Parenting Tips: “Sharing Power”
The concept of “sharing power” is very difficult for some parents. For those of us on the highly structured side of parenting, we treasure our power and our ability to keep a routine, order, and best behavior front and center. When I first heard Dr. Karyn Purvis speak about sharing power, I thought she was nuts. I thought I would be spoiling my children if I gave them power in the relationship. But, after hearing what she had to say, I get it.
Sharing power is not about spoiling your kids or giving in to their every request, but rather, it consists of letting your child know it is okay to make their needs and wants to be known, and that you value their opinion. Children who come from hard places often had to go weeks, months, or years with no one asking or caring about what they needed or wanted. In order to heal, these children need a safe place to figure out and say whatever it is they need or want, and know that someone hears them and cares. We are giving the gift of shared power (the gift of “voice”) to our children when we allow them to express themselves. As they experience this gift, they become more secure in knowing that what they think matters, and they also become stronger in their sense of identity.
Children also learn negotiation and empathy skills through the experience of receiving shared power from their parents. Sharing power often takes the form of compromise: “I need this and you need that, and let’s find a solution together.” When children from hard places are empowered to express themselves, and parents are open to saying “yes” when they can, “no” when they need to, and finding successful compromises, a consistent pattern of give-and-take develops. This pattern is a building block for attachment, not only in the parent-child relationship but in all relationships over the course of a lifetime.
Lastly, sharing power teaches decision-making. Once a child realizes that his true needs will be met ALL of the time, that his desires will be met SOME of the time, and that his voice is important, he will begin to differentiate between his needs and wants. He will begin to make choices about what is most important to him, and then follow through with expressing his needs while letting go of things that may be less important to him.
This short summary certainly does not fully cover this important topic. I encourage you to listen to Dr. Purvis speak about these topics in her own words at these links: http://empoweredtoconnect.org/sharing-power-with-your-child/, http://empoweredtoconnect.org/give-your-child-shared-power/ . Let us know if you would like to talk more about how to successfully share power in your home.
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