It was a crazy day in Kindergarten. As the substitute, I was just winging it. I had gotten over the nerves of talking to parents long ago, and yet, I was uneasy about this one. The mother was crouched next to her sweet girl talking to her about her day. I stood on the side, eavesdropping, waiting for that break in the conversation, that perfect moment to tell that hard working mother that her daughter… her daughter had a hard day.
“We’ve had some problems today….” The mother listened intently as I explained the issues. “So, I think it would be best if she didn’t bring her toys from home to school anymore.” I held my breath.
“Oh…Thank goodness.” The mother smiled. “I don’t like her bringing toys to school, but she’s been telling me that you guys say it’s ok. Now that I have it on good authority, I can tell her to keep them at home.”
Good authority? You are the authority! You are the highest and ultimate authority in your child’s life.
Unfortunately, too many of us fall into this trap. From the day that the pee-stick comes back with the big fat positive, you are imbued with the ultimate power and authority in the life in that tiny mini you. From the very beginning you make choices like what they wear, what they eat, what they do, when they do it; basically you are the ultimate in micromanaging. As your child grows, you begin to give them jurisdiction over unimportant details: what they wear, what they play, what they read, etc. You give them options.
But somewhere along this way, you’ve become overwhelmed, you’ve forgotten, or maybe you just didn’t realize your power and you begin giving that authority to other things: teachers, timers, TV shows, clerks, our parenting partner, basically we give it to anyone who can and will take it. It takes the pressure off.
What’s the big deal? That timer, teacher, TV show, store clerk, whatever, has saved our life when we just don’t have the energy, patience, endurance, any more. It is a big deal. Your child sees you from the beginning as the biggest and ultimate authority figure. When you give your power away, your child learns that you have no power and if you have no power, surely the teacher, the timer, the store clerk, the TV show, the police, and any other “authority” figure certainly don’t either.
We must reclaim this power. It isn’t easy. You’ve probably found yourself in the most vicious parenting cycle ever. You tell your child no, they tantrum a bit, so you cave. Next time you decide to come down harder and your child just tantrums more. Each time you try to assert your authority, your child fights you and it gets bigger and more explosive each time. There is only one way to end this, stick to your guns. Don’t back down ever again. It’s exhausting and doesn’t seem worth the battle, but trust me, it is. Think of how teenage years will turn out when they begin to question everything? If you haven’t laid a strong and firm foundation, your children will crumble.
You must stop the tantrum of the color of cup. If your child doesn’t see it their way, well, they get nothing. They can have the cup you give them or they can have nothing. The issue of bring toys to school is done. They can leave their toys at home or they can have their toys taken away. They can help you politely in the grocery store or they will have a consequence. I know it’s easier said than done, but caving in only makes things not only worse for you, but for anyone else who has to deal with your child.
I was helping out in Pre-Kindergarten one day when I told the students that we were no longer going to make that craft project. One boy took it hard and began to scream. I tried talking to him, he screamed. I tried offering other activities, he screamed. The other teacher tried, he continued to scream. I removed him from the center of the room and told him when he was done screaming he could play. He screamed on and off for an hour. He threw chairs when we ignored his screaming. When the other teacher approached him, he kicked that teacher. I finally took him from the classroom and sat him in the hall. I talked to him about how his behavior was unacceptable. After a chat, he went back into the room and apologized to the other teacher and chose a center to play at. When I talked to his mom, she couldn’t believe that we had let him carry on like that for an hour. I told her that we had tried everything, but he would not let up because he wanted his way.
This boy is only four, I cringe to think how this would play out with a ten-year-old who could hurt a teacher more, who can throw more than just chairs. What about when this boy is twenty-one and doesn’t get the job he wants? We don’t do our children any favors by giving them everything they want. Life doesn’t work that way.
By letting our child experience and learn to deal with small disappointments by us saying “no”, they are better prepared for the future when stakes are higher, disappointments are bigger, and no one will cave in. Take back your authority for the sake of your child.