Friday, April 30, 2010

Gleanings from Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles

I just finished reading the book Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. Though she is not a "Christian" author, I thought that the ideas/thoughts in this book were more along the lines of how a Christian parent should deal with his/her child than most "Christian" parenting books I've read.

"Together we've gone below the surface to the feelings and needs that can fuel power struggles. And it is there in the depths of those emotions that you have discovered your child is not out to get you. Your child is experiencing a feeling or need and doesn't know how to express it respectfully. You can teach him." (Epilogue)

This quote summarizes the thesis of the book. For some reason, many Christian parents worry that their child is trying to take advantage of them...they worry that if they tune into their child in order to work with them that they will soon have a little Hitler. I've noticed that what creates little dictators in the home is parents who aren't willing to teach their children, and correct and guide them. I've also noticed, though, that parents who suppress and smother their children's feelings (especially tantrums) rather than addressing them, often have outwardly well-behaved kids, but when these kids reach their teenage years and realize that their parents can no longer control them, they become "big dictators".

From this book, I learned about different temperaments that children may have. They may be introverted or extroverted. They may be "thinkers," or they may be "feelers." Once you find out what your child is generally like, you can tune into their needs as expressed by their outward behavior. You can teach them to respond to situations that frustrate them/make them angry in appropriate ways. You can stop many tantrums/power struggles before they even start because you understand your child better. As the author aptly states,"In order to be open to your guidance your child has to be able to trust that you will hear his feelings such as sadness, disappointment, frustration, hunger, fear, and fatigue and respond in a warm predictable way that is in tune with his signals. A sense of trust is the foundation of all healthy relationships. If your child cannot trust you, he cannot allow you to have power over him." Later she adds, "Trust implies a firm belief and confidence in the honesty, integrity, reliability, and justice of another person. A synonym for trust is faith. Faith is unquestioning belief, as in, Children usually have faith in their parents." (pg. 91) Wow!!! Isn't that why we obey God, too?

This book has helped me to think more about who Aydon is as a person. He has a huge personal space bubble. If someone (even his dad or I) gets too close when he is tired or emotionally intense, he can hardly control the urge to hit. I have been teaching him to say, "no" instead, verbalizing for him how he feels, "you don't like it if I come too close to you, just say 'no'" and mommy will stop". Ryan and I have been working on inviting him to cuddle with us/hug us if he wants to, but respecting his choice. An exception to this, of course, is when we are doing "get off your butt parenting (http://goybparenting.com/)," and helping him obey us by taking his hand or picking him up...but we are still careful not to overpower him while still being firm and standing by what we say...

I have also noticed that Aydon tends to "dawdle." While this is a characteristic of this age, Aydon tends to this more than some kids. I have really been thinking about the dawdling. What causes it? I decided to observe Aydon closely when he dawdled yesterday. Often, he dawdles because he sees something that is very interesting...the dawdling is more because he gets distracted and he is a thinker, so he really studies anything of interest to him. So, I need to work with him. If there is a reason why I don't want him to dawdle, then I need to tell him something like, "I know that looks interesting to you, but we have to hurry home this time....you can look at cars out the window while we are driving." Or I need to think before I just issue a command like "come," so that I can say that when he is not distracted or warn him that I am about to say "come" in order to set him up for success. More importantly, I need to plan on taking longer during our excursions so that he has time to observe and think and play and be.

Finally, Aydon is definitely a "feeler." He wants us to be happy with each other. He doesn't like it if someone is sad. He wants to please us and make us happy. This means that I need to make sure that he doesn't think I like him only when he is good. I need to avoid phrases like "good boy" because we are all born sinners, and I don't want him to ever think that his acceptance by us or by God is based on his behavior. Children who are "thinkers" respond better to crisp, firm rules because they appreciate logic over emotion. These are the children who will ask their parents "why" about everything when they get older. Ironically, my hubby is exactly half feeler and half thinker, so our children could be both.

I think it is important for me to not try to fit Aydon into a mold, while at the same time, to study him and to learn his personality so that I can set him up for success; so that I can build a relationship of trust (which also leads to "honor," part of what older Christian children are instructed to do in the Bible); so that he is free to become the unique person that God made him to be and not a robot; so that he is able to stand firm against the bad ideas of his peers because he knows that he can say "no" when something makes him uncomfortable!

I would definitely recommend this book to any parent who wants to get to know their child better...it really helps in understanding how to raise your unique child effectively, and how to avoid many situations that become power struggles...

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