• Kathy Whitham

When Your Child Is In Charge...


When our children talk back, have an attitude or act like they’re the boss by being demanding or defiant, it’s tempting to want to prove we are the one in charge by trying to control our child’s behavior. It’s easy to resort to bribing, consequencing and yelling to assert our authority and demand respect. How is that going? It didn’t go so well for me.


If we react to our child’s behavior as if it’s a battle between us and them, it compels us to try to win which fuels the battle.


It’s not that we don’t need to be the adult or that our child doesn’t need to learn respect. The question is how to be the adult we need to be. Sometimes we attribute to children a deliberate desire to be in charge, as if that could actually feel secure to them. Yes! They definitely test boundaries. But they absolutely need to hit the edges of the container to feel secure. (I’ll discuss boundaries in another post.)


For now, I’m inviting you to try on is this idea: We, as parents and caregivers, step into our power by modeling leadership rather than needing to win. We step into being the adult when we take responsibility for our children with the following understanding. When our children are trying to be in charge, what they are craving is leadership, not control.


Science tells us that children learn from modeling. One of the hardest things for us is to BE what we want our kids to learn. I believe asking yourself these two questions can help.

  1. What values and life lessons do I want my child to learn or embody as a person?

  2. Is what I’m doing in a given situation actually teaching that or something else I don’t intend?

I believe that we begin to model leadership by learning to manage our own reactivity when our child pushes our buttons: to pause, breathe, notice how we feel and respond with enough presence and connection to come back to a state of regulation with our child - a state that they, in that moment, can't get to by themselves.

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