In the latest Kid Connection, author Aleta Koman visited The Early Show with practical advice for parents.
Koman is a mother, family therapist, public speaker, teacher and author of three books. In "Who's The Boss?" she draws on her professional and personal experiences to address what she calls "an epidemic" of bossy kids.
Koman believes a generation of parents has relinquished family authority because they are more focused on their social lives and careers than on the upbringing of their children.
"It's a huge problem ... it's really an epidemic," said Koman. "A lot of it has to do with parents being too busy, too tired, too stressed. I see it every day in my practice, in public places, in my own family."
Many children are home by themselves for hours in a day because mom and dad are working; essentially these "latch-key kids" become kings and queens of the throne, according to Koman. When parents get home, the kids think they're still in charge.
She says the media (television, video-games, music) also contributes to an erosion of parental authority. And over-the-top, new age parents are also guilty of handing over the reigns of power because they give kids so many choices.
"There was a girl who wanted all this stuff for her 8th grade formal dance," said Koman. "She said to her parents, 'You have a nice car. You have nice clothes. Why can't I?' Her parents gave in and spent $800 on a 8th grade semiformal."
Koman says a parent's job is to provide just the right amount of authority to let his or her children grow and develop into their own healthy, happy beings. It's a job that some mothers and fathers try to pass to other authority figures, most often teachers and child-care surrogates.
The author says parents have to tell themselves that they are the bosses, not the kids. She believes children lose respect for non-authoritative parents.
"In the short run, it's a lot of work," said Koman. "But in the long run, you'll have a much more civil, empathic child, who is able to have a lot of self-control and focus."
Koman says parents have to trust their instincts and can't always look to others for the right answer.
When a child misbehaves, Koman says, parents should look for the root causes of the action. Did the big sister take the toy? Are they upset because the teacher yelled in school?
Parents then should validate and clarify a child's feeling by paraphrasing it back to them.
"Then you can set clear limits. For instance, 'I know you're angry at your brother and I'm sorry but … you have to get dressed and you can wear the red shirt or blue shirt, which would you like?'" said Koman.
Parents have to take the middle road, especially with teen-agers, she says. When adults present children with a selection of choices, it gives the child a sense of involvement but still requires playing by the parents' rules.
The key, Koman says, is for parents to use their authoritative power consistently and take a firm stand.
Again, Koman's tips for parents to maintain authority are:
- Look for root causes
- Validate your child's feelings
- Clarify and set clear limits
- Be consistent