Growing up, I often couldn't wait until I was the parent. If for nothing else, so that I could finally be in the position of authority. That's how it works, right? Parents make the rules, enforce the rules and the rules are followed. The added bonus is that you get to say things like "Because I said so!" if you are ever questioned.
Out in "the world" this pattern of behaviour is not very effective for me. I don't like being told what to do without an explanation of why and how it's beneficial to those involved. I'm not a fan when those who are in a position of authority manipulate me by controlling a situation. I know I've said this before, but simply demanding I do something is a sure way to get me to not do it. This is especially so if someone has somehow made a mistake and it gets to slip by simply because they are above me in some way.
It's these two points have come crashing together since I've become a parent. I realized that parenting doesn't necessarily mean "Because I said so!". It's not that simple.
Yesterday I asked Kristyn where something was. She said "You have it." as I rummaged through our stuff looking for it. We were late and I was getting angry. I said something to the effect of "I don't carry it with me. You do. Look for it Kristyn. I don't have it!" in a pretty mean way. Just as the last words came out of my mouth I found it, in my purse.
All I wanted to do was get out of the house and move on, but I knew that I had to apologize for treating her the way I did. So I said "I'm sorry, Kristyn. We're in a rush and I don't usually carry that in my purse. You were right. Now let's go, okay?" She was fine and we moved on.
To Kristyn, it was a passing moment where I made a mistake and aplogized. To me, it was a multi-minute flash of wanting to blame her, one of the other kids, their father ... anyone but me. For a little bit I thought it would be fine to make her think it was her fault somehow, because she was the kid and I was the adult. And that would be that. Like so many times since my kids have become old enough to see through my own shit, I knew that was not the right thing to do. I had to suck it up, feel a bit stupid and apologize. Because my kids are people and they deserve the same kind of behavior I expect from them (and many others) in return.
I do know some who parent with pure, unquestioned authority. The basic family dynamic is that they are adults and the kids are kids. Period. What they say goes - always and all ways. I suppose it works for them, but I think there is an element of fear that keeps the kids in line. I would rather my kids follow our rules because they respect us and are genuinely aware of the consequences. I don't want my kids to fear ME. I want them to listen, understand and realize that we have rules in place for a reason.
This might sound a little bit Pollyanna to some of you. You might be thinking it's easy for me to believe in this so strongly when my oldest child is not yet 10 years old. You might be right. So far, this approach works for us. We have four very respectful children who understand our reminders to them on how we expect them to behave. They're not perfect and they've been known to break rules, whine a bit (okay, a lot!) and be a bit lazy, but calling them on it goes a lot better when I've shown them how to do it myself.
Of course, I understand there are going to be some cases where our rules are to be the final word and they won't like it. I guess I'm hoping that by parenting this way, we'll make those times somehow easier for them to take?