Who Is In Charge?
A man attempted to catch my eye, he then shook his head in bewilderment as two children squabbled over a toy in front of us. It was a small gesture but I could sense he was building up to something bigger. The man introduced himself as Thijs, he was of epic proportions and came complete with a big bushy moustache and heavily stained teeth that suggested he had a love for coffee, red wine and cigarettes and perhaps not toothpaste or toothbrush. Thijs turned out to be the boys Grandfather and was visiting form Holland. And sure enough the shake of the head was merely an appetiser before the main course. I asked him what I felt was a safe enough question – “How are you enjoying your trip”
He explained with a pleasingly thick Dutch accent that his trip has been marred by the constant bickering and squabbling of the boys. He went into a ‘when I was a lad’ speech that he had clearly been wanting to get off his chest for the duration of his stay but had yet to find an obliging set of ears. “Of course it’s not the children who are to blame it’s the parents, they let them behave in this way, they encourage it”. He argued that children are gifted too much control.
Who is in charge? The lines often seem blurred. Sometimes I catch Anna asking Max what he wants to wear that day – he’s two, if he could he would choose no jocks, a cape and his welly boots. I’m guilty of it too, “where do you want to go today Max?” sometimes slips out before I realise what I just did – he always replies “park” anyhow he’s predictable like that. I sometimes need to remember, I am the parent and for the moment I make the decisions, well most of them.
Children are quick to solve the equation; desire + (tears + tantrum) = desire met. I sometimes need to remember that it’s okay for Max to cry, not when he is genuinely crying of course but when he is faking it like Meg Ryan to get whatever his heart desires.
I don’t think we’re alone in handing over the reins to those who would otherwise be restrained by reins. There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t observe a child dictating terms and conditions to their parent. Max has recently started telling me he “needs” this and that, I get to sound like a real Dad when I reply “you don’t know the meaning of the word need” – he literally doesn’t, he’s only two.
How many times have you seen a child being told its time to leave the park only to throw a well placed hissy fit knowing full well that Mum or Dad will crumble? A child steals another’s toy and their parent can’t quite bring themselves to make them give it back because they know their kid is going to come over all Dustin Hoffman in Rainman the second they do. Parents will watch on as their child develops frostbite because they demanded their coat comes nowhere near them. You don’t want to eat your apple? That’s fine we’ll keep bringing out various snacks until we find one that’s the right fit.
I found myself nodding along with a lot of Thijs’s rambling rant that the current crop of ankle biters are afforded more control, more choice, more decision making and that perhaps that isn’t a healthy dynamic. What do you think?