Do you ever find yourself shocked by the audacity of your own children? Have you ever thought, "I NEVER would have gotten away with that in MY parents' house!"
Research shows that kids today exude entitlement; back-talk shockingly; negotiate endlessly; worship celebrity; and are intimately familiar with multitasking. But they are also far more open with their parents than kids in prior generations; strikingly generous and empathetic; and care deeply about ethical issues from very early on.
It turns out that parents are different, too. Our society is more fluid and less structured than ever and, of course, kids have access to infinite amounts of information. We can easily to forget that someone actually needs to be in charge when it comes to our children – the flat, egalitarian structure doesn't work for most families. In fact, the research shows that in-charge parents raise happier, stronger and more compassionate kids.
Here are 5 ways to help you take charge.
- Lessen endless negotiating. If you think your child has "gone too far," you're probably right. This week, in the middle of haggling, pay attention to that little "I need a break" voice inside your head or body – it's telling you something important.
- Set limits that are enforceable, and follow through on consequences. Even a four-year-old knows that you won't actually ban TV for a year. Ask your youngest child whether he or she can tell the difference between a real consequence and an idle threat – and you'll be amazed at what they know.
- Help kids open up about what really matters in school and in their social lives, by being sensitive to their "talking-style." Do they tend to open up right before bed, while busy on a shared project or over dinner? Know how to tap into the times they are open so you can get to know your child even better, which will give you the compassion and understanding you need to stay in charge and reassure them.
- Increase genuine self-esteem. Kids love praise, but research shows that when we praise indiscriminately we undermine self-esteem. So, replace some of those automatic "good jobs" for starters. Instead praise the effort, especially when it's something hard for your child to naturally do - approach the group if he's shy or speak just a bit nicer to her sibs. They will know you are paying attention, and you'll earn more respect.
- Don't try to 'get through' when you're upset – especially when you (and your kids) are running on empty. We now know from high-tech research that old-fashioned techniques like taking some deep breaths or standing up to stretch reduce stress and take the edge off. You can then navigate tricky situations from a (somewhat) calmer place.
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Child-rearing specialist Ron Taffel is the author of eight books, including Childhood Unbound: Authoritative Parenting for the 21st Century, and more than one hundred articles on parenting and professional training.