Amari Bell talks about how he helped first-grader Armon Hollenquest, who suffered an allergic reaction on a bus ride home.
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Over the past few years, we have noticed a considerable backlash from parents about the importance of establishing authority in the home. We even heard one dad say that he would never want his child to feel compelled to obey him.
At first we were confused by it, but after deeper conversation, we realized that the disagreement was rooted in different understandings of authority.
Before we offer our definition, we want to explain a few of our foundational mindsets about parenting and we want to explore some things that do not fit our definition of authority.
First, we believe that our children are not an extension of us. They are their own individuals with their own strengths and weaknesses, who are on their own journeys. We simply have the privilege of stewarding them through childhood.
As a result of that mindset, we believe that our job description as parents is to love our kids intentionally, train them with excellence and ultimately, release them into a purposeful adulthood.
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When our kids make mistakes, our role should be more like a coach and mentor and not a judge and jailer.
When we talk about having authority in our homes, we do not mean control and fear mongering. We may be able to force outward obedience from our kids for a season because we are bigger and stronger and we hold the purse strings, but eventually, all that changes, and we want our children to respect our leadership and be influenced by our counsel even when they don’t have to.
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Authority does not mean that we control our kids’ every move. They need freedom to discover and express their individuality. They need room to make some mistakes, and they also need a wise counselor to help them pick up the pieces and learn from their mistakes, not a critic who will shame them for bad choices.
Authority does not mean manipulation. We remember once witnessing a mom trying to corral her little ones in the house after a morning on the playground. One of her children did not want to go inside, so to coerce her in the door, she told the child that there was a surprise for her inside. When we asked about the surprise, she shrugged it off and said there wasn’t one. She was using it to get her daughter to do what she wanted.
That might be an extreme example of manipulation, but any form of bribery is manipulation, and it does not establish true authority.
Genuine parental authority means that our children trust our judgement. It means they revere our position of leadership and wisdom, and they value their relationship with us. True authority means our kids are willing to be guided and influenced by us.
Our kids won’t always like our directions, but when they truly respect our authority, they are more likely to honor our wishes, believing that we have their best interest and the bigger picture in mind.
Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman host POP Parenting, a one-hour weekly talk radio show in Sarasota, Florida. For more information, go to www.jenniandjody.com, visit the Jenni and Jody Facebook page or follow them on Twitter @JenniandJody.
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