My children are one of the top priorities in my life, but that does not mean my children are at the center of it. I have other important responsibilities as a husband, son, brother, friend, employee, and neighbor.
Therefore, I cannot let my children run my household. It is not good for me, them, or all of the other people in my life.
It appears that many parents aim is to keep their kids as happy as much as possible. The reality is that what make your kid happy at a young age may not necessarily the best thing for them. The younger they are, the more focused they are on the immediate desire. This is where love needs to come in and trump short-term happiness.
Dave Ramsey uses a great analogy to make this point, “If your child really wanted to go stand in the middle of the highway, would you let them?” The obvious answer is no. Well what if they started screaming, and jumping up and down hysterically, would you cave and say OK? The obvious answer is still no. So why would we cave and let our children influence us with this behavior on more mundane day to day things such as watching a little more TV, staying up a little later, and having another cookie?
It’s tempting to want to make them happy all the time and avoid temper tantrums, but those actions are not loving because we know it’s not good for them. Some people call this tough love, but Dave Ramsey calls it just love. I agree.
Love is doing what’s best for those you care about, regardless of how hard it is or how unhappy it may appear to make your children. Be willing to say no to many of your children’s unhealthy desires and explain why.
Another reason why we cannot let our children run our households is that we need to make sure we invest in ourselves. We have many responsibilities in life, many beyond just our children. We need to have the energy, time, and skills necessary to fulfill those responsibilities and if we don’t invest and take care of ourselves we will fail in those areas. I like the term balance with priorities here. Put time for yourself on your calendar and stick to it. This could be time to go to the gym, a date night with the spouse, or even just catching up with an old friend on the phone.
It seems that parents also tend to over schedule their children in too many extracurricular activities. Then they are also responsible for driving them around to attend these activities. Many times this is multiple places every evening requiring 20-30-minute drive times each way. Over-scheduling our children isn’t good for them either. They crave unstructured play which gives their imagination and creativity a chance to run wild.
Try to limit their activities to 1-2 at most at any given time, and find some times throughout the year where they get a break from all activities. Try to find activities that are close to the house where they can walk or bike or it allows you enough time to run home and get dinner on the table.
We need more communities designed for all of us to be able to walk and bike to various places and have less dependency on cars. That gives our children more opportunity to learn responsibility, gives them more independence, gets them more exercise, and it also frees up us parents to take them everywhere in the car.
My wife and I strategically chose a house in a neighborhood where our children will be able to walk or bike to every school they’ll attend through high school. They can walk or bike to the library, four parks, the community civic center, the recreation center, the bakery, and dozens of their friends’ houses. This was not on accident.
They are very young now so we walk and bike them to those locations but soon they’ll be slowly allowed some independence and being to start venturing out on their own without needing us. This will liberate many hours of time for my wife and I to invest in other areas of our lives.
Consider moving to a location that is walking and biking friendly. Invest in family bikes and even a bike trailer for the little ones.
I absolutely love my children and they are near the top of my priority list in life. So don’t let your children’s lives dictate everything that goes on in your house.