What Do You Do When Children Make the Family Rules?
What do you do when you are an early childhood educator, and you are the frequent observer of a non-compliant four year-old girl and a two year-old sibling? What can you do when it is obvious that the children control the family? Is it really any of our business when it is an ongoing process that seems to unbearable to observe on a regular basis?
- Whose In Charge in this House?
- Who Should Be in Charge in this House?
- Have You Heard of these Practices?
- What is the Role of the Parents?
- What is the Role of the Children?
- How Are Families Governed?
- Is this Called Uncontrolled Discipline?
- Is this Called Permissive Childrearing Practice?
- Is This Called Parental Immaturity?
- Is this Called "Lost and Stolen?"
Whose In Charge in this House?
Well when I had time it became a daily time to watch the various television shows that deal with a variety of family issues. I can recall how shocked I was the first time I saw this mom on a national television show crying about her four year-old daughter. As I said, she was on national tv. I don't think she might have made the news had she not been on one of the shows.
This little girl and her family made American stop and think- where do family rules come from.. I am sure that each family
Who Should Be in Charge in this House?
Is there really a law on the books about who should be in charge? As one studies various childrearing practices throughout the world, we find that there are various rationale and reasoning for the approaches used.
In some families, there is a patriarchal family structure, meaning that the father or male plays a key role in decision making and family rules. In other cultures, there is more of a matriarchal structure with the mother being in the dominant position as well as decision making roles.
Then there are other family structures or rules that allow children to be involved in decision making that could impact their lives.
Have You Heard of these Practices?
For some of us who studied child development, early childhood education, child psychology or related fields, we learned of at least three main child care practices that seem to be universal among children and families.
Authoritarian- This approach is used in families where there is an emphasis on "you do as I say." Children are not to question adults but to obey them. The adult in this situation must be in control. All efforts lead to fulfillment of this control. This is the approach where child the child is always considered as the "loser" and the adult the "winner." These children often lack creativity, and risk taking skills. They are compliant but still may have difficulties with internalizing the expected rules.
Permissive- These are the children that this article will focus on the most. These are children, regardless of their ages who make all of the decision. They place themselves in a leadership role that automatically gives them power and control in the family. They make the decisions and the parents are rendered helpless. These are the children who go in a restaurant, walk on the tables (extreme example)and no parental adult stops them. The child is always the "winner" and the parent considered as the "loser." These children sometimes have challenges in school because they are not accustomed to following rules.
Authoritative- This is the approach that is most highly recommended to be used with children. It is the approach where there is an agreement or negotiated consequences where the child knows the expectations and the rules ahead of time. Rules are established and agreed upon. This is usually a "win-win" situation where the child wins and so does the parent. These children tend to be creative and portray leadership roles in school.
What is the Role of the Parents?
There are many theories about roles and expectations of parents. Some societies believe that when a child is born, that the family is blessed. So when the family is blessed with this precious child, it is the role of the mother in most cases to realize the important responsibilities placed upon her for the care and development of the child. Some may start life with breast feeding or bottle feeding. Others know the importance of providing for the basic needs of the child such as bathing, diapering and providing tender loving care. While the loving roles of parents are critical and so important, somewhere in society some people decided to harm little innocent infants. Reasons behind some of the foolishness are beyond the human imagination! The innocence and lack of the ability to provide for their own needs places the burden of parenthood in the lives of children as very critical and important!
What is the Role of the Children?
There are many theories about the roles of the children in many parts of the world. In some cultures, children are taught obedience at a very young children. Others are taught that it is their role to help the family survive. Therefore it is one of the cultural theories, no matter what, "Family First." So sometimes these children may be denied the opportunity to even complete school because of this family.
Still others are taught that they must take care of the elderly. The elderly had always taken care of them when they were young, and now the roles are reversed.
All in all, children are taught to obey the adults who have dominion over them. The bible says to the children, "Honor thy mother and thy father", that thy days may be long...The word honor certainly means respect to the utmost. In Africa, the great proverb says it all,
"Children are the reward of life."
How Are Families Governed?
In all parts of the world there are rules and regulations that govern what we can and cannot do to and with our children. There are laws that define what is appropriate as well as inappropriate with the care, contact and provision for the growth and development of the children.
