7 Keys to Regain Authority with Your Children

If you want to regain authority with your children, you must be clear with the rules and also explain their meaning. Keep reading.
7 Keys to Regain Authority with Your Children
Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 21 January, 2023

Being a reference figure for a child can be quite a challenge. How can you build authority without imposing it? How can you give them their space without them this becoming counterproductive? These questions may haunt you continuously. In this article, you can find some keys that will help you regain authority with your children.

What do you think about authority?

A good place to start is by asking yourself what you think authority is. For example, in more traditional parenting methods, authority is equal to being older: Whoever’s older has the right to decide and establish the rules. A good synthesis of this conception is “because I say so and that’s it”. If you believe that authority is synonymous with authoritarianism, then your way of educating will be closed and rigid.

However, there are also other more flexible conceptions that shouldn’t be confused with permissiveness or a lack of limits. This is authority based on mutual respect that proposes the search for a balance: Neither submission nor abuse of power. Limits are the basis of a healthy relationship. Undoubtedly, the idea you have of authority influences the way you educate your children and face your relationship with them.

Know these keys in order to regain authority with your children

Some keys to help you regain authority with your children are the following:

1. Be consistent

It’s important that you maintain consistency in your decisions and rules. This helps you avoid the ambivalence of “one day yes, another day no” that usually generates confusion in young people, in addition to making you not very credible or predictable.

2. Be clear

Being clear and concise is essential when communicating. In this regard, point out the expected behaviors and rules. Don’t leave them open for interpretation, as each person could give them a different meaning.

A black mother explaining the rules to her daughter.
Negotiation with your children is the key when deciding the rules and setting limits. It’s also important that the rules are clear and not open to interpretation.

3. Choose the rules

Authority also wears thin when everything becomes a “no”. While it’s important that you take care of your children, you also need to allow them to exercise their freedom through decision-making. Those rules that, if not obeyed, put them in danger, are unbreakable. For example, they may not ride a motorcycle without a helmet. However, there are other rules that can be discussed and that can vary as children grow up.

4. Act firmly and consistently

For both rights and wrongs, you need to keep your word. Authority has nothing to do with rigidity, but quite the opposite.

5. Don’t use violence

Authority based on violence is actually built around fear and not based on respect or other values. So, if you want to be respected, you must also be able to treat your children with respect.

6. Talk to your child and tell them how you feel

Don’t build an “all-powerful” facade, as if nothing that happens affects you. Rather, express your emotions so that your child empathizes and is aware that their actions also have consequences on people.

7. Try to listen to their point of view

Talk to your child and ask them to explain why they act the way they do. This way, you’ll be able to understand and find the best solution to the problem.

A woman talking to her young daughter on the couch.
Authority isn’t only about implementing rules and making children obey. It’s also important to listen to their point of view, be flexible, and negotiate.

How to know if you’ve lost authority with your children

Authority has to have a balance: Not everything can be a resounding “no”, nor can you allow your children to do anything they want. Here are some examples that can show you that there’s an absence of limits and a loss of authority:

  • There’s disrespect, insults, and teasing when you give them an order.
  • There’s constant disobedience.
  • You don’t lead by example. Your actions and words contradict each other.
  • There are situations of complacency toward the child or adolescent. For example, if you feel guilty because you don’t spend time with your child, you’ll end up saying yes to everything. Over time, the lack of authority brings negative consequences, both in coexistence and in your child’s relationships with their environment.

Finally, it’s worth noting that authority deserves much more than a one-way analysis. That is, it’s not only about your child’s disobedience but also about your own behaviors that are contradictory. For example, you tell them that mistreatment isn’t right, but you yell at them when you have to correct them. This does nothing to help you regain authority.

Accept that you’re a human being and that you also make mistakes

Undoubtedly, acceptance deserves a special section. Especially because, many times, you think that if you show yourself as having doubts or admit mistakes to your children, you’ll lose authority. However, this is wrong. Acceptance is the first starting point to reduce pressure and be open to dialogue and joint construction.

This way, you’re aware that when making decisions, you can make mistakes and that there’s nothing wrong with that. In short, authority isn’t about your child blindly obeying the rules, but understanding what the result of doing so is. Making a mistake and making up for it doesn’t undermine authority; on the contrary, it strengthens it.

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The contents of You Are Mom is for educational and informational purposes only. At no time do they replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment from a professional. If in doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.