Parenting Advice on POWER by Bonnie Harris

Power Needs to be Balanced
by Bonnie Harris of Connective Parenting (excerpt from newsletter)

Are you a parent who has a hard time saying no to your children or maybe one particular child? Many parents I find have a hard time being firm with their children. Sometimes it’s because they are reacting to the autocratic or harsh measures from their own parents and want desperately for their children to love them and be able to express their feelings and opinions. These parents were humbled in their childhoods by parents who did not “see” them or allow them to speak out. Some believe that the child’s needs must come first, and they end up frustrated and resentful when their children don’t appreciate their efforts.

For whatever reason, you have lost or given up your power somewhere along the way. A connected parent owns his or her power, understands the importance of the child’s power  and holds them both in balance. Owning your power does not mean overpowering your child. It means that your wants and needs are just as important as your child’s and you have as much right to them as your child does. It’s finding the balance that becomes the art of connective parenting.

One’s own personal power is a birthright. Because power has become so misused and misunderstood, many adults either grab for it wherever they can for fear of it being taken away or never having enough, or they are afraid of it for fear of presenting themselves as domineering and unloving (something they may have experienced as a child). We all need to feel powerful, to be confident that we have the ability to make something happen and influence others. When we lose our power, we lose ourselves. We become dependent on someone else to think and make decisions for us. We don’t trust ourselves. One of Oxford’s definitions of powerful is: having a strong effect on people’s feelings or thoughts. Certainly as parents we need this authority and, for the healthy growth of the individual, a child needs this authority as well. A child needs a teaspoon full to an adult’s cupful. It’s a give and take. A child’s authority should never trump the parent’s, but I see all too often that it does–not because the child demands it, but because the parent allows it.

If you tend to give over your power to others, especially to your child, pay attention to how often you might be asking your child permission (“Time for bed, okay?”), or cowering from stating a want firmly (“Please don’t talk like that. It hurts my feelings.”) Perhaps there is a fear that if I say yes, I lose and my child takes control or if I say no, my child is unhappy or angry at me. Many of us either fear our child’s reactions or can’t bear to make them unhappy or disappointed. Fear not!

The old adage, Say what you mean and mean what you say is never more appropriate than in the parenting relationship. “This doesn’t work for me. It’s not okay for you to speak to me that way. I want you to ask what you want again with a different tone of voice.” Speak firmly with a confident tone, not blaming, shaming or critical, merely firm. And not, I need you to…., but I want you to…. It puts you in the driver’s seat when you need to be there. Be honest. It’s not a need but it is a want. Sometimes it’s your turn to use your power and sometimes it’s your child’s. Think of a mobile dancing in the breeze. Sometimes is weighs more heavily on one side than the other but it always balances out. A connected parent knows when power is out of balance and knows when to bring it back in balance.

You will find that whenever you are clear, logical, calm and firm (confident) your child is far more likely to be cooperative. But to truly be in balance, you need to be cooperative with your child when he is the same.

Tips to remember:
Owning your power does not mean holding power over your child.
Owning your power means being firm, clear, and logical.
Ask yourself, Am I asking or begging my child to do what I want or am I stating firmly what I want?
How often do I say, I need you to…. Replace it with I want you to….
A child responds positively when they know you are in charge–of yourself as well as of them.
Your child’s anger or resistance does not mean he doesn’t love you. He deserves to feel however he does.
Remember the #1 rule of problem solving is that the solution must work for all involved.
Try, “This is not okay with me. Let’s figure out what will work for both of us.”