Thursday, June 9, 2011

Article: How to Be the Leader Your Child Needs

Another wonderful article from

"How do you help parents who struggle to be the leaders their children need them to be? And how do you help their children, who are less considerate/self-regulating and continually test the limits because of it?"

How can we be the leader our child needs, and deserves?

1. Remember that kids do need parents to "lead." They're new on the planet, and little, and we owe them the security of acting as the leaders in our family. Otherwise, kids keep pushing to make sure someone is "in charge" and will keep them safe.

2. Remember that leadership is about role modeling, guiding and protecting, not about dictating or punishing. (See What's Wrong with Strict Parenting?)

3. Remember that leadership includes setting empathic limits, which are essential to our child's emotional well-being. Most parents who have a hard time being leaders with their children don't understand that limits are actually good for our children -- but only if they're set with empathy. This process has nothing to do with punishment, or even discipline, as we think of it. (See What's Wrong with Permissive Parenting?)

4. Remember that children only accept our leadership because of the relationship we have with them. If they resist or defy us, it's a sign that we need to focus on connecting with them.

5. Take the time to process our own emotions about how we have experienced parents being "in charge." For instance, a parent whose own parents were authoritarian may feel strongly that she doesn't want to repeat that experience for her own children. Terrific! But this parent may get confused and think therefore she can't set limits at all. That doesn't help her children And most likely, she will end up yelling when things finally get out of hand. Kids without limits always push us to our limits.

If, instead, this parent can let herself feel all those childhood feelings of how alone she felt, how hurt, how sad .... they will no longer control her. They won't make her cringe when her child has big feelings. They won't burst out unexpectedly, in yelling. They won't keep her from empathizing with her child's point of view.

That frees her to see the value of clear limits to her children when necessary. She will calmly, empathically guide her child ("You are so mad...but I will not let you hurt me...I will keep everyone safe...") role modeling emotional regulation, without guilt and without feeling a need to punish. That's leadership.

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