Friday, June 4, 2010

Our House

It's considered a parental right to say "My house, My rules." "If you live in my house you have to follow my rules." No choice, not a request, no room for discussion. Actually, there is an implied choice, "Follow my rules or leave my house." This week we learned that a teen we know was making that choice, the choice not to return home. The parent was angry, frustrated and sad. And yet the parent wasn't going to change positions and when the teen came home the punishment would be spending the summer with the non-custodial parent. Which only made the teen less inclined to return home.

Problem teen? Not from my perspective. I find this particular teen to be smart and thoughtful, creative and compassionate. Problem parent would be more accurate. A parent who is more concerned that the child is missing classes and failing school than about the child ending up living in danger on the street. A parent who has failed to create a relationship of trust with their child, so the child doesn't trust that the parent would keep any agreement or compromise that might be worked out so the child may feel safe returning home.

Are rules more important than children? What is more important to you than your child? Most of us will quickly give the correct answer and say,"nothing is more important than my child!" with a hint of self-righteousness, tinged w/ indignation that anyone would dare suggest other wise. That may be the "correct answer" but is it the truth? What would your child say is more important than she or he is? The truth is in your child's perspective, how they feel, not in correct answers.

What is more important than my child? Is it:

what others think of my child, my parenting, or my family?
having a clean house?
my child doing chores?
good grades?
completed homework?
compliant behavior?
attending church?
sleeping through the night?
computer games?
money, a job, or having nice things?
eating whole foods?
your child's weight?

What rules, expectations, ideals of how life should be, or personal values do you have that come between you and your child? What causes conflict or breaks down the relationship and trust between you and your child? What are you holding onto that isn't helping you understand who your child really is or who they are becoming?

What would happen if you let go? Choose one thing that is presently causing conflict between you and your child and think about what would happen if you let go. Do you spend every night fighting with your child about homework? What would happen if you didn't? You let go of all judgments and expectations (yours and the schools) surrounding homework. Your child might choose not to do his homework. Is that the end of the world? You child might choose to do homework on his own because he wants to pass the class. You could tell the teacher that homework was causing damage to your family's relationships and your child will not be required to complete homework any longer. There are many options. If you take the time to discuss the situation with your child you may be surprised to find your child has some great ideas on how to resolve the stress. However, that won't happen if your child is angry with you and hurt and feeling frustrated with school and doesn't trust you to listen to his ideas or respond compassionately to his feelings.

Do you fight about a messy bedroom? If it's your child's room, her only personal space in the entire house (provided she has her own room, it may even be the only corner she has) why is it up to you how clean she keeps it? Perhaps she'd like to experiment with different levels of order until she finds what feels comfortable to her. Perhaps she would love to have some help in figuring out a better way to organize so that her room is easier to keep tidy. Perhaps she just doesn't care if her room is clean. Wouldn't you rather have a messy room with a happy, connected, thriving child living in it as opposed to a perfectly clean room with a sullen teen hiding behind the door she just slammed shut? Yes, there are a lot of places between those extremes, but for making a point extremes are more effective.

In our house we focus on the relationships. We live in our house, not my house, not the house owned and paid for by parents, but the house of a family learning and growing together. We don't have rules. We have discussions. We have flexibility. We have five people who are all still discovering who they are and what they love to do best. We have respect. We have trust. We have values and principals and beliefs, but even those are subject to change as we continue to learn and grow.

Welcome to Our House.


  1. I lived something similar, I ran away from home at 14, with a black eye from my stepdad and my mom not believing me.

    Then a few years later I promptly moved out of my dad's house at 18.

    I will not do to my children what was done to me.
    I hate the power trip, my house my rules, I just want to say fuck you!

    Can I say that here?

  2. Thank you Jenna! You made me cry!

  3. Nice, Jenna. Thoughtful use of rules and their absolute abuse of power by parents who feel they need them to *rule* their homes.

    I can only hope the parents who're loosing their teen read this post and consider their uncompromising position.

  4. Yes Stephanie, you can say that here :).

    Thank you to everyone for your feedback and comments! I'm finding that blogging is really a great outlet for me and it's cool to know that what I write is being read, and appreciated.

    For the record, I do try and blog when my children are asleep or engaged in some activity because I don't want them to feel that this blog is more important than they are...

  5. Nice! I love that people are talking about these things.

    Here's Christine Kane's article: You might need to become an imperfectionist if.