“Daddy, I want to go home now.”
We were all in the frozen foods, trying to find veggies or waffles or ice cream without getting frostbite. The little girl standing a few feet away from me had her arms folded across her chest and her lip sticking out.
“We have to finish the shopping, honey, and then we’ll—“ The daddy was trying to be reasonable.
“NO! I want to go home NOW!”
I watched in utter disbelief as the father sighed, dropped the bag of broccoli back into the freezer and turned to leave. “Okay, honey, I’ll come back and do the shopping later.”
I wanted to run after him and shout, “Are you CRAZY?”
This might sound extreme, but believe it or not, I’ve seen it happen. Not just once either; I live near the theme parks in central Florida, and that seems to be a prime spot for a phenomenon I like to call KIC: Kids In Control.
It’s not pretty, folks.
Children were not meant to be in charge. Whether you believe in a loving God with a grand design or in the forces of nature, you can’t deny this fact. Offspring are meant to be protected, nourished, loved and taught, but they simply don’t posses the emotional or mental capacity to make mature decisions for the family as a whole. (Come to think of it, some adults don’t have the capacity either. . .but that’s a whole other issue.)
And when the kids are running the show, you’re not going to have a happy family. The parents aren’t happy, because their needs are not being met, and their plans are continually being thwarted by a child or children who can’t envision the long-term effects. The children aren’t happy because the truth is, kids are meant to have boundaries and rules. They aren’t happy when there aren’t fences in their lives.
None of this is meant to endorse the style of parenting that doesn’t take into account the needs and wants of the children. Far from it. As I said in the introduction to this series, a family is meant to be either a benevolent dictatorship or a limited democracy. One person (or set of people) has to have the final say, but the voice of the ‘ruled’ should also be considered.
Whenever we have an important decision to make in our family, we talk to the kids. Now our ultimate choice might not jive with their exact wants, but as we have the advantage of age and experience, they can trust that we have the best interests of the family at heart. I think that most of the time, they feel as though their voices are heard, even if they don’t get their own way.
And of course, there are exceptions to any rule. When I had toddlers and I could tell that she or he was beyond his or her limits in a situation, I didn’t hesitate to acquiesce. I saw it more as preserving my sanity and understanding that younger kids require a different set of expectations. However, I don’t think I ever allowed a whiny child to dictate my schedule or my choices.
Taking control of the family won’t be easy if you’ve never tried. I recommend taking baby steps, and using a pleasant but firm tone with children who try to take over. Explain kindly that Mom and Dad are the ones calling the shots, and stick with it.
It will be a process. Toppling a kiddy dictatorship won’t happen overnight. But with steady work and lots of patience, it will happen.
Like most elements of parenting, establishing your own limited democracy will seem like a lot of work. But in the long run, you’ll reap benefits that you’ll never regret. And one of those will be. . .a happier family.
Tawdra Kandle has completed 3 young adult novels and is currently working on her forth. She is a contributor for Taking Time for Mommy – Online Magazine for Moms sharing her homeschooling adventures and couponing tips. She is also an administrator of the Time 4 Mommy Community and heads up our .
You can find Tawdra on Twitter and follow her blog Publishing Quest.