Being an Admired Leader Instead of a Pushy Boss for Your Kids
by Kathy Slattengren, M. Ed., Priceless Parenting (sign up for monthly parenting newsletter and receive 20+ printable charts for kids and parents)
Do you liked to be bossed around? Probably not! How does the thought of being given orders make you feel? Irritated? Angry? Rebellious? If you’re like most, you react negatively to someone trying to boss or control you.
Your children are no different. They also do not like when you try to control their behavior. You can test this out by watching their reaction to your commands. What happens when you tell them to hurry up? Does this cause them to go faster? How about when you tell your kids to stop fighting or quit whining?
Sometimes your kids may follow your commands. Other times they may ignore them or verbally agree but not follow
through. Giving commands sets up power struggles with your kids. You can replace commands with more effective approaches
like telling them what you are going to do or asking curiosity questions.
Considering the Characteristics of Your Favorite Boss
Your role as a parent is like being a boss or leader for your family. If you shy away from this role and try instead to be your children’s friend, that leaves your family without the strong leadership it really needs. When the kids are primarily in control, families are dysfunctional.
How can you be an awesome leader for your family? Begin by thinking about your favorite boss. What characteristics made this person such an excellent boss? Some characteristics people mention appreciating in their bosses include:
- Fully present
- Positive attitude
- Sense of humor
The character traits of a good leader are very similar to those of a good parent. These qualities determine how you show up. It’s more about who you are being rather than what you are doing.
Which of these characteristics do you think your kids would use to describe you? If they would say you are compassionate, then there are many times they’ve experienced your compassion. When you embody the qualities of a strong, loving leader, your actions reflect those characteristics.
Becoming an Admired Leader Instead of a Despised Boss
If you’re a parent with children at home, then you are the leader. It’s up to you to be in charge of providing for the family, making the major decisions in the family and setting healthy limits for your children. Families become dysfunctional when parents abandon their leadership role.
David shared his exasperation about how his 13-year-old son does “whatever he damn well pleases”. He sadly explained that he knew his son needed stronger boundaries but was at a loss as to how effectively to influence his son’s behavior.
For example, his son recently came home two hours later than expected. Although he yelled at his son, the next day his son was late again. While yelling in anger is a natural response, it doesn’t match the characteristics of an effective leader. What else could David have done?
He could have approached his son with honesty and empathy while also working towards a solution. David might have explained, “I was really worried when you didn’t come home on time. I understand you were having fun and lost track of the time. How do you think we can change things so this doesn’t happen again?” Involving his son in figuring out possible solutions will increase the likelihood of his son sticking to their agreement.
Another quality of exceptional leaders is being trustworthy. As a parent you gain your children’s trust when they know you will do what you say you will do. When you keep your promises, your children can count on you.
For example, if you’re at a pool and promise to catch your child if she goes down the slide, then be sure to catch her! One 50-year-old woman still gets angry telling about how her dad told her he would catch her and then didn’t.
Likewise, if you tell your child that you will be leaving the park if he throws rocks and he decides to throw rocks, you need to leave. By following through with consequences, your kids learn to trust your words.
Developing Your Leadership Skills
It is certainly easier to influence your teen’s behavior if you’ve established yourself as the loving authority figure when your child was much younger. For example, let’s pretend you tell your 3-year-old you will be leaving a friend’s house in 5 minutes. If your child puts up a fit when the time is up, you can pick him up and leave. If you tell a 13-year-old he needs to be home from a friend’s house in 5 minutes and he doesn’t want to leave, carrying him out isn’t an option!
Being able to consistently set limits is a fundamental skill you need to have. Your children will help you develop this skill by continually testing for where the limits are located. You can set a limit with compassion by saying something like “I know how much fun you are having and it’s time to leave.”
Developing leadership qualities is a lifelong process. Think about the characteristics of your favorite leaders and decide which one you would most like to work on. Working on one characteristic at a time will allow you to continually improve. You will be the strong, loving leader your family needs.