Usually, big people can control small people. It just makes sense until it comes to small people we call children. How is that a 3 year old can make you do something you don’t want to do? The answer is that children understand how to use and abuse power before they can talk. This is the way it works. I call it my Power Units Theory.
There are 100 power units in any family household. No more, no less. If you are single you have all 100 power units. That means you get to make all the decisions from what you eat, to what you watch on TV, to when you go to bed. If you get married, you now have 100 power units divided between two people. That means compromise. When making any decision, the person with 51 power units or more makes the decision. But when children enter the picture it gets complicated.
A baby is born and immediately is given an enormous amount of power units. A baby can make you wake up when you want to sleep, change a diaper when you would rather do anything but and stand for hours holding a 10-pound weight hoping it will finally fall asleep. Babies have one way to control power and that is a God-given ear-splitting siren we call crying.
At around the age of two most parents decide it’s time to take some power units back. We call this the “terrible twos” because the child has gotten used to controlling their environment like a supreme being. In order to continue to control the majority of power units, the toddler will expand his/her repertoire. At this time, they will not only use crying but will add whining, screaming, sulking and any other behavior you will dislike so much you will give them anything to make them stop.
And this will be your life for the next 18 years.
Your job is to give them power units for the behavior you desire to continue since at age 18 they will essentially need to be able to function making all their own decisions and having all 100 power units.
A couple of pointers:
- Every choice you give involves power units. If your child comes down for breakfast and you say, “Honey, would you like Cheerios or oatmeal?” One choice, a little power. If you say, “Honey, what do you want for breakfast?” Many choices, enormous power. The smaller the child the more limited you should make their choices.
- As they grow you will need to connect power units to good behavior. If you reward whining or tantrums by giving in, then you are reinforcing bad behavior. If you reward good behavior with choices, then you will be able to connect responsibility and freedom when they become teenagers.
- You want to avoid power struggles but if you find yourself in one you need to win.
- You must be willing to win the battles with your 3-year-old if you expect to have a chance when you find yourself in a war with a 13-year-old.
- Every time you give in they get stronger. The battle you are in with a toddler is the weakest they will ever be.
Love them well but don’t let them be in charge.
“Woe to the land whose king is a child”.