Why is it important for parents to be in charge?
The part of the brain dealing with logic and rationality and controlling emotions, the pre-frontal cortex, isn't fully mature until adulthood. Therefore, adults have a better ability to make decisions based on logic and to control impulses. We also have greater experience, which allows us to foresee the consequences of actions.
As adults, we know that you will ruin your teeth if you only eat sweets. We also know that if you spend hours staring at screens, you will become ill and miss out on developing crucial social skills. We know that there will be many mathematical processes that will become difficult for you if you don't practice timetables. And as your maths work continues to progress, you will continue to struggle to keep up, and that reduces your self-esteem and desire to learn.
When the adults are in charge – firmly and positively– there are numerous and far-reaching benefits for our children, ourselves, and our families in general.
How to be in charge firmly and positively
It is essential to know that when we talk about being in charge, we are not referring to a method of discipline that is synonymous with punishment and based on fear. We are talking about providing structure and guidance to our children, taking into account our child's natural biological urge to have some autonomy while also keeping them safe. We are talking about teaching them good habits and ensuring a reasonable level of co-operation that makes family life harmonious. It is based on respect shown by parents to children and earned from children by our words and actions.
This parenting style, sometimes referred to as authoritative parenting, involves having high (yet reasonable) expectations while being warm and connective. Whatever we call it, our parenting style has a significant influence on our children.
Many years of research show that genetics and environment have roughly equal influences on outcomes for children. And, although every child is different, the authoritative style of parenting, where we are caring and kind yet firm, has consistently been linked to positive outcomes.
What it means to be in charge
To be a parent in charge, we need to know the following:
WHERE we're going
We need a destination – a clear idea about what we want to happen and why. It is vital because we will be tested each step along the way! What are the values in your family? Which rules are crucial, and which guidelines are you ready to let go of? As often, we are not sure about ground rules in certain areas. Make sure these things are clear in your head (and agreed with your partner) first.
WHO we're working with
The kind of authority we're talking about depends on us having a deep understanding of our children, their capacities and motivations at different stages in their lives, and providing the right environment in which they can grow. Read about their stage of development, what their minds and bodies are ready and not yet prepared to carry out and comprehend. Also, consider their personalities (if you are a fast, energetic parent with a slow "head-in-the-clouds" child, simply bringing this fact into your awareness can be game-changing).
HOW to make it happen
This involves using all the positive parenting skills and considering our body language and tone of voice. This requires consistency, managing our energy and stress levels, and having systems or strategies in place to help us become more skilled.
Carrying out the plan
This means being consistent and calm, which we, as parents, often find difficult. To be consistent we need to:
present a united front with a partner;
manage our levels of energy and stress by taking care of ourselves both physically and emotionally;
have systems in place that will help us remember the plan of action and develop practices that will help us become more skilled and confident.
So, above all we need to be in charge of ourselves and our responses.
Are you a confident voice of kind authority in your home? Or is this something you need to work on.
For more inspiration on how to become a more effective parent, please take a look at my other blog posts, or follow me on Instagram. I'm also available for personalised parent coaching, just use the contact form on my website if you'd like to know more.