We recently left DC1 with my sister for hir first overnight away from home without parents. My sister asked, “Do you have any rules?” And really we didn’t have any. I came up with, “Don’t rob any banks” (Actually, I came up with, “When we’re gone, your aunt is in charge,” turning to Auntie, “Don’t abuse that privilege. No robbing banks,” back to DC, “If Auntie tells you to rob a bank, tell her no.”) and DH came up with, “Ze is too short to cross the street by hirself.” Apparently my sister’s friends have a lot more rules for their kids.
DH and I don’t have a whole lot of rules for our DCs. We don’t say that they must ask to be excused at the dinner table. We don’t make them clean their plates. We do have a set bedtime, although we didn’t used to. But practice has told us that if DC1 isn’t asleep by 8:30 ze is difficult to get up to go to school at 7 the next morning.
We do try to guide DC1 (and someday DC2) into the rules for polite society. Grown-ups don’t have to ask to be excused at the dinner table. But when they leave, they must leave politely. We try to model that. Adults also can’t hit people, but that hasn’t been a problem with DC1 since ze was 2 or 3. And if DC1 does anything odd, we address that at the time and explain what appropriate alternative behaviors look like. So DC1 says please and thank-you and is reminded if ze doesn’t.
Our goal is not to have total and unthinking obedience. The rules we do have (see: street-crossing) we have for a reason. DC1 is free to argue with us about said rules, so long as ze does it in an appropriate fashion that could be termed, “discussion” and not the heated kind. Our primary goal is to guide, and we have authority because we’ve lived longer and know more about the world than DC1 does.
Another form of parenting is authoritarian parenting. With this form, there’s a belief that the child needs to respect and obey hir elders because they are hir elders. Blanket training is an extreme and awful example of this.
The ironic thing is that Authoritarian and Authoritative parenting seem to lead to exactly the opposite types of behavior that the parents are trying to instill.
For example, DC1 is a natural rules follower. Ze trusts us. If it were our goal to raise someone who questions authority, we’d be doing a pretty poor job of it. (Fortunately for us, our goal, as always, is just to make things easier for ourselves.)
We haven’t noticed that kids under authoritarian parenting are any better behaved. In fact, with more rules, there seem to be more rules to complain about. And that leads to lots more arguing. The arguments don’t seem particularly valuable either because there’s a lot more, “Because I’m the adult and I said so.” Authoritarian parenting seems to create rebels in a way that authoritative parenting does not, despite rebellion being exactly the thing that authoritarian parenting is trying to squash (and questioning authority being encouraged by authoritative parents).
How were you parented growing up? Do you think how your parents disciplined mattered to you as an adult? If you have children, how do you try to instill lessons today?