On my train ride yesterday I did my fair share of online reading and more than one article was about feeding your kids dinner. One in particular, from Bon Appetit online, was a collection of tips from top chefs on how they get their kids to eat a variety of foods. I address this idea more on Real Life Wellness, but there was a common thread in all their ideas that I felt like I needed to talk about here and it’s the idea that (Gasp!) we’re in charge.
Yes, you. You parent. You’re in charge. And sometimes, being in charge sucks.
Sometimes, kids cry when you tell them what to do. Sometimes, kids scream and kick and embarrass the living hell out of you in public when you tell them what to do. Guess what? You’re still in charge and your reputation will survive a tantrum or two.
My friend Amy wrote a post about some Brooklyn parents who wanted to ban ice-cream trucks from their playgrounds because one mom said they ruined her day when she had to leave the park with a crying preschooler because she told him he couldn’t have ice-cream.
If I tried to ban everything that I told my kids they couldn’t have, it would be a very empty town we live in.
When the heck did we decide we shouldn’t ever have to say no to our kids? When did someone start the rumour that parenting was always easy and non-confrontational? When did we fall for the trick that if we do all the right things our kids would be calm and reasonable?
Why oh why is it considered a “magic tip” or freakin’ French(!) to tell parents that they call the shots at mealtime?
None of this makes sense to me. Parenting is a great gig but sometimes it can be downright taxing both mentally and physically simply because you are always in charge. I’d argue the worst possible times are when you’re telling a kid no.
My kids get complimented on being polite and well behaved but they will certainly never be accused of being timid or shy.
People, this is not an accident. I give my kids a voice and I often let them in on the reasoning behind my decisions, but I make no bones about the fact that mostly-I (or their dad) make the decisions. In fact, I am a bit of a shrew when it comes to manners and personal responsibility. I’m sure they’ll tell tales of what a hard-ass I was when they get older, just like I did about my mom.
We’re old-school around here and our kids’ behaviors reflect that. Make no mistake, this means that there were plenty of times I left playdates and playgrounds with screaming kids. There were plenty of public meltdowns that I had to endure because I dared say no.
And it’s not over. I still fight my youngest almost every trip to the grocery store because he wants one of everything in the checkout aisle even though he never gets it, he still fights me. Always. Making rules and following through stinks sometimes.
Amy shares a great tip about what she did with her son to combat the pesky playground ice cream trucks. She also realistically points out that it didn’t magically work the first time.
Parenting is hard. Remember?
Calling the shots isn’t easy. Being in charge isn’t always popular. It is a constant balancing act to be firm but avoid suffocating the freedom out of your kids. The balancing act is necessary for raising responsible, empathetic, safe human beings.
I promise, your reputation and your relationship will survive the tantrums over the ice cream trucks. So far, mine have.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.