Parental PSA: You Are Not Always Right


Parenting Styles: You Don't Always Have To Be Right
Admit it: You don't have all the answers.

As parents, we often feel like we need to be right; that we need to have all of the correct answers and show our children that we know best. We have the expectation that when we're right, our children will certainly know it, and will definitely do what we want them to do ... all because we are right, right? Ugh. What a tangled web we weave.

This parental need to be right comes into play particularly when we are trying to hold boundaries. For example, we might tell our child that he must put his bike away at night because it could rain and then the bike will rust. We feel this is a good line of reasoning, and we think we are right about it. 

But sometimes this backfires. The need to be right when attempting to hold boundaries with our kids has the following detrimental effects:   

  1. It puts us in the position of having to defend our rightness. When we try to enforce a boundary with our kids based on the idea that our reasoning is right (and therefore the boundary should hold based on the correctness of the reasoning), it then puts us in the position of having to defend whether we are right in the first place. It implies that the validity of the boundary depends upon whether we are right or not. But unfortunately for us, what is right and what is wrong is always debatable, and herein lies the problem. Once the underlying premise had been called into question, so goes the boundary with it. So if it is not going to rain and therefore the bike won't rust, does the child still really need to put the bike away?
  2. It sets us up for an argument. Once we as parents have established that a boundary should be upheld due the rightness of some concept, then let the arguments begin. Since we have left ourselves open to the inevitable debate about how right we are, a challenge, or an argument may quickly follow. We easily could find ourselves arguing over arbitrary facts rather than achieving anything close to what we were after when we tried to set the boundary in the first place. Mission not accomplished. In the case of rightness around the bike example, debates might look like: how many nights a year it really rains, what the weather forecast is, and is the bike really made of anything that will actually rust?
  3. It models the need to be right — and our child may adopt the tactic. Ouch. Kids tend to copy their parents; we are their best teachers. So when we need to be right, then they will most likely follow suit. Now we are set up for some epic arguments where no one is willing to back down, because both parties must be right and hence the other party must be wrong. Generally this will not be fruitful. 

So what is the trick here?  Well, this is the part that is not so easy! 

The trick is letting go of the need for our kids to "know" we are right. We have to be OK with them thinking we are wrong, stupid, old-fashioned, or whatever other opinion they may have about us. This is harder than it seems, because at some level we all want our kids to like and respect us, to look up to us, to know that we know what is best for them, and we want them to act accordingly. Can you overcome this desire for your child's admiration in order to set the boundaries that are appropriate for them and the whole family? Easier said than done, but definitely possible!

And here is the bonus. Holding boundaries is so much easier once we let go of needing to be right about them.  Voila!  So it might rain or it might not, and the bike might rust or it might not, either way the child still has to put the bike away because right or wrong, that is the boundary!  Mission accomplished.

Do you believe this? Do you think I am right about not needing to be right? I would love to hear your perspective below in the comments section below!

More on parenting styles from YourTango:

Article contributed by
Advanced Member

Leslie Ferris

Life Coach

Serving the parents of struggling tweens, teens, and young adults.

Location: Lake Zurich, IL
Credentials: ACC, ELI-MP, MBA
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