“Parents seem so uncomfortable with setting limits and taking their rightful position as captain of the family ship. Their hearts are in the right place; they want to be more attentive to their kids’ needs than their parents had been to theirs. But we have overcorrected, turning into a generation of ‘parent pleasers,’ rarely saying no for fear of hurting our children’s feelings.”
I don’t know who said this. It appeared on my Facebook page today with the title QUOTE.
Whoever said it, I totally agree. In my teaching career I saw the results everyday. I even had parents saying things like this to me.
“Can you make him brush his teeth because he won’t do it for me and he does anything you say.” (Really? Whatever next?)
“But I want him to think of me as his best friend.”
Adults really have to be adults. They need to understand that children need boundaries. Kids need to know how far they can go and what the consequences will be should they cross the boundary. That knowledge provides a feeling of security for the child, even though he may rail against the imposition of the boundary.
I have been called the ‘worst mother in the world’ many times over the years. Believe me, our house was not always a tranquil place during the growing up years. I was raising my kids on my own after a nasty divorce. But, even at those times, my kids always understood why I was enforcing the rules. We always talked through the situation after the angry moment had died down and, if new rules had to imposed, we discussed that too.
It wasn’t easy. I wanted my kids to be happy little angels who never had to cry or be sad or worry about anything, but that is not the world we live in. Some days they were angels and somedays they were – well, you know what they were.
Being Part of the Crew
My children always had chores that they were expected to do – nothing terribly arduous – but jobs nonetheless. I, as the captain of our ship, assigned my crew tasks to perform that would help the ship sail more smoothly. From the time they were very tiny, they had to help with tidying up – picking up toys, helping take rubbish to the bin, putting dirty clothes in the hamper etc. As they grew older the chores were adjusted in accordance with their capabilities. I couldn’t afford to give them pocket money. Their only reward was a “Thank you for helping” and a hug from me.
I wanted us to be a team, to work together to make the best lives we could. It broke my heart to have to be “Mean Mummy”. I just had to save my tears of frustration, disappointment and worry for when I was in the shower so that nobody would know how afraid I was that I was a failure as a parent.
Why it Works.
Children crave a level of certainty in their lives. They need to feel safe and, at the same time, have the freedom to explore their environment and extend their knowledge. Finding the happy medium is the skill of parenting.
We do need to say ‘no’ and demand that our children behave within the boundaries we set. They will, as I said, question the rules and push up against those boundaries, but children are wise little beings. In those calm (sometimes rare) moments when they are having deep and meaningful discussions with you, they will tell you that they understand why you were being “so mean”.
At my son’s wedding, my boy raised a glass and told the assembled company that he would not have been the man he was if he had not had “the best, toughest, most caring and sometimes meanest mother in the entire world’. I sat there and wiped away tears of happiness and gratitude. Those mean moments had had their reward.
I believe being the captain of the ship is part of being a parent – a very important part.