Balance of Power

Occasionally friends have ribbed me for some of the parenting rules my hubs and I have established with our kids.
One that comes to mind at the moment is our "Odd-man-in Rule." Before our kids were old enough to date, whenever they got together with a boy-girl mix of friends, it had to be an uneven ratio of boys to girls. We did this to discourage pairing up—the whole double/triple date mentality.

Another policy we have is our "Movie Ratings Rule." I mentioned this in previous posts, but essentially, we didn't allow our kids to watch PG movies until they were nine, and PG-13 movies until they were 13. We figured it was pretty obvious what the "13" was for. (However, I think the rating system could benefit from adding even more levels in there.)

So while having breakfast with friends one morning, when I casually mentioned my daughter and I had watched an R-rated movie together, there were guffaws around the table. "What?!" "Ooooh! Holly, let her kid watch an R-rated movie?" "What happened to your infamous rules?"

Well the fact is, she IS eighteen now. Thus, the rules are changing. The balance of power is shifting—has shifted.

As parents of infants and toddlers, we start out in total control. We set all the rules: when and what they eat, what they wear, what they watch on T.V. The balance of power is clearly tipped in our favor. Then, they grow and start to develop definite opinions, along with the ability to say "no," and we see the first hint of necessary shifts in that balance.

We begin to offer limited choices: Would you like to wear the blue top or the red one? Would you like cereal for breakfast or waffles? And eventually, "What are you making mommy for breakfast this morning, sweetheart? (Yeah, in my dreams!) Eventually, the shift takes on a more definitive form. But we all parent differently, so how and when that shift takes place varies among parents. Opposite ends of the parenting spectrum I've personally witnessed:
  • No pierced ears on daughters until age 12.
  • No problem piercing sons' ears in preschool.
  • Only G-rated movies until age 9.
  • R-rated movies are fine starting in kindergarten.
  • No dating. Period.
  • Dating starting in fifth grade is fine.

 It's easy for one set of parents to shake their heads and judge another, thinking "Would you look at that? They're doing it wrong." But ultimately, we're each responsible for parenting our own children with the goal being that by the time our kids reach adulthood, the balance of power has shifted completely over to their side.

It's a tough lesson to learn (well, at least for me!) as I watch my 18-year-old make decisions that will affect her future career, her life. When she's sharing her thoughts on a particular topic, I occasionally have to bite my tongue, nod, and just listen to what she has to say. There are other times though, when I can tell she wishes we'd make a certain decision for her. Instead we offer our input and advice, making it clear that the decision is entirely hers. It's definitely not an easy clear-cut process this shifting in the balance of power. It's a little scary for both parties. But regardless, the balance of power will shift. Must shift. And hopefully…we're not doing it wrong.

Image by: di_the_huntress


The Alliterative Allomorph said...

It's funny, your post reminds me of when I was around 17/18. At that age you don't realise at all how hard it is for a parent to get used to their kids growing up. My father spoke to me as though I was five, all the time, such as "Would you like some dinner, blossom? Oh look, you ate all your food! Well done!" Until one day, when I was studing for my end of high school exams, I looked up and said, "Dad, why do you keep speaking to me like that?" I'll never forget the shock on his face. And I don't think it was only because I HAD grown up, but I think he realised how fast time had passed and that he must have sounded a little like an idiot. :)

Brandy said...

My sister and I have completely different styles and while Grayson is only 15 months - I already see where there will be areas she won't understand me. Like the movie thing - I don't even want Grayson in the room when an adult movie is one. Even if he is playing and not paying attention. I think you are great to stand by your convictions

Heidi Willis said...

a beautifully written post! I have a son in middle school now so I'm seeing the balance starting to shift more. I think it's been a bit easier allowing him greater responsibilities for his decisions because the control in the beginning of his life helped him realize how to make smart decisions.

Still, the harder ones are ahead, and I hate that I can no longer protect him the way I used to.

Vivianne's Vista said...

A very thoughtful post. Like your previous commenter, it also brought me back to the power plays between my father and I, when I was 16-18. (He was the disciplinarian) It really is difficult to make that constant shift, especially as my daughter gets older. I find myslef questioning my "control freaky" ways many times. My 5 year old son makes it easy for me- he has me twisted around his finger and knows it!

Is Dis Normal or Dysfunctional? said...

Your topic is first and foremost in my mind these days as my ten year old pushes his boundaries, mostly at school.

After a long conversation with his teachers and with the school Principal I learned that boys don't do well with strict boundaries and they will do what they can to go outside them but my thinking is that they need to know that there are direct and strict consequences to their defiance.

I am hitting the parenting books hard these days and the most highly recommended one, in this valley, is Love and Logic.

Name: Holly Bowne said...

Oh, I absolutely agree, Jillian. And the Love & Logic series totally rocks!

Swati said...

This is such a thoughtful and well written's so hard sometimes coming face to face with a situation and hoping like CRAZY you don't mess it up. I'm certain I am going to be using the "I'll have to get back to you on that..." a lot more - and my daughter is only 8!

Then there's the whole thing with parenting with my ex...


Annette Piper said...

Sounds like you're doing a brilliant job Holly. Its a steep learning curve being a parent.