Who’s The Boss? – Parenting vs Partnering

Words on Wednesday

What is your biggest struggle as a parent?

Knowing how to do the new math? Navigating the pick up/drop off zone at their school? Trying to fit in Ballet, Soccer, Basketball, and Band while working 40 hours a week, cooking delicious, nutritious food they’ll eat AND keeping your home from being the next one featured on How Clean Is Your House?

Yeah, it’s a major juggling act, isn’t it?

Two weeks ago I talked about being the adult we want our children to become, which has led me to realize something pretty major.

As parents, we need to grow up!

It’s time to pull up our Big Girl and Boy Panties and be the adult! Our children need that!

I know that we’re all just figuring it out as we go along, but somewhere in the middle of that steep learning curve and all the uncertainty, we need to remember who the adults are and who the children are. And then act accordingly!

Think back to your own childhood. Who was the boss? You or your parents? Did you ever get asked by your Mom or Dad to “do them a favour”?

Nope. Not me!

I remember, “please clean your room”, “please take out the trash”, and “please do the dishes” (we were big on manners and respect in our house) but never “honey cakes, can you do Mommy a giant favour and eat just one piece of broccoli?”

Are you kidding me?! My Mum would have been laughed out of her Monday Jazzercise at the church if she’d pulled a stunt like that! It was just “eat your vegetables”. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts. They loved us, they respected us, but it was totally clear that we were not in charge. Not even a little bit!

I remember sitting at the dining room table LONG after everyone else had left it, staring at a pile of frozen mixed veg that I was refusing to eat. You know the type; carrots, peas, corn, green beans, and (the worst of the worst) lima beans! Yuck! To this day I can not see that without gagging and have never once served it my family. But I sat there for a long time, working up the nerve to eat the stone cold, congealing pile of vitamins and minerals my Mum deemed important enough to get into my body. Fresh vegetables were expensive back then and money was tight! As a mother, I now understand how hard it was for my Mum to create a varied, healthy menu for us given what was available (we lived far enough north that options were a bit more limited) and within the family budget. I’m quite frankly amazed she was able to introduce us to so many things growing up! But as a twelve year old girl just trying to test her boundaries, I resented the heck out of those frozen vegetables!

Fast forward thirty years and the tables are turned. Now it’s my kids sitting there with a plate of rapidly cooling food, staring daggers at me! Or at least, it was. We’ve adapted our parenting methods with the addition of each child and with each passing year. But there are still some hard and fast rules.

1. You have to try it.

If it’s a new dish, they are not allowed to turn up their noses and refuse to try it. If they do they are sent straight to bed with no dinner. If they try it (and we’re talking a decent bite here, not a teeny nibble), and don’t like it, they can choose something else from the fridge. I will not make them a whole new meal mind you. The options are, choose a leftover dish that can be heated up quickly, or make yourself a sandwich. That’s it.

2. If you don’t finish because you’re “full” there is no dessert.

You want dessert, you have to prove to me that you can eat what I’ve already given you first. Simple as that! We’re not big dessert people anyway, but if you tell me you can’t finish your dinner because you’re full, then there is no point in asking me for anything more. Or asking me for more to eat later. I will merely point at your leftover dinner and say “there you go! Enjoy!”

That’s not too onerous is it? Two rules.

So why am I seeing articles about parents negotiating food choices with their children? I totally get giving options. Options are great! You get to decide which two or three healthy food items you’d like your kids to eat, and they get to feel in control about what they are eating. It’s really an elaborate illusion. They are choosing between things you’ve already decided would be good for them or that you’d be willing to cook! Tricky, right?

I am also willing to make small concessions with the meals I cook. For instance, if I am making a stir fry I know not to give any of my girls the mushrooms that I added purely for my husbands enjoyment. I also know to only add one piece of pepper to the younger girls bowls and be prepared for it to still be there once everything else is yummed up. I keep trying though! I think I read somewhere that you need to introduce something to children about a hundred times before they try it and/or decide they like it. Okay, I can do that.

What I refuse to do is cook them boxed macaroni and cheese instead of the stir fry. No way! That’s pandering and that’s not okay!!

Think about the message you are sending to your children. You are saying, “I know you don’t like this dinner that I have decided is delicious and healthy, so instead of forcing you to try something new, instead of reinforcing that I am in charge of your growth and development, I am going to make you something that I know you will eat and will stop you from throwing a tantrum which I am not prepared to man up and handle because all I want to do is make sure you are happy all the time.”

Put in black and white like that it really hits home doesn’t it?

Why are we sabotaging our own children?

We are trying to raise them to be independent, self sufficient adults, right? As an independent and self sufficient adult yourself, do you only get to do the things you want to do all the time? At your current job I’m sure there are tasks that you detest doing. Answering customer complaint emails, filing your monthly expenses, or reading the latest quarterly report from HQ for example. How do you handle them? You’re probably one of two types of people. Either you tackle them right away so they are off your plate (so to speak), or you leave them til the very end. Until you have no choice but to do them. I’m in that latter camp – can’t you tell?

Does your boss ever come in and ask you to do him a favour and hand in your time sheets? I think not. He expects you to be adult enough to hand them in on your own or suffer the consequences, right?

This is the world that we are preparing our children to enter. Hell, we are hoping they will not just enter this world but take it by storm! Be the movers and shakers of tomorrow, right? How on earth are they going to be able to do that when we have taught them to expect life to be one big negotiation where they are holding all the cards?

My husband and I are “old school”. We are not perfect and we make mistakes (all. the. time!) But we do expect our children to do what we say when we say it.

I know, totally delusional!!

But then again, are we?

For the most part, our kids eat what we give them to eat, do the chores we ask them to do, treat us and others in the way we’ve taught them to treat people, and go to bed when they are told to go to bed. If they break a house rule, they know there will be consequences and they usually man up and take them. And you know what? They’re three of the happiest little girls I know!

They may not have every toy and gadget known to man but what they lack in ‘stuff’ they make up for in love and security. Security in knowing that they have two loving parents, heavily involved in their activities, and wholly devoted to steering them through the maze that is childhood. Security of knowing where the boundaries are so they know where to push them … if they want to. Security of knowing that if they screw up, we will still be there with open arms to guide them back to the right path. Sounds corny but it’s true.

Parenting is not a Limited Partnership where the children are the Board of Directors whom we need to please. Our stock value isn’t going to rise or fall dependent on what we put on the dinner table. (Well, it might slightly but I promise it’s only temporary!) We are the Sole Proprietors of this particular enterprise. We make the decisions based on what we feel is best for future growth and development. Everyone else has to fall in line or suffer the consequences!

So come on all you parents out there! Let’s stop treating our children like they are the boss of us! Grow a pair and take the reins. Our kids will thank us in the end. Promise!

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