by Dr. Carol Renaud Gaffney
"I want to do it my way!!"
"Who's the boss around here, anyway?"
"Now dear, don't be so hard on him (or her).
After all, he's (she's) only a child!"
Familiar words? All too often parents and
children are caught in an age-old battle:
"Who should be in charge of what, when and
Confused?? You're not alone - many parents
are feeling inadequately prepared as they face
the changing needs of the family, parents and
children. In fact, I frequently hear:
"I just don't know what went wrong; what
ever happened to the good old days when a parent's
word was law?"
Perhaps you are in the situation where what
you want for your child does not seem to fit with
what he/she wants. With words and strategies that
no longer work you may have an increasingly angry
child. Perhaps you are sharing this anger. Read
on. The following ideas are just some thoughts
to consider as we raise our children.
Independence and rebellion are not the same!!!
Independence occurs when a child actually does
some thinking for herself and considers consequences
for she acts.
Rebellion takes no thinking at all. In fact
a rebellious kid checks out what someone else
is doing and then makes decisions. All a child
has to do is listen to what is asked for and do
the opposite. This usually occurs with no regard
for consequences. Once a parents knows what kind
of child they're working with, problems can easily
decrease because the parent can get the child
to go right by asking her to go left. Still, the
parents ends up the one doing most of the thinking.
Thinking comes before independence and develops
through practice. If a parent wants his child
to be thinking by the time he hits junior high,
better hope he's had plenty of practice during
elementary school!! Thinking, unlike bad complexion,
does not develop overnight. As you may already
know, the price of poor thinking and rebellion
goes way up in junior high. The good news is that
there are plenty of opportunities to learn and
to think before that because they'll make so many
Every time a mistake is made or a problem occurs,
there's a new opportunity for thinking. And the
person who makes the mistake get to be involved
in solving the problem.
Now this may sound strange to the parent who
is a great problem-solver and lectures on the
way it should have been done the first time around.
It may also feel odd to the parent who thinks
that every mistake should be followed by punishment
"that will be remembered for along time to come".
But think about it, even now our best thinking
goes along with the greatest mistakes for which
we've had to claim responsibility. Our task as
the knowing adult is to let the problem be solved
without the words "I told you so!" and wit a loving
message of "good luck!"
The role of the parent is one of coaching for
the child, not playing the game for him. It may
be hard for a loving parent to say, "I hope you
can work it out with your teacher, let me know
if you want to talk about it," rather than "Ill
be up at the school first thing in the morning
to set that teacher straight".
A loving parent can cheer from the sidelines
as the child takes that step toward maturity.
the parent can also be there to share in the pride
of success or help bear the pain of disappointment.
the child will play better knowing he isn't playing
the game alone - but it's not the parent's play
of the game that will guarantee the win.
Independence thrives on a strong self-concept.
All too often when something goes wrong, there's
a winner and a loser. The apparent winner, usually
the powerful parent, often looks back with regret
and wonders how it could happen that his child
is upset or angry. When the person with the problem
does the thinking about his part of it, when the
parent can be the coach, when the child gets to
play the game - they can both be on the winning
Now that you have some things to consider, let
me add one last idea that every parents can benefit
from but all to often few even realize: Independent
children leave time for parents to live adult
lives of their own.