I made a mistake. As mistakes go, I’m not sure how big this one is going to turn out to be. You see, it involves my growing children. I think there’s time to fix it before they grow into the mistake I made. But I’m not sure.
If I can’t fix it in time, I apologise. My children are spoiled.
And it’s all my fault.
Somewhere amidst all the parenting talk, I learned that my children must be happy, safe, self-aware, engaged, confident. I did the things I could to praise them and raise their self-esteem. I let them make decisions and choices so they could learn consequences and repercussions. I showed them all the amazing things in the world that I could find so they could understand their place in it. I tried to put a smile on their face every day. I gave them challenges but kept them guarded.
I didn’t say no. I hardly ever said no. I said “why do you think that might be a bad idea?” I said “not right now, but if you show me you can ... then maybe.” I said “let me think about it.”
And my children are spoiled. They are spoiled rotten and have no idea how to actually listen to authority. They have no fear of adults — no healthy fear, at least.
Somewhere along the line, I forgot to say no. In all my attempts to teach them about the world, about consequences, about themselves, I forgot to teach them obedience.
A part of me rebels against this confession. A part of me is trying to convince myself that listening to authority is overrated — that my children will grow into strong, willful adults with the ability to change the world, that obedience leads to fascism.
But sometimes, as a parent, you need your child to listen. Sometimes you need them to know that for no reason at all an adult can say no and they need to stop asking, stop whining, stop complaining and stop challenging. They need to know that no means no.
My children have no idea what no means.
A large part of it is that I wanted them to understand rules and consequences, not merely follow them. But just as big a part is ... I was tired.
I was tired and it was easier to say yes than no. I was tired and it was easier to say “no, but if you do this for me, no turns into yes.” I was tired and couldn’t face another battle.
Honestly, I’ve worried more about their confidence, happiness and self-esteem than I have about their obedience. And that’s what I’m programmed to worry about by the media.
The books are called “The Happiest Baby on the Block.” The scares are suicide, self-harm, drug use. The solutions are confidence and a strong nature, teaching consequences and compromise.
But obedience has its place too. Listening for the sake of authority and not because there’s a reward or consequence if do or don’t is actually a valuable lesson to learn.
I am trying to fix my mistake. And boy am I tired now. The exhaustion of reversing the mistake is way more than it would have been to prevent it in the first place. And even now, when I say no without explanation or apology and I watch their faces crumple and their eyes go dim for a moment it’s really hard to fight back against the voices that say keep them happy, use this as a lesson, show them not to be afraid.
But kids need to learn what no means. And mine don’t know it. And for that, I apologise. I’m not sure exactly where and when I went wrong, but I know I made a mistake and I’m trying to fix it.
If you’re a parent who has also made a mistake like mine maybe or perhaps the polar opposite, all I can say is try to fix it. They’re not done growing yet and there’s still time to teach them.
It’s OK to admit you were wrong. Perhaps not so publicly as I have just now, but to yourself and your family. Mistakes are easier to fix when we own them.
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