I’ll let you in on a little secret: our home is not a democracy; it’s a benevolent dictatorship.
I am the leader. I make the rules. I expect them to be followed. Of course, every child likes to push his or her luck. That’s to be expected. We have our moments of conflict, but in the end, my word is final.
Sometimes I think I should have told my son, moments after his birth, that he was in for a doozy of a ride. I could have given this speech:
Hi. I’ll be your dictator for the next 18 years. While the Declaration of Independence says “that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”, it should be known that those are available to you as I see fit. I want you to examine the Declaration of Independence carefully, m’kay?
I wonder what the people at the hospital would have thought had they heard me telling my newborn that he’s equal…..but, I’m more equal than he is.
You know that part about the Creator endowing Men with Rights? Guess what? I’m the Creator. That child sprang forth from MY loins. I decide what his rights are.
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…..well, let’s see here. Life. To paraphrase Bill Cosby, “I brought my son into this world…..I can take him right back out if he doesn’t do as he’s told.” Liberty? He’s free to imagine what his life will be like once he’s all grown up. Before that, it’s under my control. Pursuit of Happiness….happiness is NOT guaranteed. Chase it all you want, kiddo. Doesn’t mean that each and every moment of life will be happy. Things will happen.
Boundaries need to be set early. Kids never like all the rules a parent hand them. They don’t have to. But, we parents have to set limits anyway.
How many of us have seen people trying to raise kids and claiming to be their “friend”? They offer very little in the way of a blueprint for living. There are no guidelines. The kids run wild and free. The children run the house. And, that’s no way to run a family.
In my home, I’m the Supreme One. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Sure, my son can ask for a reason after I issue one of my edicts. He doesn’t always get one. As I have told him on several occasions, there are times when “because I said so” is all the explanation he’ll get. And, he’ll have to accept it. He doesn’t have to like it – he just has to accept it.
I feel it’s of the greatest importance to give a child a sense of the rules of the Dictatorship early on in life; once they hit the teenage years there’ll be no institution of new rules. You have to set the stage early and stay consistent throughout their childhood and adolescence if there’s to be any hope for them, or you.
My son is a good kid. He has his moments of testing his limits (and mine). Fortunately, he’s never overly difficult. More often than not, he’ll edge right on up to the boundaries and see how much leeway he has. I expect that. If he didn’t, I’d place a dunce cap on his head and lead him around on a leash. I want him to think and try to go beyond the limits I set — while he’s still little. And, while he’s still highly impressionable. For, if he attempts this now, he’s much more pliable; the lessons he learns today are more easily learned now rather than later.
Over the years, we’ve developed a great rapport. He can come to me with any question or problem, and he knows this. But that didn’t happen overnight. It took years of hard work and patience. The same applies to the rules of our family. From the moment he started to pull hair or bite, a firm, but gentle “no” was issued. As he grew older, he would occasionally sass me. Talking back was met with a firm, but gentle “excuse me?” or “would you like to try that one again?” The point was made that I had expectations for how he would behave. I’ve rarely had to raise my voice or resort to spanking. Often, I only need to raise an eyebrow and clear my throat.
My son doesn’t fear me; he respects me. Okay, so maybe a little fear isn’t such a bad thing when it comes down to the bigger, scarier scenarios that the future holds. But even then, I want him to be more worried about the situations he may encounter and not about coming to me. I want him to see me as approachable and accessible. I’ve worked hard to instill a sense of “rules are rules, but let’s talk about this” in him. It’s served us well.
As it stands, we regularly discuss problems as they present themselves. He may not always like what I have to say, but he gets that I am the Supreme One in my home. I hope to hell it always remains so.