“Who’s The Boss?” is the title of this chapter, and it opens with the premise that children test authority.
This chapter does have one section geared toward toddlers, but for the most part I really feel much of this chapter, with its talk of consequences and such, is geared more toward parents of older children (ages 7 and up). However, if you are the parent of a child under the age of 7, certainly the parts about how we as parents react to challenges to our rules are worthy as a topic for our own inner work and personal parenting development. Did you all feel this way regarding what ages of children this chapter might be most applicable to in reading this?
So anyway, let’s kick it off with this gem of a paragraph on page 50:
“It offends our sensibilities as parents to be confronted with the fact that we are not the all-powerful bosses of our children. They tell us this themselves. “You are not the boss of me!” is the favorite parental button pusher of many children. What we want is for them to understand that our judgment is based on years of experience, that what we say is the rule, and that they should do as we tell them because we love them and have greater wisdom than they do. (We also want them to be grateful to us for all the efforts we make for them.) When they refuse to accept our restrictions, we become frustrated and enraged, and threaten, punish, and hit or – just an ineffective- back down and give in.”
Woo boy, I could write a whole series of posts off this one paragraph. However, two main issues or challenges of parents today come to mind. The first challenge is this: I see so many parents who seem afraid to have rules in their homes, but who are then angry when their children do not do what they want, and don’t seem to know how to hold authority in their homes without yelling, screaming, demeaning, feeling “put-upon”, etc.
So, to begin with, one must accept the fact that one has authority and power just by virtue of being a parent, and that part of this authority is demonstrating a good use of power, not an abuse of power. You can set the rules and tone in your home, and you can be calm when those rules are broken and you can come up with better ways than yelling, screaming, hitting or anything else to help guide your children. That is essentially what this book is about. It is also what this blog is about in many posts!
For the back discussion of power and authority, try this series of back posts for help: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/12/01/power-authority-and-respect-in-parenting/ and here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/12/02/re-claiming-authority-part-one/
And don’t forget the posts regarding EVERY AGE from birth through age 9 on typical development and ways to have peaceful living with each age. Just use the search engine on this blog and type in the age and see what comes up or go through the archives month by month.
I think the other thing the above paragraph from page 51 makes me think of that is a challenge for many parents is this: CONSISTENCY. Consistency is so important in discipline and alleviates so many difficulties. Rhythm is a huge part of consistent help for younger children in guiding what behaviors happen when and what is appropriate. It is also important in matters of restitution for all children, but especially for older children.
You can do this! On page 51, the authors remark that knowing developmental stages is half the battle. However, knowing this does not mean that you do nothing and completely ignore the behavior, but it also means that you have an idea that your child may not grow up to be The Terrible Person Who Makes You Look Like You Failed As A Parent just because it takes 500 times to make something stick. You must find the Middle Way in your feelings about this.
I think part of the learning curve and you must be consistent and persevere longer than your children do. Do not get discouraged, keep going! “Many of today’s parents, who have rejected the punitive environments of their own upbringings are, like Rebecca, confused and disappointed when their children still express anger and defiance. They had hoped that their more benevolent approach to parenting would do away with these inevitable power struggles.”
Children are immature, they are not rational and logical, and they will use words and actions in immature ways. Their words and actions may anger you. But, the question is, can you hold on that one second past your child? Can you drop your end of the rope when your child is in a tug of war with you? Can you express your own emotions in a mature way? We most likely cannot do these things all the time as we are not perfect. However, the striving is really, really, important. The thinking ahead is really important: what are the limits in my home? What will I do when these limits are broken? How will I react when my child says they hate me or they won’t? What will the consequences be?
The authors suggest to stop turning things into a power struggle and to frame things with a “yes” if you can – “yes, you may have that later”. Use humor instead. Set consequences when you are calm. Take a breather before you respond. I think in some ways technology in our society has deluded people into thinking we don’t have to think carefully or prudently, that there should be an answer right away. Most things in parenting don’t have such a simple answer, and if you have not thought it out ahead of time or dealt with something similar before, you need to stop and think and not provide a new jerk reaction to the situation.
Anyway, okay, that was a lot of my own tangents from reading this chapter…I would love to hear what you thought and what your reaction was to this chapter.