Parenting Questions: What to do when they think they are the parent | Teaching Self-Government

Parenting Questions: What to do when they think they are the parent

Question:

"The biggest struggle we have with my son is that he wants to be the parent - he wants to be in control, not necessarily of my husband and I, but of the rest of the kids (he's #2 of 5).  For instance, this morning he made himself a "dessert sandwich" (he just made this up, bread with butter and cinnamon on it) before breakfast, but got mad and yelled at our 2 year old for getting into the fridge to get an apple while he still had the sandwich in his hand.  Even me standing there saying "It's okay, she can have the apple" didn't calm things right away.  ALL THE TIME he gets after his siblings for things he sees as wrong, but he himself can do no wrong, even if he's doing the same things they are."

About Parents I love how at the beginning of this question you say that your son thinks he's the parent and then at the end you say that he can do no wrong even though he is doing the same thing.  These two statements together in the same paragraph make me smile because that is just what most parents really do.   They get after the children for doing what they, the parents, are doing all the time too.  These parents for some reason feel like if they don't have to look at their short comings in their children then the short comings aren't really there and don't need to be addressed.  I will never forget when I was with a mother one time who got after her daughter for saying an off color word and then not ten minutes later she used the same word herself in the conversation we were having.  I couldn't help but think that this problem will never be solved for the child until the mother admits she has the same problem and chooses to solve her issue first.  I know this dialog isn't really what this particular question is about, but I couldn't resist making the observation that he really is doing what parents do.  So, make sure that as a parent you don't model a double standard for your child, because then when they are in charge they will think a double standard is one of the perks of leadership.  Children Wanting Control Let's face it, we all want control of our surroundings and we all think we know the best way to handle situations.  No matter our ages we just think this way as people unless we have bought into the myth that we are useless or somehow can't think for ourselves.  There are people like this, but they are definitely in the minority.  Even most passive people think that they know the "better way" to do things; even if they don't always speak up.  I take this knowledge about how people think as fact and choose not to judge people for it.  Why judge them?  They are only doing what I do and everyone else does all the time.  And, if I start making judgements then I am saying my way must be better aren't I?  However, just because I believe this thinking pattern is factual doesn't mean I have to let whatever happens happen.  Then my home would become chaotic and no one would be the leader.  A home does need a leader, and God has put the parents in charge by divine design.  So, how can a person not judge another person's actions and still be the leader in the home?  Simple, have a system in place which has all your family standards, rules of conduct and family vision for the future so that the system, or family government, actually handles the situation for you.  In our family government, the most important thing is our family vision of what kind of family we are becoming for a future event.  This is the reason we do what we do and why we even care about self-government at all.  This family vision has a certain kind of feeling attached to it.  The feeling is loving, respectful, and compassionate.  Since this is the feeling of our vision, then any behavior from any family member which goes against these feelings is a violation of how our family lives.  The behavior of the son above is just this kind of behavior.  Not only was he braking a family rule, which is disrespectful, but he was not compassionate and loving toward his sister.  It sounds like he was also pretty aggressive toward his parents too because he didn't want to stop the behavior.  How to Change the Heart of the Mini-Parent In the past, when my children and foster children have started bossing each other around and putting themselves in a parent role over each other I do three things.  1.  Ask myself a question: "Did I cause this?"  Meaning, "Do I give him stewardship over his younger siblings so often that he thinks he has stewardship even when I am here?"  or "Have I allowed him to handle many family or sibling problems on his own so that he feels he should handle all family situations?"  It is good to give children steward-ships over younger siblings at certain times and to instill in them the desire to right wrong situations.  These are two very good skills for all people to have.  However, if I am teaching these two skills and then expecting the child to have as much discernment as I do about when to use them or when I want them to use them then I could be creating an on going problem.  Discernment takes practice and a lot of cause and effect understanding as well as basic psychological understanding.  If the answer to the question above is yes then move on to step two.  If the answer to the question above is no and your child doesn't ever have stewardship over other siblings and you don't want them to have this authority at all, then move to step three.  2.  It is never to early to teach children some principles to govern relationships by.  One of those principles is trust.  We need to trust that other people are trying to do good things.  That their actions are intended to meet a need or do some good.  