There are a lot of parenting tips out there.
The internet is swamped with experts and there are rows and rows of books at your public library all claiming they have the best parenting tips to help you raise a kind and respectful human.
The best parenting tip I was ever given was:
Give Kids Choices
Adults who figure this out have a much easier time interacting with kids of all ages.
Every child wants to feel like they have some level of control.
Have you ever had a child tell you “NO!”?
This is clearly an example of a child attempting to exert their control.
I was volunteering one morning at my kids’ school; stuffing take-home folders for my son’s 5th grade class
The noise associated with the hustle and bustle before the second and final morning bell was in full force. The hallways were filled with chatter and excitement and soon it would be the teacher’s job to reign the students in to begin their day.
Above all the noise of voices, toilets flushing and backpacks being rustled, I heard a Kindergartner boldly shout to another Kindergartner, “YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME!”
I stopped in my tracks and fell into my own thoughts.
Momentarily, I’m grinning because this phrase has launched me into some deep philosophical thinking about kids and their behavior (which I love).
My A-HA Moment: The phrase “YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME!” is universal.
Kids in my crew said it in Minnesota and here I am 12,000+ miles away in Colorado and another child is saying it.
Where do they learn it?
My guess is from other kids.
A hand-me-down if you will.
Kids will tell anyone who will listen that they want power.
Indirectly of course.
Often times in the most unfavorable ways…screaming, kicking, throwing tantrums, going ‘boneless’ when you try to pick them.
The feeling of not being in control over a child’s behavior can make adults (myself included) very uncomfortable.
Our ego kicks in and says, “Hey…self! You better get a hold of this situation. What will others think of you when they see this child out of control?”
If we cast ourselves into the day and life of a young child, it becomes evident quite quickly that a child is given little to no control throughout their day.
Imagine for a moment how many times a day a child is told what to do:
- When to wake up
- What to wear
- What to eat
- When to get in the car
- How to act
- When to have lunch
- When to clean up
- When it’s time to rest
- When to go home
- When to brush their teeth
- When to get their pajamas on
- When to go to bed
Now..I’m not saying that directing a child through their day is damaging. In most cases, it’s our responsibility to guide them and care for them which includes many of the “to-do’s” listed above.
The level by which a child is controlled throughout the day leaves very little guesswork as to why kids use the phrase “YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME!” with other kids.
What they are trying to say is…“Listen bub. I’ve got enough people breathin’ down my neck all day. The last thing I need is for some little dude like you telling me what to do.”
One approach I’m particularly fond of is the Love & Logic Approach to giving kids choices.
Heck, at 39 years old, I love to feel as though I have choices.
Take a minute to read through or even print off this handout I found online from Love & Logic. It is full of ideas of how to give kids choices throughout the day.
In my experience, if kids feel empowered through opportunities we give them, they are less likely to demonstrate defiance and frustration.
When working kids, if we let go just a little, we can get back a whole lot more.
I wonder if that Kindergartner I mentioned earlier felt a little bit powerless in his home that morning. What if he were given just a few choices? “
It might have sounded something like this….”Hey buddy…”
- do you want cereal or eggs for breakfast?
- do you want to wear blue shorts or black shorts?
- would you like to put your shoes on first or your coat?
- do you want to pack goldfish or apples for your snack?
None of those choices should halt the momentum of the day. Either option should be a-okay with you.
Perhaps if Mr. Kindergartener had been given some choices throughout his morning…he wouldn’t have to go around letting others know (at high volumes) that they are NOT the boss of him.
Because Gol-Darnit. They (his classmates) are not.
TIP: If you’re one of my Minnesotan readers… do yourself a favor and look up Mr. Andy Johnsrud with Warriors of the Open Heart. He’s been an independent facilitator of Love & Logic since 2000 and will have you laughing and learning how to approach difficult situations with kids in a loving manner in no time.
Need to make that DREADED POTTY TALK GO AWAY? I’ve shared my thoughts on that as well. (Hint: It’s more and Love & Logic…good stuff)