Wielding soft power
- Posted by:
- Michael Grose
As a parent you have two sorts of power.
You have positional power, better known as parent’s authority. Parenting has a huge vocabulary built around positional power including terms like discipline, punishment, child management and behaviour management to name a few.
In fact, when I began as a parenting educator 20 years ago the term ‘parenting’ seemed to be code for behaviour management. It was mostly about helping parents exert their positional power.
The second type is personal power that comes from both the relationship you have with a child and as result of effective communication. It’s about your personal capacities rather than purely exerting authority. You should feel comfortable to the be the parent in the parent-child relationship, but you shouldn’t rely solely on that to influence your kids.
You should feel comfortable with your position of parent. The difference between being a father or a friend, a mum or a mate to a child is sublte but significant.
But relying on positional power solely is fraught with danger. Teenagers & less compliant kids will often fight you over position, and win most of the time. A statement directed at you by a child along these lines: “You can’t make me do anything I want!” is a challenge to your position as parent more than a personal challenge.
When position fails which it inevitably will, you can only rely on personal power to influence your kids. I call it soft power, but there is nothing soft about it. It carries weight, when position fails. Here are five ways to make you less reliant on positional power and build your soft power skills.
1. Get your head around the fact that discipline (there’s that positional power thing again) is not about winning and losing, but teaching kids how to behave and also to be responsible for their behaviour.
2. Choose a role model who wields soft power well and start to channel their way of speaking and acting with kids.
3. Talk about the difference between positional power and soft power with your partner or friend so you can get clear on the difference, as well as get an ally to support you.
4. Make soft power your priority for a week and see how it feels to influence rather than brow beat, to mediate rather than negotiate.
5. Read some material to help you understand soft power. This newsletter Happy Kids
, my books Thriving
and One Step Ahead
focus on soft power> There are lots of resources around devoted to building your personal capacities as a parent.
Next time you speak to your kids in a potentially tricky or challenging situation check to see if you are using positional power to win the situation, or personal power to win the kids over to your way of thinking.
Hopefully, its soft power that you are using to win the day!
- child, difficult, discipline, parenting, positive, power, soft, teenagers