by Renee Mill, Clinical Psychologist
Originally published in Tribe Magazine, February 2009
Many parents today feel out of control. Children as young as 18 months do not listen and frequently control the mood and activities in their home. It seems obvious that parents should take charge and be "the boss", yet they do not The reason for this is that modern parents are afraid of being bossy or authoritarian, worrying that this approach will crush their child's self-esteem.
If you are a parent who feels lost and out of control, the first thing you can do to move from empowerment to empowerment is to drop the word "boss" and replace it with "leader". Now you can allay your fears of being dictatorial and apply the qualities of effective leadership to your parenting.An effective leader:
- Takes ownership of her position and knows that she is responsible for implementation and success. Likewise, a parent must assume leadership of her household and take responsibility for decisions and implementation. When a two-year-old gets to decide whether to bath or what to eat, it is like the cleaner in a hotel chain making budgeting decisions. Since a parent is older and wiser than their child and can see the whole picture of the family and home, it is appropriate that the parent takes responsibility for making sensible, healthy decisions.
- Is assertive. When he talks, everyone listens. He is clear about what he requires and inspires others to follow. Similarly, an effective parent needs to be assertive, clear and inspirational. Being wishy-washy, unclear, or inconsistent undermines the present goal, as the child does not take the instruction seriously. It also will undermine all future situations because the child will lose trust in the leader's capacity to lead.
- Has clear goals and practical plans to achieve them. She will have long-term and short-term goals which pave the way to her overall aspiration. An effective parent must also have a vision, goals and plans. A vision may be something like a warm atmosphere at home. The short-term goal may be to work on being a calm parent so that the home is calm. A long-term goal may be to teach the children how to be hospitable.
- Communicates well. He says exactly what he means in a manner that gets through to the recipient. Similarly, an effective parent communicates clearly, simply, explicitly and age-appropriately. When a child understands exactly what is required, he is more likely to comply.
- Lives up to a code of ethics. She has a value system that inspires others to follow. In the same way, a successful parent models a value system that motivates collaborative behaviour. Values like consistency, reliability, honesty, diligence, persistency, accountability, kindness, generosity and helpfulness teach a child important ways of behaving in the world.
When you become a leader in your home, you will be promoting self- esteem and confidence in your child. Without harshness, or shouting, your child will be co-operative and respectful. Most importantly, you will develop self-respect as you discover your innate leadership capacities. Wishing you success!