The Three Ps: Power, Patience & Persistence
As I work with families, I continue to be amazed at how often children control what occurs in the family. It’s as if the roles have shifted and the child will tell his or her parents what the ground rules will be. Sometimes this is done verbally, when a teen tells his parents, “I am not going to get off the computer.” Sometimes it’s done passively, as when the child ignores the parents’ request to do a chore or join the family.
When these dynamics occur I know the family is in big trouble. Once a child has this kind of power they will not want to relinquish it easily. Every child wants to make their own rules despite the fact that this is absolutely the worst thing that can happen to a child developmentally.
Kids need structure and kids need parents to be in charge. Children need boundaries and rules to know the parameters of life. When a parent is too permissive, it gives the child too great a sense of power. Since they haven’t earned this power they not have built a true sense of confidence. This false sense of power creates a sense of entitlement. Since the child didn’t legitimately earn or learn the needed skills to function, they begin to demand them by throwing temper tantrums and acting out in aggressive or passive-aggressive ways. This wears the parent down.
If you’re reading this and you’re realizing that your child’s out-of-control behavior may be a result of giving them too much control, there are some things you can do to reverse the problem and regain your power. I advocate using the Three P’s of Parenting: POWER, PATIENCE, & PERSISTENCE.
• Power Reallocation. It’s imperative that you begin to set up rules and take back your authority and power. Do it firmly, but gently. Conserve your verbal energy and in a practical, fair, and loving style, tell your child that when they misbehave they will experience the related consequences. For instance, “When you talk to me disrespectfully, I will walk away from you.” “When you throw a temper tantrum because I won’t buy you a cell phone, it will reinforce that you are not old enough to have those adult privileges.”
• Patience. Be patient. It takes 28 days to learn a behavior and at least 90 days to break it. This requires 90 days of absolute consistency. If you forget and allow your child to have their own way, then you will need to start the whole process over again. DON’T GIVE IN OR GIVE UP! Remain patient and known that progress can be slow.
• Persistence. Your child will most likely resist your changes with a vengeance. Stay steadfast and realize that when parents regain authority your child will rebel. This is a natural response. Be firm and consistent. Give them consequences. Explain your rationale once and then do not engage in verbal warfare. If there is one thing I tell parents over and over again, it is to conserve their precious energy. Do not debate with your child your reasoning. You do not need to repeatedly explain yourself. Nor do you need to have the last word. That will undoubtedly incite a power struggle.
When it comes to parenting, there is not one cookie-cutter approach that applies to all kids. However, using patience, perseverance and regaining your power reinforces family values and provides children the structure, boundaries, and rules that they need.