Children and Power

Posted on March 24, 2014 in category Director's Blog

When I came to SYC with my two sons, I loved how family friendly it felt. I wanted to stay and have a gentle separation. The teachers were concerned with supporting social and emotional development of my children and I felt emotionally supported as a parent. Like many other SYC parents, I loved reading about parenting and watching the teachers interact with kids. I liked talking with other SYC parents to find out that we often had the same struggles. I had found a community of people that all wanted to give our children the best possible start in life.

I was good at being warm and nurturing to my boys. I was not as good at setting limits and making and sticking to family routines and rules. It wasn’t until I had been teaching at SYC for a while that I realized the importance of structure in children’s lives. I had never considered the idea of parent’s rights.

My type of parenting is now considered “Soft Structure.” Soft structure is defined as giving a child too much freedom or inappropriate power in the family. Children often demand power but when they get it, they feel insecure and uncertain. They know that they don’t really have the skills and knowledge that grownups do to make adult decisions so this causes anxiety.

SYC helped me understand what appropriate power was for my children and what my own rights were in the family. According to the book How Much Is Enough? by Clarke, Dawson and Bredehoft:

One way to sort them is to think of rights incurring from obligations met. The child has a right to expect more freedoms as s/he develops responsibility for self and toward others. S/he also has a right to parental rules and expectations that are age appropriate.

So giving children responsibilities such as small, doable chores, saving money to choose something to buy, picking out what to eat from reasonable choices, and being part of creating negotiable family rules help to promote their sense of competence. They gain positive and appropriate power from making decisions that are age appropriate.

Adult decisions, such as whether or not to go to school, what time to bed, what house and safety rules to be followed, how to spend family money, etc. are the type of decisions that can cause children anxiety. Of course children can and should have input in the family but to feel secure, they need to know that the parents are in charge and will keep everyone safe.

Learning initiative in the world happens when children have acquired self-control and confidence in themselves within the safe structure of clear family rights and obligations.      …Stephanie Rottmayer, Director