Becoming a Loving Authority
By Marla Macdonald, Creekside Preschool Teacher
How do we create a little entitled emperor? By giving our young children too many choices and overloading them with decision making responsibility before they are ready to handle it, and by being afraid to exercise our authority. When we provide poor boundaries, our child feels chaos inside. They deeply need us, our loving presence and our loving authority.
Rhythm and boundaries are best friends. Family life is brought out of chaos of life and into order with rhythm. Rhythm says: “I know this is what you want to do, I see that, but this is what we're doing now.” We can start with the essentials and build from there. Two essential rhythms are bedtime and mealtimes. A loving little routine at bedtime that is the same each night, and meals prepared and served at the same times each day are securing and satisfying. These little rhythms when brought with our warmth and joy create relationship and connections with our child and forge the bonds of love.
Our children need our loving authority to feel safe to be children. The way we exercise that authority matters enormously. When we have no authority, our child is running the show, and we feel out of control and so do they. It is not the child's task to be in charge, but if we create a vacuum by being unclear or absent or not being the loving authority, they will fill the role by ruling the household with their temper. In contrast when we exercise our authority as described so beautifully in the following quote from “The Heart of Learning,” our child feels safely held, and free to be the child. Boundaries and rhythm go hand in hand. Our loving boundaries say:
“I've got you, I'm keeping you safe.” “I'm the parent, you are free to be the child.” “You don't have to be in charge of the world.” “You are not the center of the universe.”“There are limits to time, energy, capacity, resources, and money.” “I will not let you grow up too fast give you too much too soon.”
“The quality of relationship between parents and children largely determines the extent to which our children will honor the authority they have given us. We can’t expect our children to respect us and listen to us if we relate to them only on a very superficial level. Our authority arises from the bond we have with our children. If we have a very superficial bond, we have no authority. When we have forged deep bonds, a relationship based on love, honesty and respect, they have a natural respect for us and what we say. We draw upon those deep bonds whenever we exercise our authority with them. The three essential elements in a deep relationship are love, respect, and honesty. If these are present the children are able to integrate their awakening sense of self with a sensitivity to the needs of others. If any of these elements is absent in the relationship, the children begin to disrespect the parents, and the relationship gradually begins to disintegrate.” -The Heart of Learning by Lawrence Williams, Ed.D. from Oak Meadow Waldorf Curriculum