Many of you have written in and wanted to know how to start to be the authentic leader in your own home.
You have authority because you are the parent! Whether or not you choose to recognize the fact that you are the authority in their own home or exercise BEING the authority is up to you. All you have to do is claim it and own it, that you can do this in a kind way. Again, do not confuse “dominating and misuse of power” and otherwise being mean and nasty with authority. You can be kind and loving and still set boundaries in your family. When you are being an parent who is an authentic leader, you will be guiding your child toward right action. This is love in parenting! Help your child learn and grow!
However, in order to have your child do the right thing you have to know what the boundaries are in your family. What are the VALUES of your family, what kind of person do you want your child to be when they grow up and how will the boundaries you set now guide them toward that? Love them enough to grow up to function in society as a moral human being.
This requires THINKING and TALKING to your partner. Get on the same page, or at least agree to follow sometimes and lead sometimes. Compromise on areas where you disagree. Get a community behind you. I am a proponent of having a spiritual community, or a parenting community, or some kind of community, so your child sees these moral messages everywhere, not just at home!
Here are some other “helps” for re-claiming authority:
1. One is to believe in yourself that you can have boundaries that make your family function in a healthier way, a way that meets the needs of everyone in the family, and that boundaries are okay and you are not being “a dictator.” Rules are okay and it is not a dirty idea to have a healthy, happy family.
Have confidence in yourself and the decisions you make on behalf of your family.
2. Forgive yourself! Some mothers really feel badly that they have not handled guiding their children differently. Here are two back post to help you out: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/27/forgiving-ourselves/ and the wildly popular post: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/15/my-kids-deserve-a-different-mother/
3. Again, figure out what your family values; this will help you determine what boundaries are important to you. Sometimes creating a Family Mission Statement can be a big help. Your own inner work is essential. Here is a Christopherus blog post about this: http://christopherushomeschool.typepad.com/blog/2005/12/discipline_ques.html
The main way we use our authority is by modeling RIGHT ACTION. What are you modeling based upon the values of your family?
4. Figure out where your children are; sit and think about them and meditate and pray about them at night. There are so many posts on here about each age from birth through age nine and what typically happens developmentally at these stages. These posts should give you a “heads-up” as to what typically challenges parents at these ages. Just because something is developmentally normal does not mean it does not have to be guided, however!
5. Love your children and make a list. What are the things that are challenging you right now about the behavior of your children? Can you pinpoint a cause that will prevent this behavior? Does this behavior need a boundary? What will you do when this behavior happens? How will you walk your children through it? What tools will you use that are right for the age of your children? How will you be consistent about this? How will the “consequence” of this behavior come out consistently?
I see from the messages in the comment box many of you are getting hung up with the idea of consequences. Try this back post for help: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/06/23/gentle-parenting-and-boundaries/ for help with what consequences look like by age….
By consequence, I don’t mean mean and nasty punitive punishment! I just mean fixing the problem, working together, and being a rock when it comes to right action. Spilled milk? The consequence is we clean it up together. Broke your sister’s toy? The consequence is we fix it or we use part of your allowance money to buy a new one. For all ages above about four and a half or five, restitution is the key! Here is a back post: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/28/the-number-two-way-to-discipline-a-child/ “
This includes being okay with “ the community” I spoke of above also providing consequences when appropriate. If your older child doesn’t do their homework and gets a zero from their teacher, I would hope one would not go to the school and argue with the teacher. I personally am fine with the parents I know helping to provide guidance for my children. I welcome it because I have a community of people I trust, and I am grateful these men and women are there for my children as they grow to back up the ethics and moral character building blocks we are teaching at home.
But again, the age and developmental stage of your child matters! Do not use tools for a 12 year old with your three year old. Your three year old needs connection and needs you to help him or her meet the boundary that you have decided upon by regulating the environment, the rhythm of eating and sleep, the amount of physical activity, the amount of supervision you are providing. There are many, many posts on this blog about the Early Years and how to infuse your guidance with singing,verses, imagination, stories whilst STILL sticking to the BOUNDARY. These are not mutually exclusive things!!
This leads us to…..
6. Know your parenting tools. Connection and attachment are the first foundational keys! For the under-7 crowd you also have such things as prevention, imitation, working in pictorial imagery and movement, less words, less choices, rhythm, using your gentle hands to help move your child, singing and verses, outside time, distraction and having the child make restitution with you helping them. Restitution is really important: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/28/the-number-two-way-to-discipline-a-child/
Pictorial imagery is one that can be difficult for parents to put into practice. I have written about pictorial imagery before here:http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/04/01/talking-in-pictures-to-small-children/ and here is a lovely blog post from a mother who put this into practice with her children: http://flowingwithmyducklings.blogspot.com/2010/12/talking-pictorially.html
7. Commit yourself to 40 days of Being Queen Of Your Home. Cultivate that energy and attitude of a peaceful rock; here is a back post that may assist you: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/19/cultivating-how-to-hold-the-space-the-inner-work-of-advent/
Love your children, build that foundation of fun and love and trust, and be ready to be THE ROCK that weathers the storm!