I think we can all agree on this: as parents, we try to do the best we can, making parenting decisions based on our values, morals and sense of health and safety. Well, here’s where it seems to fall apart: your child asks to do something that you don’t want him to do, for whatever reason, and he responds: “But, but, David’s parents let him do it!” Oh, I hate that line.
Why does this bother me so? Because it immediately puts your decision-making abilities and judgment into question. Suddenly, you are a less wonderful parent than the friend’s parents (in the kids’ eyes). And what’s worse, it pits said abilities and judgment against your peers. And maybe even your friends or family!
This has happened to me a lot over the course of four kids. It usually peaks in the teen years when more and more opportunities to do things, perhaps riskier things, arise. Like everything else in parenting, I have learned to pick my battles. Some things, I have adamantly put my foot down about, and others, I have allowed, reluctantly, with major guidelines on my part.
Over the years, my responses ranged from very gentle and fair: “Every family does things differently and we need to respect the differences. In our family, this is what we believe” to sinking to the depths with: “Seriously? What is she thinking?!”
Ugh, that was not my finest parenting moment.
I asked some fellow parents what they say when faced with this challenge. Here are their comebacks for better or worse:
- “We’ll, I’m not so and so’s mom.”
- “All parents have a different set of rules, but our rules are our rules, even when you aren’t with us.”
- “I respect so-and-so but every family has their own rules and you have to follow ours.”
- “My job is to keep you safe and out of trouble – on my terms.”
- “If Jenny was going to jump off of a bridge would you do that too?” (My parents used to say that one to me all the time!)
- “Because I say so.”
My usual responses include: “I don’t care what they do – that’s their choice, not mine.” And the one that really annoys them: “Based on my life experience and best judgment, this is the decision I’ve made. “ (Anything that includes my age and supposed wisdom immediately gets an eye roll from my kids.)
That being said, hearing that other parents are doing things differently, is also an opportunity for us to consider that, perhaps, we should loosen up a bit, listen more and allow some discussion. Maybe we should even call and ask the other parents, saying something like “I’m feeling a little uncomfortable letting my child do this but since you have let yours do it, please reassure me about why it’s okay. ” They might convince you. Or they might judge you harshly. It’s a toss up.
Or maybe we should come up with guidelines that we can apply to every situation such as: as long as it is not immoral, illegal or life-threatening, then we’ll let them do it. I mean, it’s not like we’re talking about high-diving off the roof or juggling knives or something really insane! Even though we like to think we are doing the best thing for our kids, it’s good to consider that there are other ways that everyone can live with – safely.
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