The other day I was exiting the Safeway when two green aproned Starbuck’s employees poked their heads around the corner and said “is he with you?” Referring to a child between us.
I said “Nope. Oh dear have you lost your mama?”
No sooner had the words left my mouth then a Safeway employee grabbed the boy by the wrist and said come with me while dragging him behind here. Thankfully the boys mom popped her head around the Self Checkout and said “I’m right here.”
The way the Safeway employee, who I’m certain was trying to help, grabbed the boy really caught my attention. It left me thinking about how all the times, even with good intentions, we assert our power, as adults, over children.
Simply by our stature we have more power then our children. Then there is our access to funds, ability to transport ourselves where we want to go, more reliable respect from others and the list goes on. This allows us access to more power than a child. It’s so very easy for that power to get out if control and damage the relationship we have with our child.
Even as a person who is aware of this I drop the ball all the time. “Hey mom can we go to GameStop?” I’m in pajamas on the couch after running around all day. I don’t want to leave the house again. I am the only way for my child to get where he needs to go. This is the moment where I can have power over or power with my child. It doesn’t always mean I have to get my butt up off the couch and take my child to the store, it means we can have a conversation.
“Hey dude, I’m in my pj’s and kinda of done going out for the day. Can you wait? ”
Which then gives my child a chance to consider their needs and the two of us to engage in a conversation about what we are both trying to get out of the situation. Is there another adult in the house who might be willing to go? Can I show up at the GameStop in the pjs? Is sitting on the couch more important than the relationship I am building with my child? Are all the sorts of questions that allow us to share the power in the situation.
Now I have been know to have another reaction to this situation that I think does just as much damage to the relationship as does refusing to go. It’s the martyr trip. Where I huff my way up off the couch, lamenting under my breath about how I have to do everything around here, drive in silence to the store, ignore my child’s thank you and hit the couch again irritated. This sort of power says to my child that they are in my way. I am irritated by them and their needs, even if I am meeting them, they are annoying to me. And let’s not forget the stinking pile of guilt I also heaped up on my child’s sense of who they are in the world along the way. Thankfully, I most often catch this little tantrum mid stream and turn things around or at the very least apologize for my attitude.
Mealtimes are also a great place to slip up when it comes to power overing and power with. I am the one who cooks in our house. I am the one who grocery shops in our house. So, there are endless opportunities for me to be in charge of what everybody has access to eating. And as a recovering control freak I can get really caught up in this. A few ways I have shifted to invite everyone in to the fun of fueling our bodies (power with) is to ask questions. “Hey guys is there anything you want to make sure we eat this week? Is there anything you want me to pick up at the grocery store today?” Now I do understand there are budget constraints that come in to play when you open the door of asking to pick specific foods up at the grocery store. I have also learned that asking this question, overtime, leads to pretty modest requests. As well, as creating another beautiful opportunity for conversation, choice and understanding. However, my super duper favorite part of this whole being in charge of the food business is paying attention to what everyone loves and then coming home with it. Picking up those favorite chips that are on sale that no one asked for and presenting them to my child. The smiles, the gratitude, priceless.
What I am aiming to illustrate with these few examples is that we as parents have countless opportunities through out our days to choose power with instead of power over in the relationships we have with our children. Heck, all the children in the world. And it’s these little acts that say big things like “you matter in the world.” Through hearing, in our actions, how much they are valued, our children grow to be empowered human beings. We all know that empowered human beings are for more likely to choose power with in ALL the relationships they seek out in life. Think about that for an extra second. Choosing to team up with your child, through simple everyday acts, is setting them up for a lifetime of healthy balanced relationships. Worth it? Hell yeah!