Q: I think my young son is testing boundaries, and he sometimes quite intentionally does things we’ve asked him not to do. He seems to want our reaction or response.
John: He wants to play with power, so you need to play back to him with your power.
Q: How do I do that?
John: By being in your power and really moving it, while carefully reading your child. If you use too much, you’re going to overwhelm him. If you use too little, you mistakenly empower him. He is trying to sort out his power by throwing it at you. Use the same degree of power and keep it playful and light. If you make it serious, you’ll confuse him. If your power turns into a negative emotion, you’re no longer safe for him.
Your child trusts you, so let him have really wholesome tastes of your power. He’ll learn, in testing your power, that your power is safe. It’s much stronger than his, but as strong as it is, it’s safe.
Q: I’m clear about that. I have reacted, sometimes, and I’ve seen what it does inside both of us if I’m not really clear and coming from my heart. There seems to be a closing because I’m not being safe. There’s a lot of creativity and discernment needed in that kind of play.
John: It’s all creativity, with you remaining in your heart.
Q: There seems to be a place for straightness, too.
John: The straightness comes from your relaxed clarity, so if you’re only projecting straightness but not being it, the child reads two different things and it’s confusing. You’re being straight on the surface, but inside you’re not clear. He then has to sort out what it all means. For him, throwing power at the situation is the easiest way of sorting it all out.
Q: Really seeing him and letting him see me.
John: If your child can see you while you’re using your power, you’re safe, and your power is safe for him. He learns how to use power while being safe. When my children were little and I would use my power, they would go wide-eyed … and then they’d smile.
Q: I’m trying to imagine what that would look like, in my case. Is it gently pushing them to a boundary?
John: Not, not gently. It depends on the level of power they’re throwing.
Q: Is that like finding a cutting-edge for them, inviting them to explore in that way?
John: It’s carefully reading them in the power that they’re throwing at you and giving back precisely what they want, because while you do that, they really do experience your power. It can be a strong experience for them, but because they’re being seen, they know the safety and they really like it.
Q: So what is he wanting when we’ve clearly told him “no”, and he looks right back at us and deliberately does it?
John: A wrestle!
Q: I see. This is so good to hear because it runs counter to my mothering patterns. It invites me out of trying to control the situation. I have to step out of my own comfort zone.
John: If your child grows up that way, then later, if someone throws power at them within the severity of life, they really understand and are not threatened. They can see all the way through into what is really there in that person. Then, for your child, someone else’s use of power isn’t intimidating.