How much time do you have to influence your child? This isn't a question any new parent takes the time to think about, generally speaking. I'm not sure many seasoned parents take the time to consider this question either, but it's an extremely important one though. As the old adage goes: "The days are long, but the years are short." Time is definitely a commodity, a precious resource, and what you do with it will determine your quality of life at home.
If you consider the fact that your ability to shape your child's cognitive brain and character of heart starts at about 2 yrs. old, and social pressures and ideas begin to battle for your child's loyalty around the age of 12 yrs. old, your window of opportunity is shorter than you may have anticipated!
How will you use this limited window of time? Do you have your parenting goals and strategies mapped out? Raising a family at home is a lot like running a small business. In this same manner, it's valuable to look ahead toward the end game - the final destination - of your parenting journey. Let's face it, if you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you've arrived?!! You need to have an image in your mind of the finished work even as you begin to mold and shape the lives within your family.
Begin to think in terms of establishing your priorities. Once the big, monumental ideals are identified and acknowledged, it's time to start goal setting and accumulating your strategies for implementation. Have your plan of action in place before relationships get tested, rather than after.
Craft a family blueprint that includes a vision, a mission, and strategic goals that align with your value system so you can weather the storms of life that will test the quality of everything you are trying to build.
Clear steps that have goal-driven direction provide the mold for those precious few years that you have to shape your children - while the clay is wet!
#2 Establishing Your Authority
It all starts the day we bring our little bundle of life home from the hospital. At the start of the journey, we hold that fragile little person in our arms and wonder if we have what it takes to be a parent.
Every little decision we make sets the stage for that day or week, or even that year. It’s scary and exhilarating to have so much power and control. It’s an overwhelming privilege and responsibility that goes unprotested for about 18 months.
Of course, there are the battles over eating, sleeping and changing diapers that must be dealt with early on, but a new piece of the puzzle comes to the table around 18 months or so and adds a challenge we may not have been prepared for. Independence!
Buried within every little person is a desire to explore the world, to step out of the familiar cocoon of infancy in order to experience and master the world at large.
Part of that process involves experimenting with self will vs. parental will. A toddler has just begun to embrace his sense of “me”! What a wonderful and crazy discovery - ME!
Unfortunately, for YOU, that means your authority is now going to be tested on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. If you can remember WHY these battles are happening, it may help you not take it so personally.
The dangers of misunderstanding what’s really happening in this new stage of life is that it’s all too easy to let emotions go haywire. Feelings of frustration, resentment, failure, hurt and anger can easily set in when this new season of life brings these daily challenges our way.
You’ve been granted the lead role of authority simply because you’re the parent. Now that you have it, remember, it’s going to be tested. Children test authority. That’s natural and normal. It doesn't mean they are bad for testing things out. They are natural born scientists. They want to know how things work and what influence they have over their world!
When your authority is tested, all kinds of emotions may come into play. Remember, if your children are young, yes, you have to prove that you are the authority by following through on consequences as they dare you to on a daily basis, and you will have to flex your muscles daily (many times by helping them to cooperate when they fall limp on the floor in a puddle of tears, for example) in order to help your child obey you.
Eventually, around the age of eight or nine, you won’t need to prove in the same way that you are the authority figure. You won’t need to always be right, and won’t need to flex your power to prove that you are the grown up in the house all the time. Following through on consequences will always be very important, but you won’t need to prove yourself every day like you do when children are little.
Your authority never changes. The way you express that authority should change. During the elementary years, the way to express authority is to simply acknowledge that you've been given the assignment of being the grown up. You’re there to make sure consequences reach their full conclusion when poor choices are made, and you are the decision maker when final decisions need to be made.
Kids need to know you are human. You can tell them you’re not sure what the best decision is and that you’re doing your best, if that's the case. You're not going to lose their respect just because you're being honest and authentic.
You can say you’re sorry when you realize you’ve made a mistake. Don't feel the need to be perfect. Take that pressure off yourself and let your kids see that you are human, just like them!
It's a journey and you are all in this thing together. Your position in the home is not based on performance. You acquired the position as parent the day you brought your child into the world.
Growing into your role takes time. When the family takes the journey together, everyone gets an equal dose of mercy and grace.
When you find yourself saying words like “STOP,” “COME,” or “NO,” and discover you’re getting little to no cooperation, you’ve lost the power of your words. The reason such commands are labeled as “power words” are because they are one word statements that should have a big impact. When you can combine a lot of words or ideas into a one-word instruction and get your point across, you have a “power word.” You know you’re effectively using your power words when your child knows exactly how to respond and complies without delay. Decide what you want to happen when you say your power word, break down the desired outcome into specific action steps, and then practice using your power word until you get exactly what you expect with consistent, positive results.
When parents give in to believing good behavior in public is the most that one can hope for, everyone begins to tolerate poor behavior at home. A better strategy might be employed by practicing good behavior on home turf and then taking it to the road. Going out in public is akin to test day. Public areas are where you determine whether your child has mastered the training that takes place at home. This mindset requires a whole different way of thinking. Our children don't like practicing self control, patience, kindness and hard work. That's no surprise. But when behavior needs some work and expectations are set at home, you can be sure that the improvements will automatically show up in public as well.
Today's woman has a preconceived expectation thrust upon her, like it or not. She is expected to be breathtaking physically and emotionally stimulating, intelligent, funny, capable, responsible and doer of all. She works hard, skillfully navigating every day's challenges, entertaining co-workers, friends and family while building her self worth by devouring books on self improvement, faithfully doing her yoga and meditation, managing the home with ease and enriching lives everywhere she goes. The reality is that her job demands 100% of her time and energy, while the family demands the same. Neither cares what sacrifices must be made to fill the voids that scream for attention. It's a tug of war for the most precious commodity she possesses - her time & energy. Can you relate?