A parent can be many things to their children – legal defence, doctor, teacher – but one personality we would do well to avoid is the Drill Sergeant.
We can be the Drill Sergeant when we come round for living quarters inspection, when we bawl them out for chores that haven’t been done, when we take the approach that they need to be “toughened up” for the big bad world. We can be the Drill Sergeant when we hold on to the belief that children need to earn respect.
The truth is, we don’t need to bark orders at them. Children don’t need to earn our respect. If parents treat children with respect right from Day One the children will respond to it. Parents don’t need to toughen children up for the battleground of life. Children will find out for themselves soon enough that life can be tough, and when they do, they will know that the family home is the safe haven they can fall back in to.
There are many areas that parents can fall into the trap of assuming the role of the Drill Sergeant, for example:
Housekeeping, Homework, And Hard Cash
Parents get quite wound up when they feel that their child is not pulling their weight when it comes to housekeeping. To a certain degree, this is understandable when it comes to the house in general. Parents have every right to expect their children to tidy up after themselves – pick toys up off the ground, put shoes away, hang coats up.
The difficulty arises over the bedroom.
Problems can be avoided very easily. Is the house ours and the child is staying in one of our rooms? Or is the house the family home and the bedroom is theirs? If we have opted for the first, then we can by all means clamp down – but we are aware that it might well create tension. If we have decided on the latter, then let them be. It’s their bedroom, let them do what they want with it. Do they want to decorate it? Let them decorate it. Are they tidy or untidy? That’s up to them, and it’s up to us to try our best to put up with it. Keep the door shut if it upsets us too much. And refrain from such statements as, “Well if you were tidier you might not lose things!” That’s the Drill Sergeant coming out.
And, also…Keep Out! Privacy is something we all have a right to. If we want to teach our children anything, teach them that: We Respect Your Privacy. Access to the bedroom is by invitation only. Just because we might allow full access to our bedroom doesn’t make it a house rule. And the likelihood is, we don’t even allow that.
From the earliest opportunity, let them know that homework is their responsibility. It is between the child and the teacher. And let them do their homework their way. They will face the consequences of what they do. The parent’s desire to help stretches as far as making the home environment as stress-free and comfortable as possible, so that homework can be accomplished with relative ease. We are there if need be, but only to remain in the background giving comfort and support, and to ease the anxiety of getting the work done.
Problems arise in a home when parents make a big issue out of money. We remind the children that they ought to be glad they have a roof over their head. We come out with such time-worn expressions as, “What, do you think money grows on trees. Do I look like I am made of money?” If children want something we can’t afford just yet, or we feel they have had sufficient for the time being, we can simply say so. “I can see you really like the look of that, you really wish you could have it. The problem is…”
At a time that we see fit – perhaps when they start school – we can begin to give them some pocket-money. We can stipulate the sort of things that need to be bought with that money and allow them to do what they want with the rest – spend it, or save it. If they spend it and lament it, they don’t need to hear a lecture about frugality and thriftiness. We trust that they will have learned some lessons, even if it takes several attempts to do so. If it seems apparent that their pocket-money is being stretched, perhaps a discussion can be had, and some re-negotiation made.
Children don’t need to be sent out to work before they are of age. They’ll find out soon enough about going out to work – they can observe their parents doing just that.
There really is no place for the Drill Sergeant in a parent’s role, and in our child’s home life. We believe in nurturing a strong sense of self-worth and self-esteem, an understanding of their own feelings, a gentle spirit – these are qualities that will help children weather the storms of life. It is a parent’s responsibility to instill these qualities in their children in as kind and loving a way as possible.