Parenting can be overwhelming.
Since when did we become the adults? Suddenly we have to make all the decisions? Should they go to school if they have a cough? What if it gets worse? Screen time or no screen time? And how much?! If you’re like me, you still feel like you’re 20, figuring things out. (I am definitely not 20, by the way.) But parenting forces you to step up and lead, whether you feel ready for it or not. Here’s how to claim, or re-claim, your power in parenting.
When we react or make decisions from a place of fear, it causes anxiety and sets a precedent of fear for future decisions. Maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t think I’m afraid…” I would challenge you to look at your behaviors. Do you yell or get overly excited when your child is misbehaving? Could it be a feeling of loss of control or that you are afraid of not being able to handle their emotions? Evaluate your inner motives behind your behavior, find the fear and eliminate it by literally telling yourself you can handle it. Tell yourself, “these are just emotions. Emotions are normal. I can handle emotions.” Being aware of the fear is step one to eliminating it.
Remember who is in control
Big emotions, constant nagging and other behaviors can lead you to go with the flow of your child’s ups and downs. But remember that YOU are the parent, YOU are in control and YOU make the rules. If they don’t like a decision you made, don’t back off or become afraid of their emotions. Instead, validate their feelings but stand strong in your decision. An example could sound like this, “I understand you are upset we are not going to watch cartoons tonight. You were looking forward to that. Tonight we’re not doing cartoons but maybe we’ll do it another day this week.” If they continue to have big emotions once you’ve stated your decision firmly, let them. It will pass. If it seems like their big emotion could cause harm to themselves or someone else, hold on to them until it passes. If you can’t handle the emotion after some time, leave the room or ask them to leave the room.
What if you ask them to do something and they don’t listen? Do you instantly lose your power? “Well, they won’t listen to me anyway, so why ask?” Instead of this mentality, set up a system in your house. In my house, I ask only two times before we need to do a consequence. So, if I ask once, maybe they didn’t hear me and that’s OK. I will make sure to ask, “Did you hear what I asked you to do?” Then, if I ask a second time (and I am sure they heard me) and they still don’t do what I asked (or continue to do what I asked them to stop doing), we implement a consequence. This could be small, I like to match the consequence to the behavior. So if they broke a big rule, hitting for example, we would take away a big privilege like video games for a couple days or a week. If it’s a small infraction, like annoying their sibling after we have asked them twice kindly to stop, they might take a two minute break in another room. Natural consequences are best, but if that’s not possible the next best thing is a created consequence that matches the circumstance.
A lot of the stress of parenting comes from not knowing what to do or not having thought through our parenting style ahead of time. Taking some time to think about what are the most important rules or values in your family (ours are respect and honesty) and how you will handle difficult situations before they arise can eliminate a lot of the stress of parenting. It’s harder to decide how you want to parent in the middle of a difficult situation than deciding your parenting tactics ahead of time, when you are calm and rational. If you haven’t started this process already, you can use some of the most recent difficult situations with your kids to analyze how you behaved, what you liked and didn’t like about the situation and what you would do differently next time.
Remember, rarely (if ever) do we actually have to get overly heated when dealing with our children. We can always respond in love, with patience and with authority if we come from a place of power, not a place of insecurity. Find your power and hold on to it today!