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Your younger kids haven’t experienced enough yet, but as your kids get older, many of them will begin to see right through your smokescreen rules. They’ll ask you why, and you won’t have a good enough reason, so you might say, “Because I said so.” You might have even heard your parents use this one on you. And you didn’t like it either.
As parents, you do have the authority, but you must rule with a gentle and wise firmness that does not “provoke your children to anger.” So your rules have to make sense. You have to explain them. This is a good thing. I know many of us might be afraid to let our children see the man behind the curtain (Remember, the Great Wizard of Oz)! We’re hesitant to explain the rules because it’s hard. It takes work. And some of us are fearful that the more we explain to our kids, the more we’ll learn our rules aren’t fair. Our eight-year-old might even point it out to us.
An example: The other day, some kids were playing out on the shared lawn between our apartments. They had a pretty cool blow-up water slide. Kids were climbing up and sliding down and spraying each other with the water hose and having a blast. One of the kids was leaning slightly on an inflatable wall — no big deal — but the parent didn’t like it. It wasn’t unsafe or going to damage the slide. It just wasn’t “the way it’s supposed to be.” The parent didn’t want to get up from their lawn chair and didn’t want to explain themselves, so they told the kid to get off the wall because they didn’t want someone to get hurt. No one was going to get hurt, and this parent knew it. They also knew that they were the boss and playing the “Someone’s Going to Get Hurt” card is supposed to end the discussion. So they played it.
Another example: We knew some parents who wanted to wean their child off of pacifiers. So they cut the tips off all the pacifiers and told their kid, “Sorry, look, all the pacifiers are broken,” and broke the habit cold turkey. They were well-intentioned, I’m sure, but this is one of those parental lies. They didn’t want to do the hard work of talking with their child, so they made stuff up. A contrasting example: When we were ready to transition our girl off pacifiers, we prepped her for it. We talked with her, explained that she was a big girl now and big girls don’t use pacifiers. Then we celebrated her Big Girl Day, let her get dolled up in her favorite dress, bought her a small bouquet of flowers, and made a big deal of her Rite of Passage.
Did your parents ever play those cards on you? Couldn’t you see right through it? Didn’t anger begin to brew inside you? Especially as you got older.
I can’t think of a single instance when it’s better to feed them small lies because it’s easier for us. How much better to talk about these things when they’re younger. Even when they’re squirrely. Even when it’s tough. Even when it seems they aren’t listening. Even when we don’t have time. Even when we’re tired. Especially when we don’t want to. Because that is likely when they need us to talk things out the most.
Conversation of the Day: What teacher lie is most tempting for you to tell students?
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These rules are adapted with permission from Roger and Becky Tirabassi's premarital workbook for seriously dating and engaged couples - The Seriously Dating or Engaged Workbook. Roger and Becky have also co-authored a book for married couples called Little Changes Big Results for Crazy, Busy Couples. The principles in these books have changed so many areas of our life. We highly recommend them.