Is Your Child Taking Control?

Checks and balances - we hear that phrase often in relation to Government, politics and power.

How often do we hear it in relation to parenting? Family is a miniature political unit. You are the leader, let's call you the Prime Parent, the kids are the unruly MPs and party activists jostling for their own positions. Do you hold all the power?

The answer of course is no, and that is as it should be. Children need to push, pull and mount assaults on the boundaries in order to assert themselves and grow. The problem arises when the checks and balances disappear and your child ends up with more power that they know what to do with.

Sometimes when you are caught up in each daily power struggle - perhaps the one about getting dressed, or the one about eating the food you know is good for them, you may struggle to step back and think, what percentage of the power do I hold and what percentage does my child hold? You may feel it is a done deal, and there is no way that you can wrestle control back from your child. It may feel overwhelming, never-ending, and you know that if you mark out your boundary you will be faced with such an onslaught of unruly behaviour that you will simply sink under the weight of it.

Just as an army marches on its stomach, so you as parents can fortify yourselves for the battle ahead.

Step 1: Planning your strategy; keep your eyes on the prize

It can feel like it's all about the children's wishes, and everything you do is a reaction rather than an action.

The first and most important action you can take is to think. Really think about the whole situation. Ask yourself, how do I want to be as a parent? Is what I am doing working as well as I would like it to? Do I want to take the role of parent and assert it when necessary? If the answer is yes, then think about where you ultimately want to be and resolve in your mind to get there - you may not know how to get there, but this is the first step.

Step 2: Realism and focus

So you have decided that you want the situation to change and you are feeling more confident because you have had time to think and make this positive choice for change. Now ask yourself, is it possible to change this situation without facing challenges and setbacks? The answer is obviously no. The next question is, how are you going to deal with these hurdles? Will you give up in despair or will you pick yourself up, dust yourself down and carry on? Again, the most important weapon in your armoury is to think. Picture the situation and think about your reaction in advance. Recognise the reality - it will be tough to change - and plan your response both to your child and to yourself.

Step 3: Choices

You know which situations are flashpoints for the control issues. Pick one of these and think about how to respond differently when this situation arises again. Are you stuck with your own default reaction to certain situations? Consider how to monitor your own reactions and if, for instance, you feel the tension rise within you, pause and think of where you want to get to. If you usually shout, breathe deeply, level your voice and consider the situation as if it was new and you hadn't been there 100 times before. Try to recognise that each time a power struggle arises with your children you are at a crossroads, it may help to literally visualise it as a fork in the road ahead. Do you take the path that you have gone down before, or do you take the path that may lead to a better outcome? You have a choice. Even if you don't manage to take the new road the first time, or you can't quite stick to what you had resolved in your mind at step 1, don't give up. Each and every incident gives you the opportunity to choose. Your choice is the greatest power that you have as a parent. You know for certain that the outcome will be the same as ever if you react in the same way as you always do. Picture a merry-go-round representing you and the kids and the normal progression of events. You have a choice of whether to stay on the ride, or hit the brakes.

Often simply reacting differently is such a surprise that your children will be stopped in their tracks and a little bit of the balance of power is restored to you straight away.

Step 4: Small steps

You can't change everything all at once, so be realistic about what you can achieve at any stage.

Think about the biggest issues where you feel the power balance arises and pick a maximum of 2 or 3 of these to try to tackle.

Write down the issues and consider options for different approaches. Decide upon an approach for each situation and resolve that you will take this new approach next time the situation arises. Think about the approach and whether it will achieve your desired result. Most importantly, consider whether you are capable of applying it, and if you feel you can't carry out one of your resolutions then change your intended approach to something manageable; the aim is not to set yourself up for failure.

Be honest with yourself and recognise that controlling your own emotions and reactions can be difficult. It can often be easier to continue reacting in the old familiar way, even if things are difficult, because at least you recognise the situation and that can feel comfortable. Change is not an easy option and can be frightening, so you will need to be brave.

Step 5: Specifics

Hopefully you are now mentally prepared and ready to take on the challenge, but you feel you would like some ideas on different approaches for specific situations; part 2 of this article will try to address some common power balance situations and to give you some practical tips that may help you to restore the balance.

This article was written by Faith Dewhurst of Parent Confidential

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Posts: 4

Greater London

IS YOUR CHILD TAKING CONTROL? - how to restore the balance

Great article... it's really got me thinking, looking forward to part 2

complain about this post

Posted: 17/Jan/11 at 19:09:53

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