This post finishes up our chapter- by- chapter look at “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles: Winning for A Lifetime” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. Chapter 15, entitled, “You’re Not My Boss!” talks about learning to be assertive rather than aggressive. The author writes, “Learning how to get and use power is a critical stage of emotional development for all chidren. The window for this stage opens sometime around your child’s fourth birthday and continues for years.” “You’re not the boss of me” might be followed by how we are “mean” parents or how much our child hates us. This can be very difficult for parents to hear this and it feels very disrespectful. However, this is often a very preliminary and immature way towards trying to learn to be assertive with the confidence and poise that comes with maturity.
Learning how to be assertive is a skill for a child to develop and learn how to use in life. It will serve them well in their relationships and in their careers. The best way to deal with when children are testing out power is to not get too emotionally sucked into this and remain calm. Enforce respect for all family members calmly and standards that are clear and concise, and most of all know your own trigger points and how those phrases that come out of immature children’s mouths make you feel and act. It is a lot easier to remain neutral and calm and enforce a standard if you know what your trigger is! Figuring in your child’s temperament, stress levels at the time, etc can also be helpful.
Great phrases you can use to help meet your child include:
- “Try again please.” (not in a threatening way)
- “Re-do that one, please” (mine)
- “Stop. That’s bulldozing.” That’s a pretty clear picture to a child instead of threatening to wash their mouth out with soap or to tell them to stop being sassy. Many times a child will say they don’t even know they are being disrespectful. Bulldozing is a pretty clear picture of running someone else over with their words.
- Teach your child words that persuade others to listen to them – try the list of phrases on page 273 and 274.
Chapter 16 is called, “Can We Talk About This?” and it’s about learning to get along with others. The family is undoubtedly one of the first places for this! This can involve us letting go (bring the coat with you and put it on if you get cold), managing intensity levels in the house, emotional coaching through situations, and helping our children problem solve.
Teaching our children to solve their own problems leads towards a successful life. If they can describe a problem, how they feel, and explore, evaluate, and carry out a solution, they are well on their towards having a very functional adult life!
This can also work well with sibling fighting by first insisting that each sibling listen to the other. In my experience, this wouldn’t work well with the child under 10, but it’s worth a try. I found the example on page 291 of this book to be a very typical scenario – an introverted child asking an extroverted child to stop and then being triggered when the child doesn’t stop and gets into his space. Not being heard leads to physical altercations amongst children!
In conclusion, the author writes, “It’s true that emotion coaching will not eliminate all of the power struggles in your life. I wish I could say that it would. But I do know that when that emotional bond is strong, you and your child will find yourselves in a new place…”
May we all grow to love and respect each other,