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Co-operation Is Using Power With Your Kids

The soul empties itself of all its own contents in order to receive the being it is looking at, just as he is, in all his truth.

Simone Weil

Consider that at every moment your interactions with your children are based on either exercising power over them or exercising power with them. You may be quite familiar with both kinds of interactions; very likely, one of these is predominant in your family life. Which is it?

 Power-Over Parenting

 Expressions of power-over parenting:

 I want you to do this right now. If you don’t . . .

Don’t make me ask you again!

You just have to do what you’re told.

No back talk from you!

I don’t care what you think about it!

I know you want to play but you have to . . .

How many times do I have to tell you?

Building on a power-over foundation means that you determine what is best and right for your children, you give instructions, and you enforce your child’s obedience. Parents with this orientation spend a lot of their time lecturing, advising, arguing, analyzing, and, in whatever ways, trying to manage the behavior of their children to fit a set of expectations they accept as the right and only way to do things. In their efforts to ensure compliance, parents often find themselves commanding and demanding, using phrases like you have to, you must, you ought to, and you should. They also have to enforce commands with threats of punishment and promises of rewards. Children have no choices or very few choices and are infrequently, if ever, asked for input to solve their own problems.

 Power-With Parenting

Expressions of power-with parenting:

I’d like us to find a solution that works for everyone.

I’m happy when we work together.

I feel sad when one of us is left out of decisions.

I’d like to hear how this sounds to you.

I’m wondering what you need right now.

Would you be willing to . . .?

Please help me understand what you have in mind.

I wonder what your thoughts are when you hear that.

Building on a power-with foundation means that parents and children co-operate to determine what is best for the children, actions are mutually agreed upon, and family members get together periodically to review agreements they have made. Parents with this orientation use precious parenting time actively listening to their kids and attempting to understand them by hearing their feelings, needs, and wishes. This parent’s primary message is, I want us to come up with strategies and solutions that work for all of us. I’m willing to explore with you until we can do that. Compromising, negotiating, and bargaining-where someone is usually left dissatisfied-are poor substitutes for getting to the roots of problems and meeting needs to everyone’s satisfaction.

Parents determined to exercise power with their children are not afraid to listen to what their kids have to say. In fact, they welcome it. They realize that listening to children does not mean they agree or disagree with them. They know that listening is often just the beginning of a dialogue, and, especially if they listen first, they will have opportunities to honestly share their own thoughts, feelings, and needs as well. Whether you are building on a power-over or a power-with foundation, your children are learning from everything you say and do. Kids pick up the tactics you are using and use them with their siblings and friends. They take these same tactics to school as their foundation for interactions with classmates, and they use them to build a foundation for their future relationships.




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