Ask Dr. Zoe – How Can I Parent with More Authority?

Ask Dr. Zoe - Should I Stay in My Marriage at the Cost of My Happiness?

‘Struggling to Lead My Kids’ asked:

Hi, Dr. Zoe,

I have a 5- and 3-year-old and I already see how my kids run me over in a lot of ways. They listen to their dad and respect him much more than me. When it’s just me at home with them, they speak to me and treat me much differently (worse) than when he’s around. I wonder if it’s partly because they’re more comfortable with me since I’m always home with them.

But I’m also sure a lot of this is because I struggle with saying no and sticking to boundaries. I’ve always been more of a follower than a leader, and I see my struggle to be a strong leader of my kids. But I know I need to grow in this way because I feel weary of what feels like constant resistance from them. It’s exhausting.

I enjoy them and love caring for them, but discipline is hard for me. I know it will only get harder as they grow, so I need to learn new tools now. Do you have any tips or resources for me to learn to parent with more authority?

Thank you!


Dr. Zoe answered:

Motherhood is the very best training grounds for leadership, so you are exactly where you are supposed to be. It’s wonderful that you are aware of your struggle with holding boundaries, leading and saying no. I’m always way more concerned about people who are unaware of their deficits.

You are right. Now is the time to put the pedal to the metal and work on these issues. Kids are uncanny in their ability to quickly learn how to triangulate and divide and conquer their parents. It’s just their nature. They’re simply trying to figure out how to get what they want within the system of their family.

Your job as a mom is to give them what they need, not necessarily what they want—although it’s lovely for all when they coincide.

Start with searching yourself and asking the following questions:
1. What is your biggest fear when you think of saying no to your children? Are you scared they won’t like you?

2. What does it mean to you to be loved and respected by your children, verses liked?

3. What was your experience with leaders in your childhood?

Without intention, we will usually either replicate what we experienced in childhood or swing the pendulum in the total opposite direction (to the other side of dysfunction) in an attempt to not do what was done with us. Both are unhealthy.

There are very clear and identifiable reasons why you struggle to uphold healthy boundaries with your children. And I would guess that your boundary issues are probably not isolated to your kiddos. You deserve to know yourself well. When you do, your children will reap the benefits.

When it comes to your boundaries, I would suggest starting a personal quest for learning how to implement them in your life. Great books for you to read are:

Good Boundaries and Goodbyes by Lysa Terkeurst
Set Boundaries Find Peace by Nedra Tawwab

The very good news is that boundaries can be lovingly erected where there once were none. It’s never too late to set boundaries. Your entire family will benefit. You’ve got this! It just takes a little grit and self grace.

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