As a Parent…You Own the Power
More and more children are dictating to their parents what they will or will not do. It really does seem to reflect today's society. Children believe they have the power to make those decisions.
As a parent, it can be a very difficult decision to decide when you practice tough love or give in to their desires based on their needs.
Although children can be very convincing, it is imperative that you trust your intelligence and your intuition to know what is in their best interest even if it means increased conflict at home.
As a psychotherapist of 35 years, my experience is that most people want to avoid conflict and therefore they don't want to address the hard issues that will increase the conflict in their home. As a family therapist, I would highly encourage you to take control by explaining what you expect of your child and giving him/her consequences if your child does not follow through with your expectations.
Separation Anxiety or Willfulness
Let's take the child who has decided that they would prefer to stay home and not go to school. They may believe that they don't feel good enough to go to school, or that the expectations are too great to face at school or they don't have the energy to attend school. What does the parent do in this situation?
If a child is telling you they do not feel well, take them to a doctor to evaluate the situation. However, I use the old standard rule “if a child is not running a fever and does not appear to have any physical maladies that you can see … you send them to school anyway because you do not want to reinforce the concept of “my child gets to make the rules.”
The situation becomes complicated if you feel like you need to leave before the child gets on the bus because you will not be there to follow through with getting him/her on the bus. You will have to take extreme measures to enforce your expectations. You may need to go to your employer and explain that you will need to stay home for a period of a few days to perhaps a couple of weeks to show your child that you absolutely have control of the situation.
You may need to request an FMLA to protect you as you teach your child that you are in control. Your pediatrician will need to fill out a form that says that your child has special needs that you will need to attend to. This will protect your job as you take care of family business.
It certainly takes a village to help raise children these days and so don’t hesitate to ask others for help. Ask your friends, family, or neighbors to assist you in setting up the expectations. When your child sees that you have back up, he/she will give up the need for control. Believe it or not an anxious or self-determined child needs to know that there is somebody stronger than him or her who can set up the limits and the expectations in healthy ways.
Parenting is tough but you must model the determination that tells your child that you know what is best and that you have expectations that will keep your child safe and healthy. It is important for you to seek out lots of support as you engage in the hardest job in the world!