings, no counting to three, no second guessing. Keep your word and keep your limits, enforce your chosen consequences. Again...no popularity contests will be won. But we can promise your child will feel loved and seen, supported and safe.
This isn’t magic and it isn’t easy. But it’s all true. It’s not easy to go through these stages so reach out to a friend, collaborate with your partner or call us (shameless plug) because we are really excellent at helping parents talk through these parenting realities.
So whether you have the kid who only will eat gummies, and will tantrum when they don’t get them. Or you have a child who only wears one shirt or jacket regardless of size, season or your limits. Or you have the child who will just not put that tablet away when the time is up. We get it. But we promise, set limits, take things away when you need to, be clear and consistent. This all seems so simple but when you’re in the thick of it, it doesn’t always seem obvious so we end up coming up against the same battle again and again.
Pro tip: You have the power parents - use it!
Emily Boucher & Amy Mockbee