How to Know When Your Kid Has Too Much Power

I stood there watching equally dismayed and fascinated as a mother negotiated with her four year old about bedtime.  I went from dismayed to appalled when the four year won… no designated bedtime for him.  What?!  I could not believe it.  But then I started thinking about how much power over parents almost all kids have now days.  How much?  Too much!  This is harmful on several levels.

Kids,  at any age, aren’t mentally capable of using their power wisely and for their own good.  If they get everything they want and when they want it this creates a deep sense of anxiety.  It would be the same if I became President of the United States.  I’d have no idea how to use that power wisely because I have not been prepared for that.  If I were behind the desk in the Oval Office I’d have full blown panic attack.  I’d be begging people to tell me what to do because I’d be in way over my head.  The difference is that I’m old enough to know that I was in over my head whereas kids usually can’t make that distinction.  That may not be the perfect analogy but you get the idea.  Kids crave reasonable and loving boundaries, limits and guidance.  And it’s your job as the parent to put those in place.

So how do you know if your kid has too much power over you and over his own life?  There are two glaring red flags to watch out for.

1.  Constant negotiation.  I hear it all the time from parents with kids of all ages.  They tell me that everything is a negotiation, from bedtime, to what to eat, to when they will do homework, what chores they will complete and so on.  While I do believe kids should have choices they need to be age appropriate and only allowed when the child demonstrates the ability to manage themselves on that particular topic.  Appropriate choices are good as long as they have oversight by the parent with the child’s wellbeing at the forefront.

That four year old I mentioned earlier ended up going to bed anywhere between 11pm and 1am.  He was always late for preschool and was having constant meltdowns because he was exhausted and lacked structure and routine.  It was his mother’s job to dictate bedtime.  If she wanted him to have a choice about sleeping time then he could have chosen which set of pajamas to wear… that’s an example of age appropriate decisions.

When it comes to teens there is often a negotiation about curfews, bedtime, screen time, which classes to take.  The key is to have a reasonable conversation.  Narrow down the healthy options then let them decide.  But it’s harmful and unhealthy to give them full reign over their life at 14, 15, 16 and so on.

2.  You see that your kid is experiencing undue anxiety and stress.  This can come in the form of a tantrum, losing his temper, crying over something minimal, losing motivation or trying to gain more and more control.  If you observe any of these things in your child then it could very well mean he has too much power.  And when any of us get power we usually want more, in fact, we feel like we need more and more to make ourselves feel secure.  But the truth is they need less power and more guidance, loving boundaries and limits.  It may sound counterintuitive but I believe it’s the truth.  Again, kids need choices and autonomy but it must come with limits and oversight.  They are not equipped to have unlimited power (or close to it) over their own lives.  That’s why they have parents.  That’s why they have you!  Otherwise, they feel overwhelmed and anxious.  So step up, set limits, enforce boundaries and guide your child as he navigates his life.

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