I saw the quote that is the subtitle for this entry on a Fark discussion thread. It very succinctly sums up something I have felt for a very long time.
If you’ve never seen the show, "Gilmore Girls" is principally about a mother and her daughter, said daughter having been born when mother was all of 16. They behave more like siblings or best friends than they do mother and daughter. While it’s made to work in the fantasy land of television, in the Real World it’s not at all practical.
When I go grocery shopping or to a restaurant or any public place where there are likely to be children present, I see them: children who are "in charge". I grimace, inwardly, wondering why in God’s name any parent lets their child get away with such atrocious behaviour. I have NEVER had trouble like that with my two boys. I started wondering less when I realized that there are two popular prevailing methods for dealing with misbehaving children in today’s society: 1) ask them nicely to stop, and 2) beat them. Few parents these days seem to understand that somewhere in the middle lies success.
I decided to write this because I am so fond of the quote. But saying that children should be "treated as property" comes off as rather harsh, so I thought I’d explain. Remove emotion from the equation. Now remove personality. You essentially have a robot where you previously had a child. It’s a very EXPENSIVE robot, and it’s one-of-a-kind. You love it dearly and don’t want anything to happen to it. So you guard it with your very life. You lock it up at night, you keep it polished and oiled and you apply all software updates to it. Anyone who owns a "thing" of any sort understands the importance of taking care of that thing. Now add back in the personality. Now your robot can "think" and make decisions. So now you have to make rules. Rules are important to protect the robot from itself and from others, and they MUST be followed. I daresay most parents are with me up to this point, rules being different in every family.
But where it all seems, by my observation, to fall apart is with emotion. FEELINGS. No parent likes to see their child cry or upset. But children, by the very nature of their existence, lack wisdom. While it would be great if my children actually understood and agreed with every rule I make–and I go to lengths to see that they do–it is NOT mandatory. They abide, or else. Period. Some day they’ll appreciate it, just as I look back on my youth and appreciate my parents for what they did for me. I see the reasons now. They weren’t popular with my sister and me all the time, but we always knew they loved us. And we never considered them "friends", either! We loved it when they showed up to hear our concerts or watch our sporting events, but we didn’t want them at the dances or "playing" with us when we were with our friends. Now that we’re grown, our parents ARE "friends" of a special sort. The kind of Friend that tends to know you even better than you know yourself in a lot of ways. And that’s special. But it’s possible because they’re no longer authority figures. They are more "guides". I ask their advice frequently. I don’t always take it. But I value their input.
You can’t be both an effective authority figure AND a friend. If you try to be both, you MAY succeed at each to a degree, but you’ll never be anything close to effective at either.