Be the boss of your child – Children often start saying things like “you are not the boss of me” at a point when they are negotiating their boundaries. This starts somewhere around 2-3 years of age and continues well into later adolescence and beyond. This can often feel intimidating for parents and may leave some parents second guessing their level of authority. Many parents want to have a ‘good’ relationship with their children and feel that if they treat children and youth as their equal their chances of having a ‘good’ relationship with them will increase. Yes, children and parents must have equal human rights, however, many parents mistake giving children too much authority with being egalitarian. What some parents don’t realize is that children absolutely rely on us parents to lead the way and be their anchor in the wind. Because the task of children leading themselves is an impossible task. It is like someone handing me the task of being a surgeon which would be absolutely terrifying because I do not know the first thing about performing an operation. Of course as their brain develops children develop more of an ability to become more independent and can make more decisions on their own. Even then, in the formative years of adolescence they do need parents to provide them with guidance and lead the way. So when your child or adolescent challenges your authority with some variation of, “you are not the boss of me”, you say some variation of “honey, actually for the time being, I am, because that’s my job. I need to help you make good decisions until I can fully hand that task over to you, I don’t know when that will be but that is not right now. You may not be happy about this, but need to trust that I have your best interest and I am doing my job as your parent”
Practice what you preach – Watch yourself and see if your actions are consistent with what you are teaching your children. For example, If you teach your children not to lie, make sure you are not bending the truth or telling a white lie in front of them. Lead by example, as they look up to you and your actions and words to shape their values and ultimately who they become as adults.
Do not be afraid to say ‘no’– Don’t be afraid to say no to your children and set limits and boundaries where necessary. Always, give a developmentally appropriate explanation of the limit you are setting, but do not go out of your way convincing them. Instead be with them and allow them to go through their feelings while you provide the space for them to have their feelings of disappointment, loss, and anger because of the limit you have just set. Acknowledge and validate their feelings that it is difficult for them to have these feelings but that you have got their back and you will help them through it. But the limit stays. As Gordon Neufeld puts it “be the agent of futility and the angle of comfort”.
Make them feel wanted – Children must feel wanted and liked by us parents. They need to feel that they are important people in our lives. As Gordon Neufeld puts it, children must “take for granted their invitation to exist in our presence”. They need to be able to rest and relax knowing that no matter what, they can count on us liking and loving them.
Do not threaten detachment – No matter how angry or helpless you are feeling, do not ever make your child feel that your presence in their lives is conditional. Do not threaten to leave because they are behaving in a certain way. If you need to take a moment to gather yourself, tell them just that “mommy/daddy need a few minutes, I am here, I just need to gather myself” and let them know you will be back to handle the situation.
Love them unconditionally – Do not put conditions on your love. One of our most primal fears as human being is to be separated from their attachment and connections. Make your expectations clear, however, never give the impression that your love depends on their behaviour or performance. You must take care to clearly put ‘love’ and ‘expectation’ in different categories. In the early years children do not have the cognitive capacity to differentiate this important concept. If they grow into adolescence and adulthood believing that your love is conditional they will experience feeling of worthlessness and low self-esteem.
Pick your battles – parenting is an important job and its challenges often bring out people’s insecurities and self-doubt. As parents, when we feel vulnerable, we may find ourselves wanting to control everything, even the things that are out of our control. So absolutely take the lead and be firm where you have to be firm and the matter is non-negotiable, however, also know where you need to let go. Developing this wisdom will help you be a more effective leader for your children and will gain their respect.
Have a sense of humor in your leadership style – Don’t take yourself and your children so seriously all the time. Be serious with serious matters. But, rely on your sense of humor to convey your teachings as well. This will often put the parent-child relationship at ease and will relieve the pressure from both you and your child. Thus making room for a better relationship.
Respect your children – Always respect your children’s rights, emotions, feelings, needs and wants. This is how they will learn to respect others and have empathy for others. This is how they will learn to value themselves and others.
Do not be the source of their shame -They will feel shame and embarrassment like any other feelings in the course of their lifetime. But do not be the source of their public humiliation. Do not compare them to peers and say things like “look at so and so, they can do this better than you” or look at your brother, he is a better student. This will crush their spirit. It will make them forget about who they are and never really truly do and be what they are meant to be. Be careful with this one, whether they are watching you or not. It will have an impact on the way you treat them.
Be imperfect – Be a human! Humans beings are imperfect and live in an imperfect world. Things will not always go the way we want and we will not always do the right thing. Show them it is ok to make mistakes and learn from our mistakes. Show them it is ok to fall but teach them how to rise. Show them it is ok to feel your feelings and give them skills to regulate their emotions.
Teach them to budget – teach your children the value of money no matter how much or little money your family has. Teach them to set a budget and respect the budget they have set. Be clear about what you will provide for them and what they need to save their own allowance for.
Do not share your financial concerns with your children- Your money issues are not your children’s business, that is an adult matter. Sharing your financial concerns with your children will not help them learn the value of money, it will burden them with a matter they can not comprehend and they can not do anything about, thus only creating anxiety in them. Do not tell them money is tight that is why I am not buying that for you. Tell them we will not buy that today because it is not within our budget.
Let your kids be bored – Parents often feel that they have an obligation to fill their children’s time and children feel that their time needs to be filled. As soon a child says, “I am bored”, parents start to intervene or get frustrated at their children and their own lack of ability to fill their kid’s schedule. Never being bored, does not give children the chance to be creative and proactive. Children become passive receivers of their environment. So make sure you have a balance between scheduled time and down time (by that I don’t mean TV or computer game time). Instead, have creation time!
Teach your children gratitude – Teach your children to be grateful, but do not guilt them into it. It is none of their business whether you had less than they do or there are other kids that have less and so on. They need to be grateful for the sake of being grateful not because they are better off than others. They need to learn to be responsible for their privileges and use it for the greater good without bearing the guilt of being privileged.
Do not tell your children they can be anything they want to be – Children need to learn that they need to work hard and learn to fail with grace. They need to have empathy, compassion, and humility along the way. They need to learn that they are not entitled to any position of power or privilege. The way to get to the top is by holding the hands of others and working together with people as opposed to stepping on people’s head to climb up to where they need to be. With courage, compassion, and authenticity.
Sabrina Golchin is a mother, wife, entrepreneur, writer, university instructor, public speaker, workshop presenter, therapist, and parent coach who lives, works, and plays in Woodbridge, Ontario. She holds a Masters in Counselling Psychology. She is the proud owner of Life in Harmony Counselling Services www.lifeinharmony.ca which provides counselling services to Children, Families, Parents, and Individuals. She provides in person, on the phone, or on skype counselling sessions.
You can follow Life in Harmony on Facbook or Instagram, or contact at firstname.lastname@example.org