21 Sep Your Authority
Take a moment and think … In the eyes of your children, what are you an authority in? Really, think about it. Having difficulty coming up with something other than what you did your degree in? That’s quite normal. However, you are a big authority in a lot of things and you need to recognize that. When you do, you will realize what a tremendous responsibility you have to exercise your authority consistently, continually and carefully in upbringing your children.
In your children’s minds, you are their link with the world. They love you more than anyone. They trust YOU. They look to you for everything. God has allowed you to co-author his finest masterpieces. In the eyes of a small child, you have authority. Authority in what? Lots. When they are small they believe you should know:
- what’s right vs. what’s wrong
- what’s important vs. what is secondary vs. what is unimportant
- what is appropriate vs what is not
- what is true vs. what’s half-true vs. what is false
- what is good vs. what is bad
- what will make them really happy vs. what won’t
and the list goes on. You must realize that compared to them, this is true. You have an obligation and a serious responsibility to use your authority to really help them to pursue what is good, true and beautiful in life. You do this when you discipline. The root of discipline is disciple. You need your kids to follow your lead. You need to have the skills of an awesome coach to lead them to their potential.
You must steer the ship, your children should not be captain. You have been given the authority, not them. This is not always easy. We come into parenthood with usually no training and sometimes fuzzy ideas on matters. Most times our heads are spinning and we’re not sure ourselves what’s best. No wonder we are quick to lose our tempers, get frustrated and even see our children as a pain in the neck. Yelling, punishing, and seeking to control will not get you far. This authoritarian manner of excessive control will cause rebellion and stifle true freedom. Always seeking the easiest way, granting their wishes and wanting peace just for peace’s sake is not good either, This permissive approach of letting them rule the roost will give you a very spoiled child that will eventually go out of control. You must exercise your authority in a clear, consistent, firm and loving way. It is an incredible service you render your children. They need it. They crave it. You must grow into it. It might take time and lots of effort and tweaking, but it’s well worth it. In doing so, you will pour your best self into your child, not the leftovers.
Pointers to underscore your authority:
- As much as possible, be united with your husband. For your authority to be as effective as possible, you must share the same “song and dance” even though you may have different personal styles. Your unity builds a strong moral foundation for your children. You in many ways are developing their conscience and they don’t need to have to choose between two conflicting parents. Realize you will not agree on everything, but do work towards agreeing on the most important matters. You need to build a unity of values with a diversity of styles.
- Don’t argue in front of the kids. They will learn firsthand from you that they can challenge your authority if they see you regularly battle it out. It decreases their security, makes them anxious and often teaches them unhealthy conflict resolution. They in turn can use to their advantage some day in getting you to take sides with them against the other parent. Not a good strategy for effective parenting. If you argue in front of them, let them see you reconcile in front of them, but do make the effort to take arguments into a more private area.
- Teach your kids you cannot make some decisions without talking to dad about it. That way your kids don’t play you against your spouse. With the advent of cell phones and instant messaging, this can be a hard pill for children to swallow. However you do need to be in charge and steer the family ship. Whether it’s 24 hour notice or something to be discussed at a family meeting, teach them the answer is No until mom and dad have decided. They need to wait till then and not expect a fast answer at the snap of their fingers.
- Always speak positively about your spouse to your child, pointing out his strengths. Help them to see you are loyal first to him. You married your spouse. You are parents. You are team players in this great enterprise. Your children need to realize this. Building honor and respect are important.
- This being said, communicate regularly with your husband regarding the frustrations and problems you are facing. Be smart and don’t do that as soon as he arrives home from work. Rather choose a better time, even plan a weekly moment for talking about family matters. Share ideas, strategies and approaches. I’m sure you won’t always know what to do, but it’s important that you act as a team. Keep the conversation more business, with less emotion and you will get further.
- Develop your knowledge of how you can exercise your authority more appropriately by reading excellent books, listening to good audios and videos. Search out successful parents who are a step ahead of you to give you their ideas and experience. Parenting has to be your most important work because the future of your children depend on the kind of foundation you set.
- Realize that each child is different and should be treated differently. Some are sensitive, others thick, some intellectual, others emotional. Some learn by doing, others by hearing. Some are quick, others slow. Love them as they are and bring out the best in them. You must learn to understand them, so you can demand in a proper manner.
- Build your arsenal of good techniques for discipline. This includes but does not mean punishment. Good coaches know how to motivate, instill, encourage and demand. They are patient and always looking for good ideas, using punishment only when major rules have been overstepped. They know how to have them practice good habits little by little, while constantly building them to where they want them to be. Do the same.
- As much as possible stay calm. You will overreact if you let your emotions lead you. You must develop more self-control to stay cool and level-headed. It’s a battle with yourself that needs to be won. Only then will you be fair, reasonable and really loving when you calmly and firmly deal with the situation.
- Emphasize the positive much more than the negative. You will attract kids more with honey than vinegar. Ten praises will save you a hundred reprimands. This approach always sends home the message you love your children. That’s what they crave, even in times of correction.
- Pick and choose your battles. Decide one specific concrete thing you and your spouse will work on for a given amount of time and ignore the rest. Kids don’t need to feel like you are always launching missiles at them. You also need to be realistic. No parents wants to end up in a strait-jacket because nothing is going no where.
- Have a sense of humor. Don’t take things too seriously and realize things will pass. Learn to laugh. Laugh more. Laugh at yourself. Make light of the situation. Fake it till you make it. No one needs a worry wart all the time.
- Treat your children with dignity. Respect them in your tone of voice, approach and behavior. They are children of God, just as you are. Do not insult, humiliate, use sarcasm or harsh physical treatment. They are children and childish. You are an adult. Behave in a very courteous manner. Harsh treatment will really undercut your authority in their eyes and leave lasting scars.
- Be willing to apologize when you have gone too far, but never apologize for your authority. For example, “Honey, what you did was wrong and you needed to be …., but I overreacted and should not have yelled so loud or used those words. I am sorry. Can you forgive me?“ but still follow through in discipline. Children need to know you are not perfect, that you are mature enough to own up to your faults and that you care enough about them to seek forgiveness. This is a huge lesson in life and it’s great when they learn it from you.
- Realize you are a better parent when you are rested and not so stressed. Make every effort to get your sleep, de-junk your life as much as you can so it has less stress, and take time to have fun as a family. Go to bed on time. Don’t get sidetracked. Have a fixed time to get up in the morning. Build good memories of being together, focusing on the positive. That alone will minimize your child’s need for attention through negative behavior. Take the time. Make the time. Your children are the most important investment of your energy and life.
- Lastly, but most importantly, lean constantly on God for strength, for wisdom and for perseverance. Pray to God for your children and about your children. He has handpicked this child for your life. Realize God may be wanting to turn you into a more loving person through this child. Kids force us to move beyond our comfort zone to grow in patience, understanding, love and sacrifice. With God all things are possible, without him nothing is. Hope in his help and grab the graces. You will be so much better off when you do.