Parents Need To Take The Lead
While well-intentioned, many parents are afraid to take the lead with their own children. Parents ask rather than tell, leaving children in the role of leader of the pack, so to speak.
A connection that has been seen (and studied) over time is between parents who lack authority and disrespect from children.
To Ask or Tell?
What happens when parents don't tell but instead ask their children? Parents who place more emphasis on pleasing, avoiding conflict, and placing little to no demands or limits upon their child, can lead to a breakdown of familial structure or hierarchy. Some may read this and think: "Why is it a problem? Isn't it good?" My answer is no.
Children need structure to feel safe and secure. Without a clear definition of who is in charge, a child is more apt to experience anxiety, a lack of boundaries and is more likely to have difficulty when limits are set. The most common example is temper tantrums in a store when a child wants something. Everyone has seen them, chances are if you have a child, they have had one, but when it becomes a pattern, this is problematic. Parents who lack authority, rules, and structure are less likely to have their boundaries and limits taken seriously by children.
Saying ‘No’ To Your Child
As a parent, it is possible to listen to your child and adjust expectations to fit their needs. This does not mean that you should automatically change your stance. Do you do this with others? If your answer was yes, that is a larger issue and not the topic of this post.
There will be many occasions when it is appropriate to say no. For example, your child wants a toy in a store. You are the parent. Saying no is essential for child development. Children learn realistic expectations, a clear sense of right from wrong, respect for others, and how to handle opposition, all of which are critical for socialization in the world. You are not hurting your child's feelings by not giving them the toy they want, even if they are sad or angry or call you mean.
Helping Parents Understand Themselves
If you are unable to say no to your child, I encourage you to do some self-reflection. Ask why this is so difficult and what need this of yours this is serving. These are issues that frequently come up in therapy. A psychotherapist can help you to understand some of these questions better. Is it a need for acceptance and love? Difficulty in feeling like you are the 'bad guy' or fear that your child will hate you?
Nobody knows what they are doing when they take a baby home from the hospital. There is no one size fits all parenting plan that will work for every child. Every parent learns by trial and error. As people, we all carry baggage from our past. You will always be learning. However, the more you understand yourself, the better equipped you are to help your child, whatever their individual needs. The goal is to respond in a way that you feel confident about and sometimes to do that, you need to do your own work.
If your child is struggling with behaviours that you don't know how to manage, or you are having a hard time with boundaries, psychotherapy can be helpful. Get in touch for more information.