Why your kids need you to step-up (but it’s not what you think)

Your kids need you to take charge, to step up, to be the adult in the relationship. But, instead of "showing them who's boss" try this approach.

This post contains an affiliate link. Using this link, I earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Battle lines are drawn.

Your child is not giving up without a fight.

As they dig in their heels, you feel pressured to stand your ground.

Panic sets in, “If I lose this fight, he will never do anything I ask ever again!”

You start to yell. Threaten. Punish. Anything to “show him who’s boss.”

And yet, in the midst of all the chaos, you don’t feel very confident.

In fact, you feel just like your child: out-of-control.

Why your kids need you to step-up.

When your kids are feeling overwhelmed and out-of-sorts, they search for someone to guide them. Someone who knows how to handle the situation. Someone they can trust.

Unfortunately, when your kids look to you for this guidance, they often find you screaming, threatening, and throwing up your hands in frustration.

In these moments, they start to doubt. They’re not sure you are capable of guiding them through this problem.

And so, they decide to take on the challenge themselves.

They put themselves in the driver’s seat. They act older than they really are, take on more responsibilities, become bossy, whiny, or may even try to soothe your emotions.

Kids are not meant to be in this position.

Kids are designed to depend on their caregivers and rest in the security that their caregivers will help them safely navigate confusing situations and big emotions.

In other words, your kids need you to step-up. They need you to be the boss. To take charge.

To show them that you’ve got this.

How to be in charge (without “showing them who’s boss”)

Your first instinct may be to “lay down the law” or tighten the reigns to confirm your position of authority.

Unfortunately, this has the opposite effect. It leads to more confusion, disconnect, and insecurity.

Instead, you can show your kids you’re in charge by being confident, cool and collected.

This means:

By demonstrating time and again that you are safe, trustworthy, and fair, and by focusing more on keeping your own emotions in check, rather than trying to squash every big emotion, tantrum or argument that your kids express, you show that you’re “the boss” without saying, “I’m the parent, that’s why!” or “Because I said so!”

Dr. Vanessa LaPointe calls this “Hulking It Up” (referring to the Marvel Comic superhero the Incredible Hulk). Here’s how she describes it:

Big people who are hulking it up do so in more subtle ways. They are capably and confidently handling whatever needs to be handled with quiet, assured, consistent actions that are full of compassion, care nurturance, and understanding. – Discipline without Damage, page 77

Why this works.

When you focus more on yourself and less on managing your child’s behavior, you begin to realize that your parenting authority is not a punishment, but a gift.

It allows your kids to be kids. To grow and explore at their own pace, knowing that you will be there when they need your support.

It gives them the freedom to have a horrible meltdown over a dropped ice cream cone, and then come to you for comfort; knowing that you understand their big feelings, will help them calm down, and find a solution.

It opens up space for communication, problem-solving, and teamwork, instead of division and arguments.

Your kids are longing for you to be in the driver’s seat. They want to depend on you as they go through difficult situations.

But, you don’t have to be perfect.

It’s ok to be a work in progress, to slip back into old habits from time to time, or to forget that your authority comes from being calm, cool and confident rather than demanding, angry, and out-of-control.

Next time your child starts to dig in their heels and you feel that familiar twinge of panic, you may do things differently.

Instead of thinking, “If I lose this fight, he will never do anything I ask ever again” you remind yourself to be the boss. To step into the driver’s seat and guide this conversation back to safety.

“Ok, ok. We disagree,” you say, after taking a few deep breaths. “I really want to hear what you have to say, but shouting at each other isn’t going to help. Let’s sit down and you can start over. I’m ready to listen now.”

Click here to learn more alternatives to “Because I said so”

Feeling unsure?

Happy again with logo

Changing from authoritarian style parenting to nurturing, positive parenting can be a difficult and confusing transition. I’m here to provide you with step-by-step guidance and encouragement as you put this type of parenting in place. Learn more about online Parent Coaching!

Nicole Schwarz (couch 3)

Welcome! I'm Nicole Schwarz.

I'm a Parent Coach, Licensed Therapist and Author of It Starts with You. I help stressed, overwhelmed, confused parents find calm, confidence and connection with their kids. No one is expecting perfection here. But, if you’re willing to examine your parenting, find encouragement, or try something new, this is the place for you.

Comments have been turned off to retain the privacy of all families. If you have a question or comment on the topic, you're always welcome to contact me.