Power Parenting • By Dore Quinn LPC
Recently I had the opportunity to participate in the “Parenting University” for the Lewisville Independent School District. The topic I presented was one that is near and dear to my heart entitled, “Power Parenting.”
I became acutely aware early on in my parenting career of the importance of parents having the power in a family. Though most kids won’t admit it, parents having control in a family allows for the whole family to feel more secure. I have worked with many teens that admitted they wished their parents were more in control of the family and that there were more rules and consistency. The big question is, how do parents assume power in the family?
The main goal in assuming power in parenting is to stop arguing with the children. There is a huge difference between discussing and arguing. Discussion is okay; arguing is not. An example of arguing is a parent instructing a child to clean his room and the charming child giving ten reasons why he shouldn’t have to clean his room. Often we parents take the argument bait and try to logic the child into obedience. I might choose to try one argument of logic (because there is an innate part of me that really wants them to understand that I’m not trying to make their lives difficult for the fun of it), but then I’m done. If the child is arguing, then the child doesn’t really want to understand why he should have to comply; he simply hopes he can argue his way out of doing the job. Rather than give reasons why he should do as I ask, I will simply repeat the request.
Here is an example:
MOM: If you want to go to your friend’s house, you’ll have your room clean by 5:00.
SON: Why do I have to clean my room? Who is coming over? (Sound familiar??)
Fight the urge to take the bait… you are the parent and it isn’t necessary to justify your request. Instead, just repeat the request:
MOM: Nevertheless, if you want to go to your friend’s house, you’ll have your room clean by 5:00.
SON: (becoming agitated): Why? It’s not my house… Who put that room in this house anyways??
Fight the urge again to take the bait (arguing often leads to escalation of a fight) and just repeat the request again.
Keep up this pattern until the child becomes frustrated with his repeated attempts to draw you into an argument and will often sigh in frustration and hopefully comply because his efforts are futile.
If I have a particularly stubborn child, I may end up repeating the request four or five times at which time I will decide for the child that he doesn’t want to go to his friend’s house after all and then I will come up with a particularly distasteful consequence (phone disappearing, etc.) if he chooses not to comply.
The main goal in maintaining power is to keep from escalating with the child in his or her anger. When we choose to argue with the child, then our position as the one in power diminishes as our anger escalates.
If you have a child who is argumentative, try using your hand held up in a “Stop” signal to give visual sight to your child that you expect him or her to stop.
Sometimes your child may have a particularly frustrating behavior pattern established that you may want to change. The following is a behavior plan that I often use in private practice to help parents take control and end verbal arguing. There are a few premises that this plan works on.
- It needs to be explained to the child thoroughly before implementation.
- One behavior needs to be identified and worked on at a time. More than one behavior becomes overwhelming to the child.
- Once the plan is established, the parent DOES NOT argue with the child or even worse…LECTURE. The parent simply marks the sheet. If the child genuinely doesn’t understand then the parent may choose to explain once why the sheet was marked (but NOT argue!!!). If the child argues, then another check is marked on the sheet.
- Papers need to be taped onto the front of the fridge. If you are one of those families with fifty gazillion magnets on the fridge, this is a good time to clear them out and give the behavior plan a special place front and center on the fridge.
- Handwrite the plan (don’t use the one I’m posting…it needs to be customized to your child). The one I’m posting is just an example.
- Don’t post the paper about catching them being good.
Begin by identifying the behavior you wish to target. Be VERY detailed on the specific behaviors your child engages in that fall under the category. This is an example. This gets posted on the fridge.
- Eye rolling.
- Telling Mom or Dad, “NO!”
- “I hate you!”
- Telling mom or dad, “You can’t tell me what to do!”
- Sighing after I ask you to do something.
- Groaning after I ask/tell you do something.
- Making faces while I am speaking to you.
- Saying, “Whatever…” to me
- Covering up your ears while I am speaking with you.
- Double asking (asking me then asking Dad after I’ve told you no)
- Saying, “That’s not fair!”
- Telling me I’m mean.
- Growling in my ear-shot
- Continuing to speak after I’ve put my hand in the air signing, “Stop!”
- Yelling at Dad or me.
- Swearing at me.
* Door slamming will result in me assuming you need practice closing doors quietly, thus you will open and close the door quietly 15x.
*Stomping up or down stairs will result in me assuming you need practice going up and down stairs quietly, thus you will have the opportunity to practice going up and down quietly 10x with me watching and counting (one trip up and down = 1x).
I tell my kids that they are more than welcome to think anything in their head that they want, but I better not hear it or I will consider it disrespect. Also, be sure to teach them how to have a discussion with you about something they don’t like/something they are concerned about rather than engaging in disrespectful behaviors. Your list will look different than this one because you will be targeting specific behaviors your child uses.
________ ________ ________ ________ ________
*The spaces above are “freebies.” Consequences start when they go through their freebies.
*Each consequence gets progressively worse.
*These consequences are just examples.
*Use whatever your child values as leverage
*I’ve been known to take away make-up, clothes, phones, etc.
________1. No TV for an hour.
________2. ½ hour in your room.
________3. 1 hour in your room.
________4. No TV/Computer for the rest of the day.
________5. Bedtime at 6 pm (or 7…)-I usually always use this as the final consequence because if they have engaged in the behavior 10 times in one day, then I am pretty much out of patience and want them out of my sight by then.
*All behavior charts are for a daily basis. All consequences need to be daily consequences (grounding for an entire week results in kid not caring for rest of week-counter productive to changing behavior)
*When child gets savvy enough to go through all freebies and no consequences (as smart kids do), then it is time to knock off freebies to maybe two or three.
*It takes at least three weeks to change a habit…this is no different
*They will go through all consequences at least 2-3 days in the first week, so be prepared! This is normal.
Catch ‘em being good
This third part to the behavior chart is very important. Because difficult behavior usually results in strained relationships (yes, it is possible to not like your own child…), it is essential to build the relationship back up between parent and child. When a child is difficult, the child often feels as though he/she can never do anything right and the only thing noticed is when he/she screws up. The third element to the behavior plan is catching them being good.
- Go to the store and buy about 10 candy bars that you know your child will like (full-sized, not fun-sized).
- Explain to your child that you are going to work at catching him/her being good, and when you do, you may toss a candy bar to him/her.
- Explain that if he/she tells the other siblings, then the whole deal is off…this is just between you and the child (helps him/her feel special and keeps the others from feeling like there is favoritism).
- Really notice when he/she does something right…toss him/her a candy bar privately with a one sentence explanation (VERY IMPORTANT it is only one sentence to avoid child/teen “click off”) and LEAVE THE SCENE!!! In the beginning you may be tossing one or two a day, then lengthen it out. A week or two of candy bars isn’t going to kill him/her or permanently ruin teeth. Candy works much better than stickers, etc. In the beginning, the child may act as though he/she doesn’t care, but THEY DO!!! Do it anyway!
(Toss candy bar) “Thanks for not yelling at me when you were angry earlier… I really appreciate it!” Then leave…don’t discuss, don’t give detail, don’t go on and on…you get the picture.
(Toss candy bar) ”Thanks for not knocking your brother one when he used your stereo… You’re awesome!”
(Toss candy bar) ”Thanks for taking out the trash without arguing… I really appreciate it!”
By ending the pattern of arguing with our children, we as parents will maintain our position of being in charge in the home. Parents having the power in the home helps maintain stability in the family and greater feelings of security. Besides, it makes our home a happy place to be!
If you would like Dore Quinn to talk to your group or find out more about Kaleidoscope Counseling please call 214-499-0396