Guest Post by Dr. Roger Herst, Author of A Simple Formula for Raising Happy Children. 4/3/2016
Kids frustrate parents when not obedient. A parent says to him/herself, “I’m the parent and my kid is the kid. In the natural order of things, kids should listen to their parents and obey.”
Wrong. Ask yourself, from whose point of view does this follow? After only a few years on this planet, does a youngster really understand the natural order? Does he/she buy into the parental role from birth? Of course not. Such sophisticated divisions of power are learned through experience. And this takes time.
What a child knows from the Get-Go is power and/or authority. If the parent is too strong, the child immediately feels the power differential and will often rebel. Now asked yourself from the adult’s point of view what is this rebellion about? Children often don’t buy into the power structure. A kid doesn’t like parental domination and acts out, or simply refuses to do what a parent requires. Think about it. If you were a child with only limited experience in life and someone barked out orders and demanded you act in a certain way, wouldn’t you take umbrage? Or fight back?
It’s been said that parents and their children are constantly in power struggles, and I agree. What appears important to me is that a parent recognizes why a child is rebelling. What am I doing as a parent to cause such a reaction? Is the child just out of order, or am I insensitive to what’s going on?
When I was younger I believed that the parental role is fundamentally tyrannical. Because many parents objected strongly to being accused of tyranny, I realized I hit a raw nerve. As guides and teachers, parents must lead, and if done crudely, that can seem tyrannical to a child. Mom and Dad give me orders and orders and more orders, and I’m expected to accept them and act accordingly. Enough is enough.
Every parent falls into the same trap. Placing orders and demands and expecting compliance.
It turns out to be better to incorporate a child into a course of action by sharing ownership with him/her. Not as master and slave, but as team members. And that requires a parent to constantly tap the opinions and sensitivities of a child. Ask a child for an opinion. As him/her how to improve what is done jointly as a family. Share responsibilities, which means give responsibility to the child and accept the fact that he/she may do things differently than you. We all hate being criticized, and don’t we think that kids do too? We all like to be praised for doing something well, and don’t be think that kids do too?
When things don’t go right with a child, a good parent would be well advised to think about what’s going on in that young mind. That is not easy, but it helps to ask a child why he/she feels bad, or what’s annoying him/her. If nothing more, it establishes a sense that what is going on in a young mind is important.
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Roger E. Herst, author of “A Simple Formula for Raising Happy Children” (rogerherst.com), is an ordained Reform rabbi with MBA and doctorate degrees. A father and grandfather, Herst regularly engages with parents in the form of Platonic dialogue – a cooperative Q-&-A approach meant to stimulate critical thinking – to yield logic-based solutions for raising happy children.
Originally posted 2016-04-08 22:14:26.