Breaking BOSSY (Teaching Kids to Lead)

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I was not the first born in my family, but I was the first girl, and needless to say, I had a great affection for running the household. One of my special skills was making chores fun so my siblings would agree to do them with me (Or for me? Maybe. Sometimes.)

I adored my little sisters and loved planning outfits for them. One day, when I was twelve, my precious little six-year-old sister looked up at me and said “I don’t have to wear that. YOU’RE NOT MY MOM.” and that was the end of fashion-plates for me!

*Sigh* I might have had control issues.

As a mom who has one daughter and three sons, I discovered very early that she was quite capable of leading and they were happy to let her…unless they weren’t and then there was trouble. Been there?

I was very sick for a number of years when my kids were little. It seems like I relied on them quite a bit to help me keep the household going while daddy was working. Training them to cooperate became a necessity, but there were was a lot of selfishness, manipulating, arguing, and that sort of thing.  I really wanted my kids to love each other. I wanted them to be able to lead each other. I know that to lead you must understand authority, where it comes from and how to handle it properly. I decided I needed my kids to have a deeper understanding and respect for it, and not just use it without permission.

Authority belongs to God and it is simply on loan to us. Hmmm…makes me wonder if I’m representing.

With this in mind, I came up with an idea we call “Temporary Limited Authority” and by God’s grace it has really helped our family. It goes something like this:

  1. I have been given the authority to tell my children what to do. I’m the mom.
  2. You (child) do not have the authority, because you are not the mom.
  3. I might lend you a little of my authority, but first I must see you obeying me. (see Obedient Virtue). A person is qualified to lead when they learn to follow.
  4. The authority I lend you is on a temporary basis (a certain amount of time, or a certain task) and it is limited (it only pertains to this time or task, not everything in their life that you want to dictate). This can increase or decrease depending on how you handle it.
  5. When you have Temporary Limited Authority you must say “Mom said” at the beginning of the instruction so your brothers and sisters KNOW it is coming from mom. Then they will obey you the same way they obey me (hopefully the children are growing in this skill!)
  6. I love my children very much and I show it by how I talk to them. You must use my authority the way I would. (see the Kind and Gentle Virtues)
  7. In order to lead, you must be willing to follow when I lend my authority to one of your siblings. This works both ways!

Here is a scenario that might help you picture how this could work in your home. Let’s say you need the kitchen cleaned and you give your son Temporary Limited Authority to get it done.

  1. He finds his siblings.
  2. He tells them that “Mom said” he is in charge of getting the kitchen cleaned.
  3. He doles out the jobs (Or you do, and then you reiterate that he is in charge)
  4. Everyone goes to work at it. (These are jobs they already know how to do, although, I have asked my older kids to teach my youngers how to do chores)
  5. He supervises and encourages them while he is helping get it done.
  6. When it is done, he asks for an inspection before any of the kids leave the kitchen.
  7. You come in and inspect the job (You can’t expect what you don’t inspect)
  8. If there was fighting, you talk to the kids about what went wrong and help them understand how to respond to the leadership of their brother. (Sometimes we have to obey even when the leadership isn’t perfectly executed!)
  9. You also inspect his leadership, encourage him and help him see what he could have done to reduce any conflicts. (There may be a sibling who is deliberately un-cooperative but if he wants to lead, he has to learn to win her over.)
  10. Tell them you are proud of their effort!

It takes time to go through each step until it is working smoothly, but it is so worth it! You get help, your children become great leaders, and there is peace in your home because BOSSY is gone.

Happy Dance!

Heather McMillan

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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