Parents are not in the game to win votes or popularity, but it is nice to be liked.
In this world of ever increasing human rights and children’s rights, parents are increasingly under pressure to do and be the right thing for their children. It’s however difficult to know where to draw the line between guiding children appropriately and letting them tell you what to do.
Should errant children be held accountable and punished or should they be allowed to learn for themselves what they should or should not do?
While democracy is the name of the game in countries which respect their citizens, you may be surprised to learn that the family unit is actually not a democracy. At best, it’s a benign dictatorship.
Let me explain – We all know how democracies work. The local population takes a vote as to whom they think should be in power. The majority decision is what is carried and the people who win the votes then duly assume a position of power and make and enforce laws for the benefit of all.
In a young family, the parents are the ones who started the family and the children are totally dependent on the parents for everything – care, food, health, knowledge, and so on –
There is no voting in a family. The people who are in charge are the parents who had the children. And they’re the ones who need to make the decisions, in consultation with one another and not in consultation with the children. That’s how it has to be.
Some people are in favour of child-centred families. That’s just another name for a “family democracy” where the children call the shots because they are the centre of the family.
If you’re tempted to fall for the child-centred family model because it sounds rather warm and fuzzy, please don’t. Children were never meant to run families. They don’t have the emotional and intellectual capacity to make appropriate decisions. And they are actually very selfish little people who have to be taught how to consider others. They do not have fully formed brains when they come into the world and their brains continue to form for the first two decades of their lives and, according to some views, even a bit longer.
It’s therefore simply unwise and unfair to them to set them up to do a job that they’re not capable of doing, nor were intended to do.
So, if you’re a parent, ditch the guilty feelings because you’re imposing your will on minor children. There’s absolutely no need for you to feel guilty. There are two kinds of guilt – real guilt and false guilt. Real guilt is the result of your having done something wrong. If you have, accept responsibility and take the necessary action to put right what you’ve done. False guilt, on the other hand, is feeling guilty about something you should not be feeling guilty about at all. If that’s the case in your family, ditch it!
And besides, young children need, and crave, clear boundaries. It makes them feel more secure when they know where the boundaries are, so provide the boundaries they need. Boundaries are of course moving targets and will continue to move as your children grow older. What is a boundary for a two-year-old is not necessarily a boundary for a five-year-old, and so on, as they grow up.
The important thing is for you, as a parent, to understand the need to change the boundaries at the appropriate times.
Children who grow up in a family which is a well-run benign dictatorship – where the “dictator/s are kind and loving – will generally grow up fairly well adjusted. Children who grow up in a child-centred family, however, will grow up lacking in many basic skills needed to navigate through adulthood with confidence and success. It’s your choice –
Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, an age management and self-mastery coach to senior executives, and the author of best seller What nobody tells a new father.
This article appeared in the October 2015 issue of HR Future magazine.