8 Steps for Parenting “Alpha Children”
Parenting is not always easy. When your children are young, it’s hard to make them understand certain things. For instance, your little one may not understand why they should not stick their fingers in their mouth after playing with the dog or their toys, or why they aren’t allowed to touch products in a shop. But some families have it tougher than that.
In some families, the child doesn’t see the parent as the “alpha”. Instead, the little one thinks that he/she can do anything, no matter what mom or dad says. Although every child has an ego, there are situations when things escalate. “Alpha children” will never care for what the parent asks and will never listen to what the parent says.
Dealing with children who see themselves as the leader of the pack is extremely challenging and some parents are overwhelmed. So, what can you do if you find yourself in this situation with your child? Here are some steps that will help with parenting.
The Problem with Alpha Children
All children can make you pull your hair out at certain points. Even if you love them with all your heart, you can’t help but admit that taking care of a child is a huge challenge, especially if you’re not prepared for the temper tantrums and all the other things. Alpha children are a whole different story, though.
If you think taking care of a child with occasional temper tantrums is bad, then being in charge of an alpha child would drain all of your energy. Alpha children will not listen to you – they will demand from you all your attention and they will be the ones feeling in control of you and everything surrounding them. They will also want to know every detail about what’s going on in the household.
Obviously, the parent is the one who should be the leader of the pack. Parents are in control – they are the providers and caretakers. Parents have the job to guide their children, give them advice and encourage them to strive for the best in life. They are also meant to take care of the children. Therefore, an alpha child thinking he/she is the leader is unusual and wrong – not only that it’s not possible, but it’s also disrespectful to the parents and their effort.
In reality, though, alpha children are not as tough as they seem. The truth is that these children are often very vulnerable, and this act of “taking control” hides anxiety underneath. Sure, it may seem that your child is very mature and acts all grown-up, yet this is far from the truth. Alpha children are not that confident, and they are not ready for what the world has in store for them, and they are aware of that.
Reasons Why Children Become “Alpha”
There are various reasons why children go the “alpha” route. The situation may differ from a child to another.
- By Defense
One of the reasons some children become “alpha” is because they may feel unsafe near their parents. Even if the parents are the ones trying to take charge in all situations, the child may simply not trust them enough to rely on them in certain situations.
This could happen for several reasons. Perhaps the child is afraid that the parent is making fun of him, or that the parent is taking advantage of his weaknesses. Other children may think that the parent is going to let them down in scary or dangerous situations, or that the parent is going to use what the kids care about against them.
Whichever the reason is, the child may start feeling vulnerable and doesn’t want their feelings hurt in any way, hence the alpha behavior. The alpha approach becomes some sort of safe mode for the kids in these situations.
- By Default
Some children end up becoming “alpha” due to the parent not establishing their role as the boss early enough. The child somehow finds a way to step in and starts acting like the boss.
Most of the times, this occurs when the situation involves a parent who is very uncertain or anxious, or when the parent is too permissive with the child in terms of parenting. Another possible situation occurs due to how the parent himself was raised as a child. If he was always kept under control, then it’s possible for the parent to try to change things and establish an equal status between them and the child. Unfortunately, this quickly becomes problematic when the little one stops listening and acts as the leader of the pack.
How to Parent an Alpha Child?
Even when you feel like the situation is out of control already and it may be too late to change things, there are still some steps you could take. It is possible to take the power from the child and re-establish yourself as the boss, which is your rightful place as an adult. Here are some steps for parenting your alpha child:
- Go Outside Together and Become the Leader
Children feel safe at home. As such, they get very comfortable and it’s more likely for them to do what they want. No matter what you say, they will not listen to you and will keep asserting their dominance over the household.
Usually, these children don’t go outside, because the request to do so usually comes from the adult, meaning that the parent would be the boss. Not to mention that outside they will not have the same control over the situation as they do at home, because they will depend on you. If they get into a dangerous situation or they’re scared of something outside the household, they will rely on you, ultimately giving you the power to manage the situation.
So, even when your child doesn’t want to, you should take the lead and organize some outdoor activities. Make sure you take them to unknown places because their alpha stance will be gone for a while. Then, while you’re there, you will have the opportunity to prove to your child that you can take care of them and that they can rely on you whenever they feel threatened in a dangerous situation.
