I recently went through an experience of enlisting someone younger to help with our kids and learned a lot. There was a nearly two-decade age gap, and I could feel our vast differences. It got me thinking about future generations and how we teach and prepare our kids for work and the following stages of life. Could it be possible to do more for them, and are we potentially giving them too much power in how we parent today? If so, how can we flip that and raise more responsible, able children? 

I attended Polly Ely’s Parent School in Marin, a 7-part parent education seminar series. The takeaways were simple — yet mind-blowing for me. Here are the nine ways to maintain the hierarchy I noted and applied in my house.

1) Wait and state when language is hurtful

As parents, we react quickly instead of waiting and stating how our child’s behavior makes us feel. We over-index on empathy and potentially forget about ourselves in the equation. When, in fact, a lot of times, what your kid is saying and doing is pretty hurtful. Instead, why not tell them how you feel when they act this way? 

According to Polly, authentic learning for kids can happen in the repair of these situations daily. “When you don’t reset the hierarchy in those moments, that’s when they’ll learn to come out with bigger guns the next time,” says Polly. Stating that their behavior impacts their feelings builds on their self-awareness. They’ll need to exercise a lot as they enter the real world.

2) Teach them to ask for what they need

Often, kids are only making a statement, and as reactive parents — we fall into an easy trap of becoming their employee and bending to whatever service they might be hinting we do for them but not asking for from us. For example, your kid says: “I’m thirsty!” How many times have you run to grab them a drink? This sets you up in the service chart to continue suit instead of teaching your kid to

ask for what they need. Polly says, “I’m sorry. Is there something you want to ask me?” Instead, Your child asks you (*hint: the boss) for their needs.

3) Be ok with your kids being disappointed

Permissive parents can lead to anxious kiddos. Kids thrive in knowing where the line is and effectively seeing your voice and feelings. If they feel bad when you are angry, be okay with that. You can explain to them, “A part of me is angry actually,” according to Polly. This will set them up to cope and correct their path in the real world later.

4) Show them they are accountable for being on time

Polly says to be okay with being late and doubling down on the lessons you are trying to teach your kids. If your kiddo isn’t speaking to you kindly, tell them — “it’s ok, I can wait. I value respectful language, so I can hold onto your breakfast until you are ready to return to the table calmly.” 

Being late doesn’t usually make kiddos feel great, and their accountability is a more valuable lesson. Even if you value being on time, ask yourself if you love thoughtful communication more, and are you willing to make that sacrifice to double down from time to time and let your child feel the consequences? Set a precedent in your house not to engage if they speak to you in a way that you don’t like. We can all be in a mood but still find it in us to be polite. This is another great life skill! Turn off your service light while your kiddo works to get into the flow.

5) Keep 1-3 things entirely off-limits for them

Polly says your kids can learn that some things in the house are yours and off limits. This might be your purse, makeup, or other off-limits items for your kids. Teach them that some things are just not for them. This sets them up to both see and respect boundaries — and you to maintain items that might be valuable just for you. 

6) Teach them that closed doors are a quiet space signal

If you value personal space and etiquette while out — this is a great one to teach and have them learn early. Teach your kids that a closed door means personal space and to know if they need something — they can knock and ask you. This will go a long way when out, having them not accidentally walk in on someone as well and feeling good that no one will walk in on them. 

7) Teach them how to stop interrupting your conversations

Polly has an excellent remedy for the perpetual “Mom, mom, mom” or “Dad, dad, dad” butting into the middle of your conversation. Ask them to place a hand on your leg or arm. You, in turn, will put your hand on your kiddos so they know you are aware that they need you, and you will get to them when you finish speaking. I just tested with my 6-year-old, and she loves this! No more interrupted conversations in the schoolyard (score).

8) It’s okay if they don’t want to do something, but teach them they need to anyways

This could be setting the table, feeding a pet, or anything you ask your kid to do. This is another moment to be ok with being late and doubling down. “That’s ok. We can wait until you are ready, but you need to do it,” says Polly. Kids, again, need to know they are accountable for what you ask them to do and who is at the top of the hierarchy. Don’t let them win on this test when they want to dig in and not do something. You can wait, and it’s all good.

9) If they want another parent, don’t facilitate!

How many times does your kiddo say: I want mommy! Or I want Daddy! Polly says not to accommodate these requests. Though it might be easier to grab the other parent, this sets you up to do this time and time again, and guess who just showed you who’s boss? This is a big one. Don’t let them make the call on which parent helps them when, where, and at what time. That’s your call as mom and dad.

I learned so much from this seminar and hope these quick tips help every mama out there maintain the power in her house. To learn more about Polly’s Parent School, listen to the episodes on her podcast, or refer to episode 101, Transforming Chaos to Calm on MomShine!

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