Power to the People Big and Small

Power to the People Big and Small

By Gonan Premfors

In shows like the reality show Supernanny, children are regularly sent to time-out or the naughty corner. I know this is a discipline strategy many families use, but it upsets me when I see children who have been sent to time-out. Sure, it works in the short term to control undesired behavior, but is it really doing any good? Discipline out of fear, threats, and guilt is NOT something we should put a child through. Our parenting model helps families look at some key concepts, including how the balance of power improves the dynamic between parents and children.

My dilemma with “time-out” or “the naughty corner” is that you use it when you want kids to reflect on making a bad choice. But if you have not given a child the skill of reflection, he or she will only be thinking, “I am bad, I am wrong and I am guilty.” Therefore, they will make decisions from places of fear and guilt. “How can you raise powerful children from a feeling of guilt or fear?” THAT is a critical question for me and our approach hopefully can provide some alternative strategies.

One story that comes to mind involves my daughter Amelia. Several years ago while vacationing at our summer house in Turkey, we had some family members coming to stay with us. When we told Amelia they were coming, she was initially very happy, but her upbeat mood rapidly turned into a sulk. “But they smoke,” she said disapprovingly. We told her that our house is non-smoking and they will not smoke inside the house. And she seemed okay with that. However, a few hours later she came to us with a piece of paper in her hand. It was a tidy document, written very nicely with marker pens and at the bottom of the page she had clearly written the names of the three family members and left space above for dates and signatures. I was stunned. She had prepared a detailed CONTRACT for our guests to sign. In the contract, she laid down the rules for their stay. It included; no smoking inside the house and in the garden (to respect our trees and flowers) and no smoking in the restaurants at our table even if it is a smoking table (to respect her).

When our guests arrived, Amelia greeted them with the contracts and keys to their room. Our guests were very receptive and respectful and they each read and signed a contract without hesitation, receiving their key in exchange. During their stay, it was wonderful to watch these adults get up and leave the table or walk out on the street outside to honor the terms of Amelia’s contract.

I was amazed for many reasons. Firstly, her idea of drawing up a contract. We had talked about rules and values at home but we had never talked about using contracts when designing relationships. Secondly, her way of taking charge of a circumstance in a playful way that allowed her to claim her power as an eleven-year-old. As a direct result she was seen, heard, respected and her rules were followed.

I am sharing this with you because one of the biggest concepts of our parenting model is POWER and where it lies in the parenting relationship. The more we keep the balance equal, the more she takes charge of her circumstances. This reassures me for her future, in interactions at school and elsewhere too. Of course, I do sometimes end up overpowering her or flipping it the other way by giving too much power away. And when I do that, I ask myself the question, “How do I recover, and what are the consequences if I don’t?” Parenting is very much a journey that requires an open dialogue and giving power to the people big and small.

Gonan Premfors

Gonan is the originator of the philosophies behind Gozamm, the home of the Parentology, Trust and Open Heart workshops. An industry thought-leader and a perennial innovator, Gonan is setting trends in the realms of families and business worldwide. Her eclectic background; being born in Turkey, married to a Swede, having lived in the Middle East for 25 years and now living in California, she truly brings a new dynamic perspective to an important field. -- view all articles