In some families, parents and kids are considered equal. In others, no way is that OK.
- Parker Barry
At our frequent and large extended family gatherings, once the food is ready, parents jump to the line first to prepare plates for their kids — who have usually spent the last hour running around playing with cousins peppered with bouts of reminding us parents that they are HUNGRY! By feeding them first we’re honoring their needs, which they can’t yet suppress for as long as we adults can, and we’re making it possible for us to (maybe) get to sit down and enjoy eating with minimal interruption.
My dad always comments on how different that situation is from when he was a kid. At his family gatherings, kids ate last, taking whatever was left after the adults had their fill. It was a different time, a different culture — a culture of poverty that knew adults needed food to have energy to work. Kids were not treated as equals by any means, and their opinions were given even less weight than their basic needs were.
Kids and adults: equal or not?
Many parents don’t relate to their children as equals, viewing a parent’s role primarily of as that of a teacher and disciplinarian. Religious traditions often mandate that children honor their parents. Kids, many parents believe, have to learn to respect authority, be that the authority of a teacher or a parent. Kids act impulsively, their frontal lobes not being fully developed until their early twenties, so adults need to be involved in guiding them, helping with decisions and enforcing rules to keep them safe. They are setting their kids up for the real world.
In other families, that dynamic has shifted. Some families strive to treat kids as equals. Others go so far as to put their kids ahead of the adults in the equation, sometimes seeing this as investing in the future by sacrificing for their kids. They believe they are setting their kids up for the future with all the advantages they can muster, taking special care to ensure kids know they are empowered.
Those tough moments
Sometimes, there’s nothing noble about parenting at all, especially when dealing with those babies who just won’t sleep and parents are too exhausted to continue the give-and-take of egalitarian parenting, the focus of preparing kids for the real world or the planning involved with giving them the best future. That’s when parents just need a few minutes to sit back and laugh at the relatable story of “Go the F—k to Sleep.”
How about you? Do you treat your kids as equals?