Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Because I Said So

A game of tug of war
A game of tug of war (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We've all had those moments when our child wants one thing, we want a different or the very opposite thing and as a result, become locked into a back and forth tennis match of opinion, then debate, then argument, then emotional meltdown. They're the ones where the phrase from childhood comes close to the surface.  You know the one, "Because I said so!"  We had one of those recently in our home and it raised a whole other question for me.  When or how do we allow our children to have their own ideas and opinions and still have parental authority?  Who gets to make the final decision on home issues when there are competing wants or needs?  I work pretty hard to give my kids opportunities to practice their own problem solving.  Communicating their feelings and the desires that come from those feelings is a good thing to me.  Being challenged to let go of something I want starts to feel more difficult.

I'm trying to create a home where children can figure out who they are as an individual AND be a respectful part of the family collective.  So what do we do when it feels like there can only be one way and someone is about to feel disregarded?  It can be simple stuff, one person is hot and wants the thermostat set low, the other is cold all the time and wants to crank the heat.  Other differences are much more significant and can end up feeling like a personal attack or rejection.  Our child's wardrobe, hairstyles, and choices of friends are all areas where child and parent  both feel like they should be able to weigh in and assert their opinion.  As much as I strive to let my guys make their own choices, there are plenty of moments where I pull them back with a tone of, "Try again, I'm not okay with that."  (Most of these conversations seem to happen as my youngest is walking out the door for school.)  Whenever possible, I try to let them be in control of their own choices.  I do that because I know there are going to be just as many times when they will have to defer to their parents or teachers.  There are an awful lot of "Because I said so." interactions for our kids.  It can be easier for them to swallow those if we let their interests and priorities win out sometimes too.
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