How to take charge when your kids are calling all the shots

Setting boundaries and rules is what children need – don’t be afraid to put your foot down.
Teenage girl ignoring her mother

It used to be a joke in the Carter household.

“I used to say, ‘Oh, the kids are in charge, my husband and I do as we’re told,’ like it was funny,” says Auckland mum-of-three Wendy.

“And then I realised it wasn’t a joke, it was true, and it wasn’t funny.”

By the time her kids were teenagers, she got fed up with her son and daughters always calling the shots.

“It was completely our fault, we had let them get away with dictating what activities we did, how the weekends were spent, when they would be collected from various events, how much time their friends could spend at our place, even what we ate and when. It was all about them,” she tells.

It’s an easy trap to fall into. When you have children, life tends to revolve around them, which is usually a good thing.

But if they start taking centre stage to the detriment of family life, you need to rethink how you do things.

If you always say yes to what they request – or demand – you may be setting them up to become spoiled, difficult and entitled.

(Credit: Getty Images)

Signs your kids might be ruling the roost include:

  • If they don’t want to do a particular family activity nobody does it, even if it’s something you are keen on.

  • They rarely join the rest of the family for meals, eating in their room instead.

  • They expect you to drop everything to chauffeur them around.

  • They don’t help out with household chores, or do the bare minimum.

  • They go to bed whenever they want.

  • You have to cook separate meals because one or more child won’t eat what everyone else is having.

  • Spending time with their friends takes precedence over you and their siblings.

  • Little kids throwing tantrums if they don’t get what they want.

  • Bigger kids also throwing tantrums or being sulky and withdrawn.

  • They don’t ask permission to do things.

If you recognise any of these signs, it’s time to remember that you are the adult and you’re in charge.

How to set boundaries for your children

Children need parents to set boundaries and lead. Do this by:

  • Setting some tougher guidelines. Insist that they ask permission to have friends over or go to various events; that they join in at family times; and that they complete their assigned tasks without having to be nagged. This will help them develop self-discipline.

  • Following through. If they break the rules, they must face the consequences. Set reasonable punishments and don’t let them off the hook.

  • Never giving in to tantrums. It takes patience to stand your ground over whatever it is that has caused them to lose the plot, but it’s worth doing because if you give in, they will understand that throwing a fit allows them to get their way.

  • Making sure that they understand they are part of a family and have to consider and respect others, including their parents. Having regular family meetings to discuss issues can help with this.

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