There are child welfare laws that protect children. There are also child abuse laws that protect children (supposedly) from the aggressors and perpetrators. Families do have a certain level of expectation for the children. If these are neglected or violated, families risk the possibility of having the child removed from their homes and placed in foster care.
Is this Called Uncontrolled Discipline?
In the beginning of this article, it was mentioned about the child who refused to obey the parent at such a young age. Looking on from the outside and seeing if it was really possible to make sense of some of what was being seen and heard. How is it that a child this young would or could have so much control over their young mother? What were the thoughts going on inside the mother's head in regards to raising her two girls? Did she see someone else raise their children in this manner? Did she have a role model for parenting? Then the all-magical question about how society expects that after you give birth, you automatically know what to do with a child in regards to childrearing practices.
What are some discipline strategies that are recommended to be used effectively with young preschool age children? How do parents hear about or read of these strategies? Does it make a difference if you are considered a single parent trying to raise two children under age five, and the father is not present in the home? Is there any evidence that single parents face more discipline or childrearing challenges than families who are married and living together?
What is this called when a very young child is disobedient, con-compliant and the family operates as if nothing can or should be done about this type of behavior. Comments such as "No", "Shut up mommy," "Leave me alone" "I hate you." Or even profanity and name calling become weapons of a child against a parent, even if the child is merely repeating what might have been said to him/her previously. "Go away you little twerp." Uncontrolled yes, because the child and adult are either out-of-control or there is no-control. Both are equally devastating for the family.
Is this Called Permissive Childrearing Practice?
Perhaps there will be disagreements about what this type of of behavior should be called. Where does the blame lie? The determination of permissiveness can be seen or defined through two eyes. Eye one- through the eyes of a child- "I can do what I want to do when I want to, regardless of my age, stage, interests or desires." "I don't have to listen to you or no one else. You can't make me do nothing." "I do as I please, and who is there to stop me?"
Eye two- through the eyes of the parent- "My child is so cute and adorable." "I know I shouldn't just let him/her do what they want to, but I can't help it because they are so cute at this age." "When she/he gets older, I am going to be stricter." " They are just being children- children need to test the waters of life." "How will they know what they can or can not do if they don't test the waters." "Do you remember when we were growing up, we didn't always do what our parents told us? Well these children are no different."
Permissive child rearing practices, not quite, but a case of- do you really know what your role as a parent is? Do you know the role of the child in a secure family ? Are you a hindrance or a strength to your child?
Is This Called Parental Immaturity?
Parental immaturity can be defined as making choices or decisions that are often inappropriate when it comes to children. Society expects parents to make wise decisions regardless of circumstances and conditions. Would we give our two year-old candy for all of his/her meals because that is all that the child wants? Do we know of healthy foods and what the child needs to help him/her grow to be healthy and physically happy?
What do we do when we say we love our children too much, but we can not stand to leave the child at any time with anyone? Will this child ever adjust to others or do we want to have separation anxiety all the way until the child formally enters school?
Or when we have a four year-old who is refusing to obey any rules and is in charge of the whole household, where does someone draw the line? What about this child having the knowledge to now "teach" the younger sibling to act just like she is doing? How does she gain that much power in a family at such a young age. Then, how is it that such a young child realize that each time she pushes her younger sister down, she still gains control and power over the entire household?
Is this Called "Lost and Stolen?"
Sitting by and looking in, it is difficult to attempt to make any comments about what is so visible. It is rather difficult not to intervene in a family's business without appearing as an intruder? Should you offer help to this young mother? Is the mother willing to accept and receive help? Or does this mother not feel that help is needed?
If it is such a bold step that is to be made, what would be the most critical action that could occur that could make a difference? Would modeling for the mother with the child be the most effective approach to use? Would offering help with giving the mother a break be part of the answer? Should this mother be recommended to join a karen-support group?
Is there other family support? What are the real underlying reasons as to why a mother would allow such a young child so much control and self-discipline? Somehow is the mother "lost" because she herself had her childhood "stolen" from her?
The answers lie somewhere to this confusing puzzle- but there are some real reasons as to why this family situation is the way it is- what do you think?