At the Movies – Parental Guidance

I’m not sure how many times I have watched this movie, or at least listened to it, over this last year as Bookworm Beauty loves it.

Parental Guidance cover picA lighthearted approach is taken in this movie to enlighten the viewer to a much greater problem in our society today… over-parenting parents. The parents are consumed with their children. The feelings of their children are elevated to an insurmountable position in their lives and they ultimately exhaust themselves attempting to avoid the bruising of their little psyches. Parents do not provide needed correction, do not keep score during organized sports and let the children rule the roost with their outbursts.

It is just a movie… I get it… but yet I see this everywhere I go.

Parents negotiating with children at the grocery store is a constant occurrence, why can’t no just mean no? Parents often seem to be asking their kids to do something instead of telling them to. Don’t get me wrong, giving polite directives shows respect and politeness but our words say a lot about what isn’t said. When a parent asks a child, “will you please take out the trash?” or “would you please pick up your toys?” These are questions. What if the child responds with a “no,” – which is an appropriate response to a yes or no question?

   Billy Crystal’s best quote in Parental Guidance!

I also cringe when I hear parent’s finish their directives with an inquiring, “OK?” It often sounds like this… “we are not buying toys today, OK?” Do we really want to send the message to our children that we want or need them to agree with what we are saying or doing? What if they respond with, “no, that’s not OK”? These messages are simply confusing.

Personally, one of my biggest struggles is with saying, “I’m sorry.” It’s not a problem when I have actually done something to hurt or offend someone and need to apologize; it’s a problem when I say it as a preface to a statement I am making to my kids. “I’m sorry that you can’t watch a movie right now, you have not finished cleaning your room.” It sounds like I am still maintaining the boundary set forth about their room being clean before watching a movie, but why am I apologizing for having a boundary? Apologizing for a boundary minimizes its authority.

I started to really pay attention to these subtleties when I had teenagers in the house. I would hear myself say that I was sorry that they could not do something because something else was not completed. Then I started thinking about the fact that I am not sorry about that… it was the expectation put forth beforehand that she had chosen to avoid. I began saying – often – “I will not apologize for being your mom and having expectations.”

It was not an easy feat to change my vocabulary but the results were worth it. I removed the wishy-washy terms that in subtle ways undermined my authority. I wish I could say that everything was smooth sailing after doing so, but it wasn’t. It did, however, eliminate a lot of little conversation derailers that my teens were so good at. I was no longer in the defense position of these conversations because I was no longer opening everything up to discussion. I wasn’t militant either – it’s not in my nature – I just simply stopped offering explanations, I stopped apologizing and I stopped asking for their approval for my decisions.

I’m sure we could talk all day about the parents and kids in the grocery store, but what about you? Do you struggle with any wishy-washy terms with your kids?

Leave a Reply