- Start Establishing Yourself as the Alpha
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but when the child sees that they are able to defy their parents – who are the ones that should care for and protect them – they will not trust you. You need to find your own alpha stance, or else you have no chances of getting your child to respect you as the authority figure of the household.
It may be a little difficult, but you have to find ways to show your little one that you can be the responsible caretaker that he/she needs, no matter what. Of course, you may not feel like this at every step, but it’s still crucial to make sure you show that part of you that is strong and has the ability to take care of your child.
So, for instance, you should not give up when your child is making demands. If the child sees how much pressure they can put on you by simply not taking “NO” for an answer, they will only act bossier and will never take you seriously as the caretaker. This is why it’s so important to find your alpha stance.
- Make Sure You’re an Example
Many times, children are going to learn their behavior and habits from the people around them, who most times are their parents. So, if you display similar behavior, then don’t be surprised and ask yourself where the child has learned this from.
Displaying positive traits in front of your child is crucial in raising a kind, responsible and respectful child. So, make sure that you always show positive behavior when you’re in front of your children. You’ll have to be extra careful with the way you act not only when the kids are around, but also how you act with your kids. If you can show that you’re the type who solves problems carefully while maintaining your calm, then the child may follow.
- Show Dependence
Another way to deal with an alpha child is by showing that you can be depended upon. It’s very important to make sure that you show signs of safety when it comes to being a dependable parent.
Bear in mind that you will not be able to build trust if you take things away from your child, or if you deny things that were previously agreed upon. You may plan to gain compliance that way, but it’s not going to be a successful attempt. It’s tempting to do that, but if all you do is show your child that the relationship between the two of you is conditional, then trust is not going to follow.
Having that in mind, it’s best to deal with a situation by not using your power the wrong way. It’s not necessary to use your power to gain compliance. Instead, it’s better to step away from the fight that occurred and talk about how your child feels after the incident. This is a much better route if you want to show that you’re a caring parent, while maintaining the dignity of both parties.
- Avoid Courting the Alpha Battles
One mistake that many parents do is negotiating with their children when it comes to basic things related to their care. For instance, some parents give their children the lead in too many scenarios, such as when asking them if they want to go outside, if they are hungry, and so on. These are matters related to their care, and you don’t have to consult them. As the responsible parent, you should be able to handle these matters yourself.
Show that you know what the child needs and provide to your child in order to fulfill those needs.
- Don’t Meet Demands
Making demands is an alpha child’s specialty. Since they feel like the boss, they find it easy to make demands. If the parent finds the situation too overwhelming and gives in, then the child will know they have the control and will keep taking advantage of the parent’s weakness.
Well, it’s more important to make sure you meet a child’s needs, rather than the demands. So, when a child makes a demand, you can try giving them more than they requested or even change the request a bit. This is a useful method when the demand involves a need. You can turn it into your idea instead, and say you were already planning to do what the child demanded in the first place. It will show the little one that you understand his/her needs as the parent, and that you are willing and able to take care of him/her. So, don’t meet their demands – meet their needs instead.
- Don’t Show Your Needs
You should make sure that your needs are not on display. The child is smart and will be able to read them and take advantage of the situation. He/she will not hesitate to step in and be the caretaker. This would be a mistake because it will put the child in charge of the parent, which will only make the alpha issue worse.
In this scenario, the parent has to reinforce their position and show that they are in control and will meet their own needs. So, whatever you do, do not let your child take control of you, or else you’ll regret it later.
- Teach the Child About Asking the Right Way
It’s also important to teach your child how to ask them to do certain things. You can be an example for your child. For instance, don’t tell your child to bring you the phone. Instead, ask your little one “Can you please bring me the phone?”. The child will learn a more proper language and will know how to ask for things in the future, instead of making demands.
Also, make sure that you quickly make corrections when the child uses improper language. This should happen when siblings or friends are not around, though, as it would cause embarrassment for the child.
Dealing with alpha children is troublesome but handling them is not impossible if you know the right methods. Use these tips, and you should be able to make progress and, in the end, be successful in reestablishing your role as the leader of the house.