Don’t Let Their Size Fool You!

If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you’ve obviously never been in bed with a mosquito.

How true! And it goes double for your kids and the impact they can and do have in your life. When you think about it for a moment it’s absolutely mind blowing how such little beings can so easily begin to rule the roost that used to have your name on it.

Within just a couple of years many parents find themselves taking orders from someone who can’t even put together a complete and coherent sentence or wipe their own behind. How crazy is that?

But before I go any further, let me make one thing clear: I am an absolute sucker when it comes to kids. I adore them. I’m not one of those “Children should be seen and not heard,” types at all. In fact, I love to hear what the little munchkins have to say and find myself marveling over their perceptiveness or clear and direct honesty pretty regularly.

But … I am also a firm believer in the notion that they have a place in the family hierarchy and it’s not at the top. That spot needs to be reserved for you and you alone (well okay, you and your spouse). If you want your home to be the kind of place where everyone (including you) feels comfortable, then start early to make sure that your child’s voice doesn’t get too big!

Even though it seems easier to just give him his way when he’s little, it will backfire on you very quickly. I can give you a money-back-guarantee on that one. Once they see themselves as capable of pushing you around it will be hard for them to give it up. Power is intoxicating! And down the road it will get even uglier. If you were humbled by the terrible two’s, I’ve got some bad news for you — adolescents are kind of like huge two-year-olds on steroids.

So yes, of course, feel free to ask for his opinions. Listen to her requests and suggestions. Take their ideas into account when planning an outing or deciding what to have for dinner or when they should go to bed.

But make it clear from the get-go that although you appreciate and will consider their input, YOU will be the one making the decision. This will be an enormous relief to them although they may kick and scream about it at the time. They will probably never tell you how wonderful it is to be able to put in their two cents worth (when appropriate) but not have to take on the burden of knowing what to do.

And as they get older and the stakes get higher, you will be relieved to know that the precedent has been set and you won’t have to spend all weekend long arguing about whether your 15-year-old can go to an all-night hip-hop concert two hours away. You will only have spend part of the weekend arguing about that — and that, my friends, will seem like a frikkin’ gift at the time.

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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