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Staying in control as a caretaker

This title may be a little misleading. On purpose.

I have two young children, a four year old boy and two year old girl. Like most parents, my wife and I will on occasion be pushed to our limit with them and react emotionally and engage in a power struggle with them. Let me paint a picture of what this usually looks like.

After a bath, one of our kids will not want to get dressed. We know they should get dressed, and after persuading them for awhile it reaches a point of frustration where we end up chasing them around the room trying to get them dressed with kicks and screaming in response and raised voices on our part.

After incidents like this I often think about how there must have been a better way to handle this, and if I could have just kept my cool things would have gone more smoothly. I want my kids to respect me and obey when I ask them to do something, but I also want them to learn independence and how to make decisions. One thing I try to remember in these situations is that kids usually don't do what we say, but what we do. This was shown in the famous Bobo Doll experiment by Albert Bandura--Kids who were shown an adult hitting a toy were very likely to do the same in a separate room with similar toys (Simply Psychology, 2014).

What this leads me to think is that the most impact I can have as a father, and that we can have as parents and caretakers, is by our example. Even very young children recognize this, and will not listen to you if they do not trust or respect your example. Therefore, the best way to have "control" as a caretaker is to not try to control but to lead by example and gain trust, then to not abuse that trust by being manipulative, but guiding and persuading and trusting that they will make the choices they should. It is difficult and requires a lot of patience, but the result is so worth it.


Simply Psychology (2014). Bobo Doll Experiment. Retrieved from

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