Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Who's in Charge?

As a former Morse & PPP facilitator I frequently witness a classic parenting error with young children & it's a very easy trap to fall into.  Occasionally it even slips into our own family lingo but I see it the most when out and about at playgrounds and as such & I find myself biting my lip with the effort not to interfere.

The parent talking to the child:

"Is it time to leave the playground?"

"Shall we go home now?"

"Do you think its time to go?"

"Should we go home and have lunch now?"

"Are you going to sit in the high chair and eat now?"

etc, etc and so on.....

Sound familiar?  And the childs response 99% of the time?  

NO!

And then the parent starts to cajole & negotiate or flat out says "Well I think it is time to leave so lets go!" 

Cue tantrum.  

Or, worse, the parent relents, listens to the child & says "okay, 5 more minutes and then we need to go." The kids runs off with a huge grin because they have got you all sewn up....

There is no point asking a child a question, if you are not going to accept the answer.  It gives them a false sense of power that is shattered the minute you reject their response.  And if you accept their response, you have basically put them in charge of your household. Except they're kids. They need parents for a reason. To guide and decide what's best for them.

So many parents are experiencing unnecessary battles with their children & they've done it to themselves by handing their kids the power.  When you ask a child a question, then disregard their answer you are teaching them a lesson and it's not good a good lesson. Their wishes don't matter, their desires don't matter. You asked their opinion on something but obviously didn't like the answer because you are doing something else....

I'm going to give you a very extreme example now, and there were a lot of other bad parenting dynamics going on, but I hope it highlights more clearly the error.  
I was watching "I'm having their baby". A young woman has two children already and wants to give her soon to arrive baby up for adoption. She sits down with a 2 year old and a 3 year old and says "Mummy wants to give the baby up for adoption, so another family will raise it. What do you think about that?" The question is beyond both of them but the 3 year old does manage to say "it's a stupid idea, its our baby!" 

Then the mother is talking to the camera in a cut shot saying "I don't care what they think. I'm going to do what I want to do. Its not their decision, its mine!"  

EXACTLY So why was she asking them what they thought in the first place?

1. Huge amount of pressure for an adult let alone a child to be expected to make a decision like that. 

2. Maybe she was hoping they'd be all excited and say YES! but they didn't so she did what she wanted anyway.....

Like I said, very extreme example.

A less extreme example. I assisted a childrens leader running a rehearsal for a Christmas play.  After running through the play once she asked "Shall we practice that again?" And there was a resounding chorus of NO!!!!  And the leader says "Well I think we should." Cue moans. Next run through. "Shall we do it once more?" NO!!!  Are you seeing what I'm saying??  

Why is she asking? The kids answer doesn't matter to her.

You are in charge.  If you are ready to leave the playground, pack your child up and tell them its time to leave. If you want your child to sit in a high chair and have something to eat, make it happen.  If you want the children you have been placed in charge of to run through a play again, YOU tell them that they are going to rehearse it again. The direction can still be delivered nicely; its not mean to provide instruction.

Any choice you give a child should be simple and either choice must be something you can follow through with.  

Show them two outfits and say "pick which of these two you want to wear".  

But otherwise don't ask. Tell. They are baby people...they are not adults.  

Children are being asked hundreds of questions a day by their parents, when they cant possibly be able to compute all the possible answers and what they mean. What they actually need is guidance. They need to be given the answers at this stage of their life.

I broached the subject with a dad once. He said he didn't like telling his child what to do. I told him to consider it more as guidance than just saying "do this".  It still didn't sit well with him.  But to me parenting is telling your child what to do, over and over until they get it.

I'm the first to admit every body is different. Children respond differently based on personality etc. Parents have their own experiences & motivatuons that guide their decisions. 

But, if you are having a bit of a power struggle with your toddler, at least take a minute to listen to how you are speaking to them. The answer could be as simple as stopping asking their permission about everything you want them to do....