Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Things I Wish all Parents Knew

Children NEED and WANT the grownups to be in charge.  It makes them feel safe, which gives them the confidence they require to go and explore the world.  They will feel less safe if they know that they can push you around and bend you to their will.  I highly recommend forgetting about winning popularity contests with children.  It's far better to assume an authoritative role {authority with empathy and respect} and be, ultimately, s/he who must be obeyed.  

Be the alpha dog in your home.  You can be empathic and respectful of your children's feelings while still standing your ground.  If they are trying to wear you down, you can choose not to engage.  Just be mindful about what you do and do not respond to when you are talking to your child. 

 You won't win any popularity contests by being overly permissive or letting yourself be a pushover; you will only confuse your children by handing them over your authority. They won't respect you, and will continue to act out in an attempt to get you to set limits.  If you allow them to believe that obeying adults is optional, they won't listen to you or to anyone, and you will be setting them up for all kinds of behavioral problems at school.  I have treated many children whose parents don't know how to be the grownups, habitually  allowing their children to misbehave without attempting to contain or correct them, and I have to spend an inordinate amount of time establishing my authority when I should be working on their neurological delays.  Children whose parents are clearly in charge accept my authority instantly, are able to develop a good therapeutic relationship with me in a short period of time, and get right down to work.

Never ask a child if he wants to do something when he doesn't actually have a choice.  In order to avoid an argument or power struggle, a child does much better with a command.  "It's time to put on your coat,"  is going to get the job done a lot more efficiently than, "Do you want to put on your coat?"  If he says no,  which you have empowered him to do by inviting him to make a choice about it, you're in for a fight.  Think you don't do this?   I recently heard a father ask his son, "Would you like to come here for therapy?"  Why on earth would a parent ask a developmentally delayed eight year old boy if he wanted therapy?  It's not his decision to make. It's too confusing and unsettling for children when the adults invite them to make important decisions about their welfare.  It sends them the message, "We don't know what's best for you."

Don't use a lot of words with very young children, and don't negotiate with them.  They don't understand you.  Keep your sentences short, and don't try to reason with them.  Remember that the ability for abstract thought doesn't come into play until the age of about six, so carefully constructed arguments are basically wasted on them before then.  Just say no, and then divert them.

Children will try to wind you up for various reasons.  If you frequently lose your temper when your child acts out, you are telling the child that he is in control of your behavior.  This sets him up to believe that he is responsible for the reactions and emotions of others.   If your consistent response to him is irritation, you are sending him the message that he is irritating, and he will become so.  Conversely, if you are consistently patient and respectful, he will automatically extend that courtesy to others.

Choose to take the high road and avoid shaming, hostility or sarcasm when your child is making you crazy. 

Try not to end every sentence with "Okay?".  Every time you say this, you undermine your authority. You should not be asking the child's permission to be the grownup.  Whether you realize it or not, the child is taking this to mean, "Is this OK with you?"  We are supposed to call the shots, and should not be checking in to see if it's all right with them.

1 comment:

Andreas Stricker said...

Great article, Loren! You're so right.