The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any – Alice Walker
I recently heard a woman complain that her granddaughter was a “spoiled brat”. She went on to describe this 7 year old’s very demanding, disrespectful behavior and how she, (the grandma) was no longer interested in spending time with the child.
I asked her to consider how she had been teaching her granddaughter to treat her. She looked puzzled. Through conversation I realized that it hadn’t occurred to her that she played a powerful role in the way her granddaughter was treating her.
Yes, it’s true that Grandma does not live with this child. Is not with her granddaughter everyday. And others are allowing the child to treat them poorly… all terribly unfair to this little girl, and still, I know that the way a child treats one person is not always the way they treat everyone.
I suggested instead of criticizing the child’s parent she might consider showing him what it would look like to calmly and confidently take charge when she’s with her granddaughter.
In other words, we are each responsible for ‘teaching’ others how we expect to be treated… and tolerating nothing else.
Children may push, even consistently, to be the one in control. That’s not a bad thing, it’s a natural course of growth. Yet as a child they are not yet prepared to make the most sound decisions. Children really want the comfort that comes from knowing someone is willing to take charge, and despite appearances otherwise, they are hungering for direction and guidance.
How about an example:
She: I want to stay in the bathtub and have my dinner here!
You: WOW! That could be fun.
She: Yes, and if you don’t bring it to me I won’t eat!
You: Sounds like you’re having fun in the bathtub and you’re not ready to get out. (Notice, you don’t need to go into all the reasons for NOT eating in the bathtub right now. Yet you are acknowledging you heard her and understand her ‘request’… which may sound like a ‘demand’)
She: I’m not going to eat unless you do what I say!
You: Oh, I hear you sweetheart. You want to eat in the tub instead of at the table.
She: Yes! And you can’t make me eat at the table!
You: You’re absolutely right!
Are you starting to get the drift? (By the way, this ‘demand’ to eat in the tub was one of the typical demands this grandma’s granddaughter recently made to her)
Honestly… whether you’re a parent or a grandparent, you’ll find life a lot happier if you stop behaving as though you need a child to do anything… whether it’s eating at the table or waiting calmly for you to get off the phone. You don’t need to get into a discussion about why your child can’t have what they want… just acknowledge their feelings while calmly and confidently staying in charge.
There is no ‘power struggle’ if you won’t play.
And your child won’t die of starvation after missing a meal.
Get clear with yourself about what your child’s options are so you can be calm and clear with your child when offering options. Then, remember to thank her when she does what is asked so she begins to associate better feelings with cooperating than with being defiant.