Recently, I left my oldest daughter in charge of the kids outside while I attempted to spring clean our home. It was one of the few days I stayed at home and the to-do list grew longer every hour. Can you relate?
The perfect answer to clean quickly without any kids underfoot was to send them outdoors on this beautiful sunshiny day. Only it didn’t last long. Kids kept running in and out, tattling on their siblings, arguing with one another and just generally making our day miserable.
Where did I go wrong? They normally listen to their big sister when she’s “in charge,” but today wasn’t going as planned so I must’ve done something wrong.
I wondered what I did differently before it hit me. Transfer of authority. That was it! The other kids didn’t see me tell her she was in charge. They didn’t know there was someone else to sort disagreements and buffer arguments instead of me. So of course they were ignoring her and still running to tell me everything.
There has to be a proper transfer of authority.
If I just told my daughter she was in charge (which is what I did) and sent her outside to join the others, they would (and did!) buck her authority. They had no reason to believe she was in charge, after all, she’s not much older than the next two, so why would they acknowledge her authority?
We needed a new strategy.
To effectively transfer authority from one to another requires careful consideration and a public performance.
I grabbed my wooden kitchen spoon pretending it was my scepter and rushed out the front door. Gathering the kids together, I sat them in a circle in front of me. I called my oldest daughter in front of me and tapped her shoulder with my scepter. We learned about medieval times and knights last year and I knew she would love this. I said, “While I’m cleaning, I transfer authority to you. You may stop arguments between your siblings and sit the kids in time out of they aren’t obeying. Anyone refusing to listen to your authority should be brought to me immediately.”
Her eyes lit up with pride at this important job but I quickly doused her fire.
Being a leader isn’t a prideful job, it’s servanthood. It’s leading by example. It’s serving others. It’s being willing to do the dirty jobs instead of lord your authority over others.
She needed to understand she was there to be a good example to the others and help them when needed. I turned to the others and said, “Your sister is in charge while I’m inside so if you need something, ask her first. And…she’s to be a good leader, so if she isn’t being respectful of your needs or she’s doing something you know is wrong, I need to know. A good leader sets a good example to others by making good choices, leading by example and serving others.”
The rest of the morning went much smoother with a buffer leader between us. I delegated a small job to my daughter for a short time and she excelled at it, proving herself a good example and a great leader to her siblings. A greater amount of trust grew between us that afternoon and I know the next time I need her, I can count on my daughter.
The rest of our kids made me proud of them too, showing respect to the designated authority for the morning and acknowledging her authority by going to her for their needs before coming to me.
So before you lose your mind the next time your kids are fighting, remember to give your oldest child a chance at leadership and transfer your authority to them in front of the rest of your kids so your family or “team” knows exactly who’s in charge.
How have you handled transferring authority in your home?