When my son Mason was four he would ask me to do things. “Can I watch a movie? Can we go to the park? Can I ride my bike?” After his inquiries, I typically would consult my watch, the keeper of all activity. He has a couple of watches that he likes to wear. They might as well be in Egyptian, though, because he of course can’t tell time. Anyway, today he asked me if he could do something, I consulted my timepiece as usual and gave him my answer of “no” which he didn’t like. He then said, “Daddy, can you put on my watch?” I said, “sure.” He enjoys wearing a watch from time to time. As I was strapping on his Thomas the Train watch, he said, “Daddy, when you ask me something, I’ll look at my watch and tell you what to do.” Oh really? I’m sure one day he’ll also tell me that I look at my watch too much. He’ll be right.
His statement says a lot about children and their observance of power. Mason noticed that every time I looked at my watch I made a decision (small or large) that affected his life somehow. He reasoned that if he had a watch, he could do the same. This is not true, but what is true is that some kids have lots of power, even without a watch. Through tantrums, crying, and anger, children get their way and dictate what parents do. What children and teens often dictate is “let me have my way.”
Children and teens are about the business of getting their way. We all want that. The bad thing is that they don’t have the means or ability very often to make decisions that are in their best interests. That’s why they have parents and we are hopefully raising a better generation. (Spend some time at the mall and you may question how this is going.)
Parents often try to figure out their children and understand their behavior. There is a time and place for this and I am a huge advocate of it, but some things don’t require that much analysis. Directives like, “It’s time to go” or “Don’t touch that” require no explanation, especially to a young child. He or she must understand that some things just have to be done and they have to be done when you (the parent) say so. This helps them observe who is in charge whether you’re wearing a watch or not.