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I'm the Parent and I'm in Charge

July 9, 2020 | by Dini Harris

Stop reacting to your children and proactively rule your home.

Parenting can be frustrating. You tell your kid to pick up his dirty clothes one million times and yesterday's socks still decorate his floor. You tell the kids to stop fighting and they're still yelling and kicking. You take them on a trip to the zoo and they complain that they want a water park.

We sometimes feel that no matter what we do for our kids, all they want to do is irritate and aggravate us.

And there is a good chance that at times, subconsciously, their goal is to provoke these emotions within us. They do want to make us angry, irritable and guilty. Luckily, once we understand what's going on, we can put a stop to these emotion-provoking activities.

"Belongingness" – the need to belong to a larger unit - has been identified by today's psychology as a basic human need. In the olden days, before the advent of psychobabble, this simply meant that a child inherently wanted to fit in with his parents, his family and his community.

Back then, this meant that a child would, more-or-less, follow his parents. If they were farmers, then he farmed. If they were sheep-herders, he herded sheep. If they were fishermen, he fished. His human need for belonging was fulfilled when he conformed to his family's expectations of him. It was very simple; his parents set the tone, he followed, and he belonged.

In Western society, however, the roles of the parents and child have been reversed. Children are set at center stage and parents conform to them. Today's calculation goes like this: the child sets the tone, he pulls his parents after him, and he belongs.

Once we're aware of this dynamic, we can turn it around and return to our place at the head of the family. We want to make sure that we're the parents and we're in charge, so that our inexperienced two-year-olds and hormonal adolescents aren't the ones running our homes.

The following example explains the child-parent dynamic in simple terms:

A four-year-old-child is playing in front of his house. His mother calls him in for supper and bedtime. The child still wants to play, so he runs down the block.

What does the mother do?

She can run down the block to catch him or call after him repeatedly. In other words, the child can drag his mother down the block after him.

Or the mother can call out once in a confident voice, "I'm going in for supper and closing the front door for the night."

With this option, the mother creates a dynamic in which she is in charge and pulls her son after her. If she is wise enough to choose this second option, the child will be in the house eating supper within a few minutes.

That's a simple example of this dynamic, where it's easy to picture invisible ropes and imagine either the child pulling the parent or the parent pulling the child.

It's a little harder to picture our children pulling us on their ropes (or pressing our buttons) when we're dealing with emotions, but they do, subconsciously, try to pull us and drag us by stirring our emotions.

Take an imaginary trip to the zoo to understand this concept. We, the parents, decided that our family is visiting the zoo. Our kids, born and bred in the modern era, try to drag us towards them by complaining. They don't like the zoo; it's childish; it's boiling hot outside; our family always goes on the worst trips ever.

If we follow our children, we accept their complaints and regret our bad choice of trips. We apologetically explain that we didn't realize how hot it would be, promise that next time they'll get to choose the trip, go home disappointed about our failed trip and feel guilty because we do indeed always go on bad trips.

But if we choose to set the tone ourselves, we don't let their complaints work on our emotions. We remain confident in our decision to visit the zoo and calmly say, "We're sorry that you're hot, would you like a drink?" and move on to look at the monkeys.

The kids see that the complaints don't move us, so they'll inevitably follow us and start enjoying the trip.

When we appreciate this dynamic, we'll able to identify it whenever it appears. If I'm angry at my daughter because of her messy room, she is dragging me after her and subconsciously angering me by leaving her room messy.

When I neutralize myself and stop being angry about it, the messy room will get cleaned up. She might surprise me and clean it up because she decides that she doesn't like it messy, or I might create a new dynamic by confidently and unemotionally telling her to clean it.

Some of you are probably reading this with raised eyebrows. You're sure that it won't work with your kids. I challenge you to think about the concept and try to apply it to your life.

Identify the dynamics in your relationship with your children and stop enabling them to irritate, aggravate and annoy you. Once you stop reacting to them, you will be able to calmly and creatively think of ways to create a dynamic that puts you at the forefront. Your calmness and confidence will help you proactively create the atmosphere that you want in your home.


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