Power Struggles with Our Kids
Published in Meridian magazine – January 19,2017
Question – I am a mother of 3 children. The oldest is 10 and the youngest is 3 years old. Our house is in constant turmoil. The three year old throws tantrums and the other two are constantly in a power struggle. They refuse to do what they are told. They do not respect my husband or me. I love my kids and I just can’t find anything that brings peace to our home or any sign of them being responsible at any level.
Answer – That is a question many of my clients ask – how to parent from love not fear. How can I teach my children to make better choices? There are many different parenting styles. Each style brings with it a family culture. The real solution is our basic belief principles.
To begin with we need to know what our principles include. Take a few minutes to write them down, for example “love” is a principle that would be good in every area of our life not just in parenting. What other principles do you want to instill in your children and incorporate in your own every day living? Know your principles when you are making your plan for how you want to parent. Principles lead to behavior and that leads to outcomes.
There are 3 basic parenting behaviors. Which one are you? Which one should you be?
Authoritarian: This is a very highly structured climate. What the parent says is the law; there are no exceptions. The rule is the most important element in the family and children are not involved in making the rules or even allowed to give their opinions. Children will learn to follow rules, yet it will be out of fear more than out of understanding the consequences. They may not even have any idea what a consequence is other than what will happen if they break their parents rules. Children may focus more on their anger than on learning how to make decisions and how to live in peace and harmony.
Some questions to ask yourself to see if you are authoritarian:
- Are you short on patience or have a low tolerance for any exploration or misbehavior?
- Do you use shame or threats to get your children under control?
- Are your rules the only thing that matter?
- Do you have little trust that your children can make good choices?
Permissive: This is a more responsive climate. Yet there can be total chaos – the children rule. They do what they want when they want. The parents give in to keep the peace, which only reinforces their children’s inappropriate actions. These children tend to struggle in academics and in relationships because they have not learned how to live in a societal norm. They do not understand how their actions affect others around them.
Some questions to ask yourself to see if you are permissive:
- Is your home life random; is there little or no structure?
- Is the child’s freedom more important than learning responsibility?
- Do you bribe your children or pay your children to do what you want them to do?
- Do you have no age appropriate chores around the house?
- Do you seldom have consequences for misbehavior?
Nurturing: This is a climate that involves a balance of structure and responsiveness. These parents trust their own authority that they can create a positive home environment. They have a basic trust that children are good and that they can learn what is needed to live an effective adult life. With this understanding they can involve, age appropriately, their children in making the rules and the consequences. The children learn responsibility one step at a time. These parents usually:
- At first we do things for them.
- As they grow and watch, we do things with them.
- Progress continues we let them do it alone. Yet if we are needed we can be there.
- The last growth point is when they do it on their own. This one takes trust yet a good feeling because we have been with them up to this last step.
These steps can be achieved by early teens. With this process they can learn to be responsible at an early age.
We have a tendency to choose one of these parenting styles according to our fear. If we fear we are not good enough and that we may be a bad parent, we tend to choose permissiveness. If we fear loss of our children or loss of control, we tend to choose authoritarian. To have a healthy environment in our homes we need to find growth in ourselves as well as with our children. There is no better relationship than when we grow together. Choosing to use a more nurturing style puts a stop to the power struggle and allows all family members to contribute and give love.
Parenting is like climbing a mountain. It takes one step at a time. It takes one principle at a time. It takes one day at a time. Yes, we do make mistakes, yet we can’t give up. Once the top of the mountain is reached, we have a great view of what our children have and still can accomplish. The climb is worth it. Parenting is not about getting our children to do what we want; it is in helping another human to become the best they can become. You could say we are the guides on the mountain; we are not the pack mules.
If you feel your family life is way out of balance reach out for help.
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One Step At A Time.