Most of us grew up hearing those famous four words, “Because I said so!” and promised we would never say them to our own children. Maybe you have and maybe you haven’t, but the need will arise. Yes, children need their parents to assume authority. There is a direct and positive correlation between parental authority and a child’s self-esteem.
Why is it that parents fear assuming this role? Or, we half-heartedly assume it through pleading, bribing, and wishing? What does it mean to assume authority?
There seems to be a dangerous misperception that assuming authority results in squelching the child’s personality or sense of self. This is wrong! Assuming authority shows respect to your child by understanding and honoring their innate needs to be shown limits and boundaries. Understanding limits and boundaries is an important life skill.
Often when a parent has a different viewpoint from the child, the parent talks and talks excessively trying to explain her different point of view. Children are not able to participate meaningfully in this process and, therefore, hold on to their ideas with a tight grip. This quickly disintegrates into a frustrating conversation, argument, or meltdown. Have you been there?
Yes, children want and deserve to be heard, but rarely do they listen during these disagreements. They are often on the ready to interrupt and assert their viewpoint. Rather than getting trapped into a long-winded oration regarding a decision, listen to your child and then calmly and compassionately (and in less than 25 words) tell your child your decision — not your wish, your decision.
Better yet, when a decision needs to be made, try offering your child two choices. Make sure you can live with the outcome of either choice. Offering these choices empowers your child, allows them to participate meaningfully in decision making, and defuses the power struggle. This shares some of the power and responsibility with your child, but you are the one assuming authority because you are creating manageable options. Remember, you have to be able to live with the outcome, so choose wisely!