Parents: How to Take Back Control of Your Herd
When I coach with the parents of equestrians, this is one of the biggest challenges, but it can be a game changer depending what, if any, problems you are having with your child.
But in general, if you don't like your child's attitude or behavior, if you see it in a slow but steady decline, or a fast free fall, there IS an answer. And the sooner you deploy the solutions, the easier it is.
PICK UP THE REINS! Even if you yourself are not an equestrian, you ARE the leader of the equestrian team. And the process is very similar.
The only way children and teens can stay on the right bridle path is to put up the fencing, or boundaries, that will keep them there. And some parents have a hard time with that.
"Oh, I could never get her to do that!" they exclaim. And we're talking about simple things, like making sure they do their homework, get up on time, show up on time, eat properly, stay committed to rider fitness or anything else that the parents want them to do.
This is what we call a limiting belief. But for some parents, they truly do believe that they can't make their children do whatever the child doesn't want to do.
And in most cases, it is because as they tried to "do the right thing," the children became Wild Ponies, rearing up and kicking and screaming and running away!
These kids end up believing (and then adopting as their rule) that your polite requests to them is just one of the many things on a buffet table that they can choose to do or not do.
They don't frame it as your polite, but non-negotiable, command.
At some point, the parents allowed the children to run away with the reins. And the parents just didn't have enough tools, or the right "tack" and equipment, to rein them in correctly.
And the next thing you know, the only way to have peace and order in the home is if things go EXACTLY the way the child wants. And this is how we arrive at spoiled, entitled and out of control children AND adults.
It is NOT because of the privileged lifestyle. That is a myth created by people who are not living in a privileged world because all they see are the spoiled and entitled ones that stick out and unfortunately have become our mascots!
Yes, it does take time and effort to retrain children and to transform this "temporary reality", and this is the other off ramp for some parents.
Yes, it is harder in the beginning, so buckle up! Practice not allowing yourself to become unseated. Get the skills you need to remain consistent and to "stay on."
Breaking in young or wild horses is never easy. But the rearing up and kicking and bucking that you get when they realize the game (and the balance of control) is changing, is NOT the bad news.
It's the good news. And it is the beginning of the end.
And you CAN do this. You CAN become a stronger and more effective leader. You CAN pick up the reins, hold on to them, and slowly rein them in to guide them onto staying on the right path.
You can make them accountable and no, it is not shaming to calmly point out these were the expectations, and you didn't do them. And it is not bullying to deploy the reasonable consequences. And most importantly, there are rewards if you DO comply with our rules.
This is the process of setting boundaries and changing bad habits. It is "guiding" and leading. Think of the process of dogs herding sheep. And there are a lot of tools and techniques to use along the way depending upon the child.
Yes, of course it will feel "uncomfortable" for the child at first. Especially as we force them to stick with something, to learn perseverance, and to not quit. Some parents frame that as being mean. Or they have a hard time seeing their child "suffer."
But don't frame it as suffering. See it as it is and not worse than it is. A child feeling uncomfortable is great, why?
Because success is learning how to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. THAT is the mental skill they need to be good riders. And successful human beings.
The situation, especially as they get into the teenage years, can get worse or it can get better. (I know this because I specialized in the rebellious "worse" category during a time in my life too.)
Our children change when we change. Model to them how to be empowered and effective leaders. It will help their riding, and it will totally change their destination in life.
P. S. Even if you have the limiting belief that they won't like you if you become an effective leader, the truth is, they WILL thank you when they get older.
But even if they don't say it to you, the question is, how will YOU feel in the end? What is the right thing to do? And what are the lasting consequences of NOT doing the right thing?
Lead yourself and others into a successful outcomes and the Right destination.