We also have to trust that the family structure, or government, will handle the situations with other people's actions most of the time, thus making it alright to let other people learn from their own mistakes.  In the example of the apple above, the son needs to be told that it is okay to allow his sister to make her own choice.  That if he loves her and has compassion for her then he would recognize, or trust, that his sister is doing something because of a need or to do something good.  Either way, he needs to trust her decision and the family government system to teach her if her actions were right or not.  This needs to be taught when he is not trying to control another person and practiced by role playing.  The boy also needs to know that the opposite of trust is force.  If he forces her, not only is he going against the family vision to keep a certain feeling in the home, but he is not having appropriate sibling relations.  I have given my children a standing instruction that they are to treat each other with respect and love.  If they don't follow this instruction, then they earn negative consequences.  Each time a child treats another unkindly have a set consequence which they always earn.  They can learn to disagree appropriately.  There is no need to become aggressive.  Be consistent with your consequences.  If you are consistent then they will choose to disagree appropriately instead of use aggression.  It is also a good idea to notice when children do disagree appropriately and treat each other kindly and praise these behaviors.  You may want to occasionally give positive consequences for these behaviors too to encourage handling situations calmly and lovingly.  In the situation above I also teach my children to love each other so much that they want success for each other.  I would go over the situation again having my son be the sister and me being him and then him being him and me being the sister.  The two role plays would be my son telling his sister, "Londyn, remember we have a rule about asking for food first?  You should probably go ask mom before you eat your apple just so you don't earn a negative consequence."  If parents praise good sibling relations and good behavior choices enough, all the children will learn to want everyone to get praised, not just themselves.  By the way, no matter what, if you have a rule in your home about not eating before meals without asking, then you need to praise your son for his creative food creation and then do a corrective teaching because he didn't accept your no answer by asking for permission first.  3.  Once you have taught your child that he needs to trust in his family member's good intentions and in the family government system, and you still think he needs more encouragement then you can give him a no answer.  I would say, "Quinton, I am going to give you a no answer right now.  No, you can't parent your siblings.  If you choose to accept this no answer and allow your siblings to make their own decisions, then you will earn the respect of your family and create more happiness at home.  If our home is more happy and less bossy then we will have more time and energy to do more fun things as a family.  Correcting behaviors, like bossiness, takes a lot of time and energy and after we aren't really in the mood for fun.  If you choose to continue bossing your siblings then you will choose to earn an extra chore each time you do it.  Okay?"  Or, you may want to have a special consequence for this kind of behavior depending how large of a problem it is.  Maybe 30 minutes of work or something.  If you are going to give an absolute no answer to instructing younger siblings, then you will want to make sure and teach your children about reporting dangerous behaviors to you and what a dangerous behavior looks like, so that you can still use your children's eyes to keep everyone safe.  Let's be honest, sometimes the siblings know what is going on better than we do because they are right there.  This is one of the very reasons I always had two foster children.  I needed them to watch each other so that I could know more things to teach them to help them to turn into great adults.  I have also found it helpful to take my children aside and tell them how their bother or sister thinks of them.  And ask them if they want their siblings to think of them in this way.  Then tell them, "Did you know that if you...........describe to how treat the siblings.....................then your sister will think you are so cool and will always look up to you as the best big brother ever?"  Let you child have a vision that can happen in a week.  The vision of being the nicest, coolest big brother or sister in the neighborhood.  That can happen in the matter of a few weeks if the child works on nurturing their relationship. Remember all children want happiness and glory.  By telling them what their relationship could be like, you are replacing the desire for power with a much more appealing effect, happiness, love and glory.  I think it is worth the time of analyzing the situation to give further vision.  Wonderful Adults "My goal is to make joyful adults, who know what their mission in life is, and can't wait to fight for it; and have solid relationships with God and family."  (Parenting A House United by: Nicholeen Peck) This is what I am doing for my children.  It is a big project!  Many skills and principles need to be learned to become this kind of adult.  It will take time to learn them all.  I have to be patient with the "line upon line" learning process.  Part of turning into this kind of adult is knowing how to lead and have steward-ships.  I offer my children opportunities to help and teach each other, but my main concern is how they are governing themselves.  If they are focused mostly on governing themselves then they will be good stewards and the whole family will be happier.