I once was leading a parenting seminar in which a mom reported that she could not leave the house because her child would not allow her to. She went on to explain how difficult this child made it for her to do anything except show him constant attention. She claimed she could not clean the house or prepare meals or get the laundry done. She could not get him into the car to shop for groceries or other necessities. She felt deflated and exhausted. Her child was 18 months old.
Children are as individual as the stars. However, they all have two things in common. They all want emotional stability and personal power. These two basic elements are foundational in helping to create a self confident and respectful child.
Emotional stability involves consistency and follow-through. As a parent, if you say it you must do it. Don’t make idle threats that both you and your child know you have no intention of keeping. Grounding them for life…yeah right! It’s better for you not to say it than to say it and not follow through. Don’t expect what you don’t inspect. If your child says he has completed his homework, just check it out. If they have cleaned their room, go see! Consistency means that every action elicits the same reaction. The consequence must be the same every time the rule is broken, not just sometimes. Never knowing when the parent is going to follow through and when she is not causes emotional instability which results in a lack of self confidence and self control.
As for personal power, who doesn’t want that? The problem is that when children are allowed to have power – including power over the parent – they are set to become insecure and demanding. Children should have empowerment but not power. They should be allowed to have choices with each of the choices being yours. For example, if your teen wants to go out on a school night and be out later than you want her to you can give her two choices: (1) You can go out and be home by 10:00 or (2) you can stay at home. Either way is OK with you because they are both your choices. However, the teen has been empowered to both problem solve and make a mature choice. This type of parenting keeps you from losing your cool and aids your child in his emotional and moral development.