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How You May Be Undermining Your Own Authority

One of the most important aspects of being a good and effective parent is making sure you've established your authority. What this means is that you've made it clear to your child that you, the parent, are in charge--you are the one who, among other things, sets boundaries, grants permission, decides when and what to eat, and decides when naps and bedtime occur.

For some parents, it is a revelation to learn that not only can this actually be done, it is vitally important; it's vital to the emotional well-being of your children and the health of your family that you clearly understand and accept the God-given responsibility of seeing to the proper care and bringing up of your children, and you can't do this if you're allowing the kids to be in charge.

But even parents who have a good grasp on this and have no trouble accepting their responsibility to lead often undermine their own authority without realizing it. I think I understand the reason for it, but let me first explain how you may be doing this yourself. Here it is: You repeat your instructions multiple times. That's it.

It doesn't sound like such a big deal, does it? But it is, and here's why--every time you tell your child to do something, he ignores or refuses to do it, and you tell him again, you are teaching him that your word means NOTHING. You give the same instruction over and over and over, eventually adding threats ("If you don't get dressed right now, you won't get any dessert!"), entreaties ("I really need you to be a big boy and get dressed--help me out here!"), games and/or jokes ("The mommy monster is gonna get you if you don't get dressed!"), and maybe trying to make deals ("if you get dressed really fast I'll give you a treat!"), followed by more intense threats, maybe yelling angrily, even physically forcing the child to do what you said. It becomes a fight, and nobody wins.

You've lost your composure. And you've eroded your authority.

Look back over the way you interact with your children--do you think in terms of "getting them to do" things? Do you often find yourself being persuaded by them to change what you just said and let them do something different than what you first told them to do? Do they talk back to you, ignore you, and/or argue with you? You've allowed your authority to be eroded.

It's time to build it back. You don't do this by speaking more harshly or by throwing your weight around. You do it by looking your child in the eye and calmly telling him what to do: "Get dressed." Then leave the room.

When you come back in a reasonable amount of time and he isn't dressed, don't get agitated and start the whole drama again, simply choose an option: "It's time for us to go to church/school. I guess you're going to have to go in your pj's." Or, "It doesn't look as though you want to go with me to get donuts for breakfast. I'll see you when I get back." No more threats, no more begging or cajoling or luring with treats. Don't argue or wrestle or sigh heavily, just state the reality and let the chips fall where they may.

Your child will likely scream, howl, roll on the floor, and cry. Better him than you, though, and next time you say: "It's time to get dressed." he is about 98% more likely to do so immediately, because he has seen that things go better for him when he does what you say.

Listen, your children need you to lead them now more than ever. They need your wisdom and direction for living in this world and dealing with the madness all around us, but they won't pay attention to you if you're always begging them to do so. Don't let yourself be governed by concern over your child's disapproval of you, or his childish tantrums; don't be afraid to let them be uncomfortable--you aren't hurting them, you aren't being mean, and it's absolutely not necessary to yell. Yelling is what happens when you nag, threaten, beg, coerce, and cajole them to obey, and they outmaneuver you.

You must:

  1. Have a plan

  2. Make your expectations clear

  3. Tell them once

  4. Turn around and let them have a moment to obey

  5. Move forward with the day

  6. Repeat, ad infinitum

Contact me if you need help--my email is all over the place on this website. We can talk over the phone, no charge. If you need more, we can discuss a payment that suits your situation.

Regain your position of leadership. Re-establish peace and order in your home. Give your children the gift of clarity, boundaries, and peace. You will never regret it.

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