Who is in charge at your house?
Some days, that’s the million dollar question.
Really, who’s in charge at your house? Oh, I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to have to take back the charge from a defiant or pouty kid. The reason I had to take it back was because I released it when they jerked it from my hands. It’s strange how a parent can’t see that they are allowing a child to be the one in charge. How easy it is to see it from a distance, but how hard when you’re right in the throes of conflict.
I’ve been on both sides, and I’m here to tell you it’s not fun to be the one who allowed control to be wrested from one’s fingers. In wanting to be a “good parent”, we fail to remember that a good parent cannot always be his child’s friend. A good parent makes decisions even when the child hates and bucks against it with all his might. This means that the parent is the one who’s in charge and is sometimes considered “mean” by his offspring.
Looking down the road
A good parent does what is best for the child in the long run and not just what makes him happy in the moment. Children look at today and maybe tomorrow; they don’t look ten years down the road. Sometimes, we parents look at today and tomorrow because looking down the road ten years is too hard; dealing with a kid now takes so much energy. So we become like a kid instead of an adult. We allow them to make the rules and give in to their demands because we want to be their friend. Truth be told, it takes more energy to buck the kid than to give in. Sometimes we cave because we’re tired or weary – or aren’t sure what to do.
I confess there were times when we were raising our half-dozen that I pretended I didn’t see or hear something because I just didn’t want to deal with it. I either wasn’t sure what to do or I just didn’t have the energy at the moment. I’m hoping my kids didn’t know what I knew in those times! There were other times they knew I saw, and I merely promised consequences later because I needed time to figure out what happened and what consequence was best.
In those days when we’re frustrated with the lack of obedience and/or respect, we need to decide who’s in charge. If we want to be in charge, then we have to take charge. We must lead and not wait to see what mood the kids are in for the day. Oh yes, I know all about that; many were the days I had to take back the charge and stop tiptoeing around a kid’s mood. I can tell you all about moods and I-want-to-be-in-charge kids.
Happy kids are not the rulers
I watched this happen with a friend of mine. He was frustrated with his preschooler who became cantankerous and belligerent at pre-school one day. It seems no matter what they tried, the behavior continued for days on end. It was embarrassing to get phone calls from the school about their child’s behavior. The kid was four years old, for crying-out-loud, and he was already a problem! These parents were good people, well-educated, and wanted to do what was best for their child. They forgot that giving their best did not include giving up who’s in charge.
“Well,” I said, “you guys are going to have to decide who is in charge in your house.”
A few days later I learned that all the kid’s toys were confiscated and he could “earn” one toy back per week based on his behavior at pre-school. His pitch of a fit didn’t phase his dad, who stood his ground. The toys stayed in the attic. He had to find a way to entertain himself.
A happy parent is one who is in charge
Amazingly, his behavior improved immeasurably. After earning a few toys back, he didn’t ask for any more. So they bagged up the toys and took them to Goodwill. You know what they discovered? Their child was happier because he now knew the limits, and because he learned to entertain himself. He no longer needed to be entertained by others and his toys. He found that entertainment within himself and his imagination.
The problem (my opinion here) was that he had too many choices, too many options, too many toys, and too many people caving in. He could never decide what he wanted to do because the options were so many. At pre-school, he wasn’t the prince in the castle; he was one among many. He was used to having things done his way at home, but things don’t work that way at pre-school, nor do they work that way in the adult-world.
Once the parents took care of the problem at home, his behavior improved in preschool. By not cajoling him and by taking away things important to him, they saw a different (and better) child. They took back the charge from him and let him know he was no longer in charge. He was happier, and I guarantee so were they.
You need to decide
I’m all for giving a child choice and preferences when it doesn’t create havoc or commotion for others. Every one of us has things we like and don’t like. Yet a person who must always “get his way” isn’t happy, and a child who always gets his way makes others miserable as well.
There’s no better place for our kids to learn that the world does not revolve around their every whim and fancy than at home. When children learn that early, they become happier and more responsible adults. When parents implement this early, they become happier parents.