Want Less Anxious, Bossy Kids? Do This! – Part 3
In part two, I promised to share what to do with teens in order to stay in as strong a position as possible as a GPS, and this also applies for very strong willed children. First though, I want to cover one more thing that applies to parents of children of any age.
How to be a strong GPS when you have no idea what to do!
Is it even possible to be a strong GPS if you don’t know what to do? It is, and here’s why and how to go about it.
First off, when you assume the position of the strong GPS, it will help you have more confidence. It’s the classic fake-it-until-you-make-it scenario. It helps to literally throw your shoulders back like you are the all-knowing boss. By literally assuming the position of a stronger GPS, your energy will noticeably shift.
(This is one time where there is a parallel with dog training! Many of you will know of Cesar Milan and how he teaches owners to literally assume the physical posture of top dog. It will help your children and you when you do the same!)
It’s fascinating but true that when you act as if you know, it actually helps you to find answers inside! The fact is, even if you have barely begun to learn about this more conscious, proactive parenting path that I’m teaching, you know how to find out! Chances are you already have people you trust whether in person or educators like me who you can ask questions of and read what we’ve written, take our courses, etc. You can find the help that you need, and you know way more than your children!
(As an aside, a huge, very common mistake though is then to tell our kids proudly that we are taking a parenting course!! Why is this wrong? It seems logical, and we expect our kids to admire us for being so proactive. But think back to the GPS analogy. Would you like your GPS to say, “hey, go this way and by the way I’m taking a course to be able to direct you better”? Would it make you more confident or make you question the directions they just gave you?)
If you’ve already made this mistake, it’s fine. From now on, start to minimize or downplay how much time you spend on parenting education and/or your doubts. If you’ve said to your kids, “Hey, this is the first time I’ve been a parent”, just quit saying it! They’ll forget, and they’ll shift to seeing you as a stronger GPS the more you show up that way.)
In the moment, act as if you know. That may look like indicating that what your child did isn’t okay, then moving on. If your child is tantruming, your child isn’t open to teaching or having a discussion anyway. It is not a teachable moment when your child is having a meltdown! So there’s no urgency to do anything other than get through it as gracefully and least painfully as possible.
Unlike a dog, your child does not need immediate correction. (You can see my tip on this here) You can take time to figure out what to do. Even if you don’t say anything in the moment, you can later bring up what happened and indicate the behavior that needs to be worked on.
I’d like to share two last points before shifting to talk about what to do with teens and no win situations with strong willed children.
First, we often second guess ourselves in the moment when we come up with a limit on the fly. For example, if our kids want a second scoop of ice cream. Our automatic response may be to say no, one is enough. But then we wonder if we are being harsh, or arbitrary, and so parents nowadays often cave.
Now that you know that your child truly needs guidance and limits to feel secure, you can feel good about saying no in that case even if it is 100% arbitrary. The fact is, you are meeting a real need, and it is not important that there is logic to all your decisions. It’s not only fine, but great if your children are told sometimes, in our household, we do things this way. It becomes part of your family culture (say to be more quiet indoors than some families), which in turn actually helps bond or align your child more deeply to you.
However, the interesting thing is often, your instant response often isn’t arbitrary after all! For example in the ice cream situation, if you think of it, there is some very good logic for having just one scoop. If your child learns to enjoy and savor one scoop, he or she will get fewer calories and less sugar and fat in the treat. You are also teaching your child moderation. One scoop costs less than two scoops. So there are many great reasons for your seemingly arbitrary decision.
I’m going to end with one more point, then share what to do with teens and strong willed children, in a separate tip that you can access here! There are so many important things to say about this concept, that it keeps expanding. I want to be sure you get the basic points before moving on.
In order to be a strong GPS, you don’t become bossy and inflexible! It’s about setting the direction and being clear about options for getting there, if there are any. It’s also about allowing your child to have his or her feelings about what’s happening. Your child may be very upset by the direction you’ve indicated is going to happen. When you are able to accept their feelings while staying firm with the direction, they learn a powerful life skill; they learn how to accept the many things that they can’t change in life, and/or that aren’t worth the effort to try to change.
So instead of being bossy and inflexible, you are firm, but with some give, like an oak tree. The give can take the form of empathizing with their feelings. It also can look like giving your child choices in HOW they get where they have to go. So it’s just like a GPS that gives you three routes, all of which end up in the same destination. So you flex, but you don’t give a choice in where you are going!
Just to be clear, it’s not about always making the decisions. You can and should sometimes let the decisions be your child’s, but for most parents nowadays, you could benefit so much for making more of the decisions, because we have become very child-centric and children are making too many of the decisions.
I’d love to answer your questions about how to apply this tip to your exact situation! It often takes some time to make the shift into being a stronger GPS for your child. It’s normal for it to feel uncomfortable at first. Not only is it new behavior for you, you are going against the mainstream. Most parents are lost themselves and have no idea that part of finding their way is owning their position as their child’s best expert, and the one who knows how to get help. Yet when you make this one change, not only will your children become less anxious and bossy, you will see huge changes in yourself and your family overall. I’m sure I’ll write more about that sometime!
Until next time, share this with others who could use this advice, and comment below!