Parents of young children often discuss among themselves whether they are doing all the right things to help their kids become healthy, happy adults.

How many activities should they be involved in? How much sleep do they really need? Is it bad to fix something different for each child for dinner? Am I a bad parent if I don’t (you fill in the blank)?

While these are all valid questions, every person has two basic needs – the need to know who you are and where you belong in the family.

The parent should help each member of the family be who they are as individuals and understand how to connect and fit in with the rest of the family. This is a great case for not treating every child exactly the same. Personalities, temperaments and needs are different for each family member.

So, how do you know if you’re in charge or if your child is running the show?

You may need to reevaluate what’s taking place if any of the following scenarios apply in your home:

  • You think it is OK for your child to tell you what to do;
  • Your child’s behavior intimidates you;
  • You change your response because your child throws a tantrum, pouts or withdraws;
  • Fear of your child’s response changes the way you handle something;
  • You allow emotions – such as guilt and fear that your child won’t love you or won’t be happy with you – to dictate your decisions instead of answering the question, “What is in the best interest of my child?”

It’s not healthy for kids to rule the roost if you want to help them grow up and become independent. Even when they push the edge of the envelope, they’re still counting on you to lead.

Research consistently shows that healthy families have similar patterns – adults lead the family, each person is able to be close and separate from other family members, and the family expects and adapts to change as needed.

According to the authors of Survival Skills for Healthy Families, each person in the family needs to know three things:

  • How to speak up and say what they need. The ability to say what you want helps others to know what you’re thinking and feeling. As an added bonus, it opens the door for understanding.
  • How to listen – As a listener, you can choose to seek connection, be respectful and look for understanding. Or, you can react, fight and argue instead.
  • How to cooperate – Teach your children how to find a balance between their needs and the needs of other members of the family.

Children in your home need to know they can count on their parents to be in charge. But, they also need to know they belong and how to use their voice. Mastering these skills earlier in life can be a real gift to your entire family – and for future generations.

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