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