April 25, 2010

Dad's Not Your Friend

I don't teach my children to behave for fear that to do otherwise will reflect poorly upon me. I don't care, ok that is not entirely true. I care, but only in specific situations. The reality is that my children are well behaved because they have been taught to be so.

Part of that comes from understanding that they have parents, siblings and friends. One day those may not be mutually exclusive but not while they are young. While they are young there is a clear division between parent and child. My children may try to negotiate for better terms on things that are important to them, but ultimately it doesn't matter because the final decision lies with mom and dad.

Some people claim that such an approach is backwards and that it is only established for the edification of the parents. They seem to think that such a thing strokes our egos. That is not the case. My ego is stroked when they say things like, "I want to be just like you" or other adults compliment me on their behavior. I love that.

But that is still not why the division exists. It exists for their benefit. It exists because there are moments in which a command decision has to be made. Privates don't tell the general what to do. Children don't run this house and they never will.

That is not the case with some of their friends. Some of them live in homes in which mom and dad fight to maintain some semblance of control. They fight because they were foolish and tried to be their friend. Kids need structure and boundaries. It is not hard to provide these things in a way that doesn't hurt the child. You can do it without crushing their self esteem.

If I tell the kids to knock it off they will. I might have to say it a couple of times, but they listen. I don't see that with all kids. Like I said earlier, some of them run the show. That is a mistake that will cost them later. My kids are still pretty young. In a few years though they'll be big and we'll be debating with children who can look us in the eye.

Form good habits early. It is really important.

6 comments:

RJW said...

I so agree with you. While Daughter is grown it seems financial assistance is always required. Granted, she is still in school, but it seems like this is going on forever. But, I have nothing to complain about, she is a good kid and working hard.

Jack said...

RJW,

Ah, you and I are in two different places. I imagine that you are close to the time in which friendship with children is possible. Hard to imagine for me, but I suppose that I'll get there too.

RJW said...

I am not sure I would ever view myself as her friend. I will always be her father and we can have conversations on a variety of topics, but I view friendship differently -- more informal in some ways and less so in others. I would never want to burden her with my problems and issues. We can do things that friends do, go to dinner, ballgames, play sports, but friendship is off the table. I will have a drink with her over dinner, but I will not go drinking with her. Maybe I am just weird on that topic.

Jack said...

Not weird at all. Daughter is still relatively young. I don't think that things changed with my parents and myself until I was in my mid 30s.

By that point in time I had been married for a while and was a parent. I understood things differently than.

I don't think of us as being friends in the same way as my "friends" but the relationship has evolved somewhat.

shavuatov said...

Absolutely a great post. It makes me cringe when I see parents trying to be best friends with their children. Storing up a whole lot of troubles for the future there, I think....

rachel

Jack said...

Hi Rachel,

I have seen it happen many times. Some people don't understand the kind of grief that they are setting themselves up for.