Wait a minute. Before jumping down my back, as a parent I believe in speaking respectfully to children, as I’m sure you do. However let’s take a step back and look at why a remarkable parent shouldn’t say please.
Picture the following scenario: It’s late; it’s 5:30, the kids haven’t eaten and if they aren’t bathed and fed soon, there is going to be several breakdowns before bed. Mom is tired and ready to wrap up the day. She sets out dinner and says:
“Hailey would you like to come eat now before your bath?” Hailey who is busy trying to pull out the bin with the Lego says, (of course) “No”
“Hailey it’s late and almost time for your bath. Please come to the table and eat” “NO I want to play with my Legooooo…
“Hailey come to the table NOW”
Mom is now forced to go to Hailey and pick up a screaming, tired child who is now too upset to eat.
Sound familiar? We have all had the pleasure of witnessing (or taking part) in similar scenes. And this scene plays out over and over throughout the day.
Why is this happening and how can we change the pattern?
Children need clear directions at critical times. When a parent starts explaining him/herself or asking the child to please do something, the child perceives this hesitation and may even view it as weakness on the part of the parent. S/he will be all too willing to engage in a power struggle. When a child hesitates or doesn’t follow a direction, s/he is really testing to see if the parent means what he says.
It is here that the parent should consistently show that yes, s/he does mean what s/he says and it is for the child’s benefit. The parent becomes authoritative and not authoritarian. The definition of an authoritarian parent is “favoring or enforcing strict obedience to authority, especially that of the government, at the expense of personal freedom.” Not exactly what we’re aiming for here. The goal is not to impose our will or force obedience but rather to have children live up to realistic expectations.
The authoritative parent is “able to be trusted as being accurate or true; reliable.” The child learns to see his parent as someone who provides the secure structure to keep him/her safe, secure and healthy. The child will not feel coerced but rather confident and secure.
We need to help our children see us in this role by being unwavering in our requests. At the same time, we need to make sure that our requests are reasonable and for the benefit of the child or everyone involved.
Developing an Authoritative Style
Parenting is not easy but the one that needs this clarity the most is the parent him/herself. We are not necessarily born with this authoritative nature and sometimes it is a difficult role for parents to assume. I am sure that you have seen seen friends and relatives who are extremely capable in their many roles at work or in the community. However when it comes to disciplining their own children, they suddenly feel inadequate.
It is these parents that often engage in power struggles with their children. And it is these parents that will find that they need to work on building up their parenting muscles. The muscles are not built to assert strength but rather to be remarkable and authoritative. It takes some practice but it is possible for any parent that resolves to do so.
Parents that don’t waver and mean what they say, actually create more confident, secure children. The child never wonders if the parent means what s/he says or if this is really a test.
Take the time to study the parents of children that are calm, happy and obedient. You will see that these parents are confident in their requests and do not argue with their children. This is not to say that they never give explanations to their children. They do give explanations, but not at the time of conflict.
The Authoritative Parent Plans Ahead
These parents will make sure to envision situations that may occur before they ever become an issue. This takes planning and forethought. They will make sure to take the time and educate their children about desired behavior before it is necessary. If the family will be guests at someone’s home or will be going to a restaurant, expectations for behavior are set before the event. These parents think about possible misunderstandings their children may have and they help their kids navigate new situations.
These children will know what is expected of them beforehand and will behave accordingly. These parents won’t be running after their children or desperately begging their children to behave because they have already mapped out and discussed their expectations. They apply the same practice to routines at home.
This is not to say that the authoritative parent does not have his/her challenges. Kids are kids and will sometimes break down when they are tired or hungry regardless of any previous preparations. However on the whole, you will be able to discern that these children behave differently.
It’s Never Too Late to Make a Change!
So let’s say that until now this knowledge has eluded you and you want to make changes in your home. It is never too late! The first step is to truly commit to becoming an authoritative parent. It is a good idea to practice (even in front of a mirror!) how you will approach your child in an authoritative way. Discussing your expectations and helping your child know what to do if they feel uncomfortable, is a powerful strategy to increase positive behavior.
There are many books that discuss the idea of parenting with an authoritative as opposed to an authoritarian approach. The Responsive Classroom methods are powerful methods for teachers to run their classrooms in an authoritative way but I believe that they can be used at home with equal benefit. In the book The Power of Words, the reader is taught to use positive authoritative language with children and in turn shape positive behavior.
Whether you implement the authoritative approach immediately, or still need to do more research, you can be a remarkable parent (that doesn’t say please)! Practice makes perfect, but remember that every child is unique. Every plan no matter how great, needs to be adjusted to the needs of your individual child. However, any parent that puts in the time and effort will surely be rewarded with smoother, more fulfilling family relations.
Have questions about the authoritative style? Feel free to ask and if you have gained from this article, please like and share with your friends!