Establishing rules for children

As a parent, have you ever found yourself face to face with an angry child saying something like, “The other kids my age are allowed to, why can’t I”?

As a parent, have you ever found yourself face to face with an angry child saying something like, “The other kids my age are allowed to, why can’t I”?

If so, you’re far from alone. Why is it that parents have such different rules with their children?

As a child that can only be described as sheltered, this angry kid was usually me. I felt like other kids were allowed to do so much more than I was.

My curfew was always the earliest, I was only allowed to see movies as permitted by the age restrictions (such as I only watched 14A movies when I was 14), I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup until a late age, I could only drive one passenger in my car, the list goes on and on . . . so unfair right?

Well, with some maturity now under my belt, I feel differently about some of these examples, though not all.

In hindsight, some of the restrictions that my parents had on me influenced the types of people I could hang out with, which effectively managed to keep me out of trouble for the most part. How could I be the cool kid going out, smoking, and dating when I had to be home early and tell my parents where I was at all times?

Although restrictions like these are not insurmountable for a determined teen, they add up to make more and more barriers which would have made it difficult for me to lie or get past the parents without getting caught.

There were, however, always exceptions when I would effectively get away with doing things I wasn’t typically allowed to do; usually while at friend’s houses.

I can see how this could be frustrating to parents when you put so much effort into establishing rules and guidelines for your child, only to have them forfeited once your child enters someone else’s home.

You may have wondered, “what are some of these parents thinking allowing their children to do that?!” Well, parents, we all have different strategies and there will always be the very controlling and strict parents as well as the almost absent ones, and everything in between.

What do we do when a teen goes over to a friend’s house and comes home to share stories of the R-rated movie they watched, how late they stayed out, or how many kids were allowed over?

I have no idea.

You can’t punish your kid because it’s not their fault.

Despite how much we may want them to, we can’t realistically expect that they will leave or suggest a more age-appropriate movie.

It’s also pretty thrilling for the teen when this happens. It’s like taking a day off from a restrictive diet — it’s so freeing to do everything you know you’re not supposed to.

It feels a little wrong, you may quickly ponder the consequences, but ultimately you’re right in there having a blast.

What limited advice I can offer would include giving your kid a break, and unless the freedoms that this other parent allows are truly ridiculous, dangerous or in total conflict with your beliefs, try to be a bit flexible.

It’s not worth banning your kid from hanging out with the other child — that will only backfire on you. If it’s really bothering you, you may consider talking with the other parent, however this can be tricky because you don’t want to embarrass your teen in the process.

You can silently tell yourself that you were right when your child comes home and sleeps on the floor of your bedroom for a week because the R-rated movie scared them so badly.

We all parent differently.

Remember that you will probably be at a different spot on this continuum than other parents and it will be remarkable if your child magically befriends a child with similar parents to you.

Don’t worry.

You’re child will turn out just fine. Keep in mind that there may be some battles worth reconsidering periodically (such as smaller hang-ups like when to wear makeup), and some worth sticking to (safety related ones): compromise never hurt anyone.

As the parent, it’s your house, your rules ­— but they won’t always be in your house.

Positive Parenting appears every week in LIFE. This week’s column was written by Jessica Hartel with Family Services of Central Alberta. Hartel can be reached by calling 403-343-6400 or www.fsca.ca.

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