You are Not the Boss of Me!

I was watching Dr. Phil recently on TV about kids running their households. I was not surprised as permissive parenting seems to be reaching epidemic proportions in this country. With as much advice I give to adults about the wrongs of punishment, I almost hate to use the words “positive” discipline as many misinterpret this to mean that we must give in to children’s wishes when they are upset because we think it is our job to keep them happy.

There is a difference between want and need for children and it is our job to see the best in children while providing what they NEED, not necessarily what they want. Yes, it is important to see a child’s perspective so that they feel heard and understood BUT that does NOT mean to cave into their whims when life doesn’t go the way. Every time we give in to a child who is whining, rebelling, showing dissatisfaction, or throwing a tantrum, we are denying them the opportunity to develop delayed gratification; the ability to accept disappointment and wait for a better opportunity or outcome. How many of you would like your children (or YOU for that matter) to be able to be debt or persevere to achieve that goal they want to attain or be able to put off buying the big screen TV so they can save for the house they want to buy? Delayed gratification gives us the ability to have self-control!

Helping kids to develop delayed gratification requires us to say the word “No”. That’s right, N-O spells NO! Being able to say “NO” without giving in is the definition of setting a boundary. You must expect that when you say “NO” that sometimes your child will be upset and it is not your job to take care of the way they feel about it! Feel free to listen to them, or to empathize with them so they feel understood, but DO NOT give in.

My son Bart has been teaching me this for the past 19 years. After saying “No”, sometimes, I used to feel guilty when he had a good argument, gave me the proverbial “sour puss” look or just kept persistently pleading with me. I usually gave in by compromising, other times, just hook, line and sinker. The feeling I was left with was resentment. I intuitively knew it was the wrong decision and would swear to myself I would not let it happen again. When I really got in touch with my feelings I realized that I was afraid of a power struggle and it seemed easier to avoid the conflict and give him what he wanted. In the long run it was not easier, because, he learned how deep he could push my buttons if he really wanted something. Now who was really in charge, me or him?

The research says that children who live in permissive households are willful, disrespectful and demanding. They often have a poor self-esteem because they don’t like themselves having that much control. On the outside it looks like they want it but actually it is very frightening for a young child to have control of their caretakers. When they are being bossy, it is an indication that they may be overwhelmed in their environment and they are screaming for YOU to take charge. If you don’t listen to that disguised plea, they may resort to physical aggression toward you in order to get you to take the reins. Yes, YOU are the boss of your child. So the next time you are just fit-to-be tied when your child is throwing a tantrum because s/he can’t have a cookie, take a deep breath and remember it is a moment of opportunity to develop delayed gratification!