My son and I have been going to family therapy. He has Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD, disorders I’m pretty sure didn’t exist when I was a child. Well, the way I see it, I should enforce rules all the more since my child wants to defy authority, right? Well, sometimes, I catch our therapist giving me a look like something is wrong with me, and I’m like, “Whose side are you on?”
Yes, I would classify myself as a strict parent, and I am not ashamed. I’m Mom and Dad to a child with behavioral problems, and I refuse to let boys be boys. I’m grooming my boy into a man, an upright man who goes out into the world and takes responsibility for his actions. I’m an authoritarian parent. Rules are in place and they are to be followed, or there will be consequences. It’s the law of physics: every action has an equal and opposite reaction, i.e. my punishment will fit the crime. Law and order is not just a great show; they are two essential principles for civilization to succeed. My home is a model of the “adult world,” I can’t let my son think that he’s going to grow up and be allowed to skip out on work because he’s bored or call his coworkers names without consequences. Does he resent me for being the enforcer? Yes, but I’ve never had qualms with playing the villain, and in a one-parent household, there are not many other members to cast for that role.
My son claims I love my rules more than I love him, but I explain, “If I didn’t love you, there wouldn’t be any rules.” I’m still waiting for the day when he asks me to love him less. So just as an example of my rules, which are not that easy to follow:
- Behave in school
- Do your homework
- Clean your room
- No fighting
- Don’t insult people
Not so hard considering he is a nine-year-old boy with no job or family to support. Oh, and read for at least ten minutes (forgot one). He knows that if I get a call or email from school reporting misbehavior, he does not get to play on his computer or go to his basketball game just so he doesn’t take privileges for granted. If we are late to therapy because he is dilly-dallying, then he misses his basketball game, which is directly after our session. If he would rather throw a half-hour tantrum about reading for 10-15 minutes, then he can lament his attitude problem in his room with no entertainment until bed time. I think the greatest issue he has with my parenting is that I am a strict enforcer.
This is a great difference from my mother’s parenting, which consisted of a grounding right now and forgetting about it five seconds later. The first time my mother told me I was grounded, no phone calls included, and followed it up with passing me the phone when my friend called an hour later, I thought it was a trap! An alarm went off in my head, telling me that there was something wrong there. I turned out just fine in the end, but I was scared my mother would smack me silly if I acted out, and I’ve always had a deep respect for authority figures. A child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder needs to learn to understand and respect rules.
Don’t get me wrong, I am authoritarian, but I nurture my children, and I encourage them to be independent and creative, so long as no rules are broken and no one is hurt in the process. I reward my son for excellent behavior – good gets praise but no rewards because good is how he is supposed to behave everyday – there are incentives for excellence like going to bed at 9:30pm instead of 8:30pm, a special treat, a toy, etc. I make sure he knows I love him everyday and that I’m preparing him to be a man of substance and consequence.
Kids thrive on routines and rules, and in the long run, my children will thank me.
Stay tuned for your next slice of genius.