Monday, April 18, 2016

Power Struggle

As I mentioned in a previous post, my oldest and I have been in the midst of a power struggle. I have tried all kinds of things to smooth things out. I have tried more one on one time, more affirmations, harsher consequences and looser consequences. Nothing was really changing.

"I can't do this, babe. Why does he have to control everything? Why does he care what color Rosie colors with or the fact that I said '7:30' instead of '7:29'?" I fell back into the couch, exhausted from a day of arguing.
"Because he's a pain right now," my husband said as he scrolled through his phone.
"I know but why?"
He put his phone down, ready to tackle the problem with me. "Well, he's the oldest. He wants to be in charge. He's a leader with some rough edges."
"No kidding."
"Check online - See if you find anything about strong willed kids. He can't be the only one."
I grabbed my iPad and googled "controlling and bossy children," feeling just a little bit like I was calling my kid a name. Immediately I was flooded with words like, "Your child is a born leader but it's up to you to show him how." No help there. But then I found a website about bossiness in gifted children that completely changed by perspective. 

It said, "When most people think of bossiness, they probably think first of control. It is certainly possible that a gifted child may just want to be in control of a situation much like anyone else. However, this is not the typical cause of bossiness in gifted children." I had always thought that the problem was a need for control. I read on and learned that he is actually seeing interactions play out and developing complex rules for games we play or things we cook or pictures we color. He's simply trying to execute his plan. They recommended giving the child some leeway to make rules but also sharing some information about what makes a really great leader. Guide them so that they know that other people might have great ideas as well even if they seem simpler at first glance.

The next day, I tried it. "Hey bud, we still have some toys to organize in your closet. Here are the bins. Could you come up with a plan and get it cleaned up sometime today? I just need it done before bedtime." Without the restrictions of timing or method, his eyes brightened. 
"Can I start right now?" 
"If you want to. Sure. Let me know if you need any help."
The closet was completely organized within an hour. He proudly gave his brother and me a tour and showed us where to find things when we needed him.
"Wow. Wonderful job! Drew wanted to play street hockey so let's give him a chance to make up the rules of this game."
"Okay! Drew - How should we play?!"

My son felt respected and challenged when I gave him real responsibility without micromanaging him. Because of that, he was more open to listening to his brother about the hockey game rules. I have realized that it's one more step of letting him grow into the person I know he's meant to be. He won't grow if I hold him back. I have to give him a little bit more respect and become a little bit more open to his ideas on how to do things. It won't be easy - I have a bossy streak in me too - but I am going to try. I know he will do amazing things if I just get out of the way.

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