I think it’s fair to say that many of us have had experiences working with others where leadership skills were lacking. Perhaps you’ve had a manager, coach, or friend handle you like you were a ‘subject’ to be told what to do. Or perhaps worse yet, you had a parent who incessantly tried to control everything you did, reminding you of everything you should or should not be doing. I’m curious: how did those experiences make you feel?

Now, consider what your children hear from you each day. Are you trying to control them with your words? If so, such strategies often end up with harsh psychological consequences. Let’s consider your options.

Leadership Qualities

Good leaders display several qualities that separate them from poor leaders. First, they lead by example and walk their talk. They carefully consider how to teach, how to guide, and what systematic ways they can lead others responsibly. They don’t yell at others and expect them to remain calm. They don’t preach one message yet do something different. Leaders are good examples for their followers.

Leaders nurture a positive vision and keep their focus there. Children need parents with a vision of how good the family can be. How much can they contribute to their community? How hard can they work on the soccer field? How much love is possible when you commit your life to it? Good leaders bring a vision of possibility into the home and inspire their children to become better.

This vision also incorporates the understanding that children must be allowed to learn through making choices, and no learning occurs if we control every choice. As part of this, however, leaders also know how to hold their families accountable. Without accountability, there is no growth; it’s just talk. Parents who are good leaders for their families find ways to create simple systems to hold their children accountable for being their best.

Finally, good leaders are practical. They understand what they can and cannot control. If there is too much effort at controlling the herd they manage, the herd will grow resentful, angry, and often passively resist direction. So instead, they lead by example, focus on altering the components within their control and allow their children to learn through experience. In this way, growth unfolds over time. And mutual respect is assured.

Dictator Qualities

The Dictator controls all things good and right in the home. Do it my way, and everything will be okay. Many of us are familiar with this role as it sounds something like this:

  • “Get your shoes on.”
  • “Put the IPad away.”
  • “Go get your book bag.”
  • “Eat your vegetables.”
  • “Clean up your toys.”
  • “Leave your sister alone.”
  • “Stop that now and do what I said!”
  • “Go change your clothes, comb your hair, and brush your teeth.”

This may seem like second nature to many of you. Despite these never-ending instructions’ exhausting, frustrating, and somewhat brain-deadening nature, we often believe it’s necessary.

But it’s not!

And, if you have wandered down this path, you may also notice that your children start to detach from you, get more easily frustrated and eventually resist your good instruction. Why is that?

Children Thrive On Leadership—Not Control!

In the moment of the daily rush of things, the controlling Dictator appears essential. And it’s probably reasonable to argue that these instructions were sometimes essential very early in your toddler’s life.

But with the perspective of time, we begin to see that the Dictator must work harder and harder at controlling things. In fact, as children age, we see more “dependence” where there should be emerging independence. Mom and Dad should be working out of the controlling role, but they are stuck! It seems that they have more and more work to do.

The Dictator assumes that they must make everything happen at home. When there is no progress in getting ready, completing an assignment, or getting through dinner, the Dictator takes over and starts instructing. The Dictator tends to start ‘dictating’ even before there is a lack of progress.

The problem emerges here: the Dictator’s role appears to be needed because things aren’t moving along as the Dictator would prefer. Yet, the Dictator has no parenting system or consistent game plan for teaching better or more responsible behavior. Instead, they default to ‘controlling’ the situation. As children age, we notice that the children who are “dictated to” the most seem to become more dependent on their parents rather than more independent.

The problem becomes evident when the 12-year-old has to be asked ten times to brush his teeth, Mom still soothes the 10-year-old’s tantrums that never go away, and the teenager still can’t fix her lunch. Competent children become increasingly helpless, seemingly forgetting the most basic lessons they have learned. Often, these ‘over- dictated’ children appear helpless and unable to decide without their parents telling them what to do next.

Bottom line: Very limited resilience, self-esteem, or independence develops under the Dictator’s watch. Learn to lead by controlling only the controllable and managing a parenting system that uses few words to control behavior. Your home will be lighter, and your kids will be happier and more responsible. While our clinic uses Neurofeedback technology to help children’s brains to focus and regulate, we integrate these parenting principles into every treatment plan to ensure success. Learn more at CapitalDistrictNeurofeedback.com.