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longgone's avatar

To what extent do you manage children's lives?

Asked by longgone (17090points) January 14th, 2015

On another thread, a jelly mentioned that s/he leaves most decisions up to their child, unless doing so may affect health/safety of said child. Paraphrasing, can’t remember the exact words.

To what extent is this true for you? Would you attempt to force a child to, for example…

* ... say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’
* ... loan a toy to someone else
* ... tidy her room
* ... fake gratitude when receiving a present
* ... address adults with their proper titles
* ... zip up his coat
* ... do homework
* ... clear her plate/eat greens
* ... go to bed at a set time
* ... wear a helmet when riding a bike
* ... hold your hand while near busy streets

For the purposes of this question, our imaginary child is about seven, but feel free to include any other points you deem relevant.

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22 Answers

Cruiser's avatar

If you live a good life, work hard at home and at work, interact with your community in a positive way, eat healthy, play fair and hard….you won’t have to “force” your kid to do anything as you are leading by example and they surely will follow your lead. The only real work there involved then is undoing all the crap they are exposed to by their friends, schoolmates and the internet.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

My experience with a child of that age is the ‘management’ is all in our minds. I’m thinking back to when my children were young and for the most part (I think) I was fairly easy going about rules and regulations. So they had a bedtime, but they could read in bed. If they didn’t want to eat their food, that was fine. I don’t recall making them sit there and forcing them to eat anything.

However, I do recall buying my daughter a yellow poncho to wear over her uniform if it rained. Unbeknown to me, she HATED that poncho. However, she was a good kid who liked to do the right thing, so she wore it in my presence and took it off as soon as I couldn’t see. I found this out later.

Similarly, my son was very musical and was chosen to be in the school band. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to do it during a second year, but I really felt he should. During the second year of his membership, we dropped him off for practice every Friday and he practiced in his bedroom when we nagged. I had cause to phone the school about when band events were on only to be told, he wasn’t in the band and had not been to band practice since the beginning of term. He would walk off carrying his clarinet and waving, then go and play soccer with his mates.

I have learned, while I may think I can manage my kids, once they reach the age where they have autonomy, if you’ve raised them as independent human beings, they will find ways to do what they think is right for them.

I don’t think we should force our children to do anything unless it’s a real safety issue.

Dutchess_III's avatar

First of all, there is a difference between “forcing” and “teaching.” The things you listed are things that are taught, and at different times in their lives.

I’d teach a kid how to properly clean their room, but after the age of 7 or so, I let them decided if they wanted to live in a clean room or a messy room.

Of course I taught them manners when they receive a present, even if they don’t like it.

Not sure exactly what you mean addressing adults by “proper titles.”

As toddlers I’d zip up their coats, but when they got old enough to zip their own coats it was up to them.

Oddly, I never had any trouble with homework. Perhaps because I would help them.

Never made my kids clear their plates or eat anything they didn’t want.

Yes, they went to be at set times until high school. We had a whole bedtime routine for years.

Never made my kids wear a helmet while riding a bike.

Yes, they held my hand near any street until they were old enough to cross by themselves.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I once had a kid in my daycare who walked to a school near by. One cold, snowy day he said he didn’t want to wear his coat to walk to school. I said, “I don’t care, but you have to take it with you.”
It was NOT the reaction he expected! Probably his parents would have thrown a fit over such a statement.
So, I watched him go from the peep hole in the door where he couldn’t see me. He looked back a couple of times to see if I was reacting yet. He got as far as the next door neighbor’s drive way before he put on his coat.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Could you supply a link for the question you referred to.

hominid's avatar

Out of your list…
– tidy her room
– do homework
– go to bed at a set time
– wear a helmet when riding a bike
– hold your hand while near busy streets (* EDIT: busy parking lot)

There are also expectations that we have for each child – and they change as they get older. There are responsibilities they have (vacuuming the house, doing dishes) that are important for keeping our house functioning properly.

But I’m not sure if the title of your question exactly matches the details. Managing children’s lives doesn’t necessarily = having expectations and providing developmentally-appropriate responsibility. Many of the parents I know seem to manage their childrens’ lives in that they schedule every single moment of their lives – and even take ownership of their social lives. My children are quite independent at this point. My 6 and 9 year-old boys leave the house after school and play in the woods/stream/neighborhood with the neighborhood boys until dinner most weekdays. My daughter is 12 and is very academic. She is far more serious and responsible (A+ student who tutors elementary students) than I have ever been. She’s smarter (and better) than me in every way.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@hominid is a good dad!

I just had to “force” Zoey to let me put her pants on. It was like trying to trim an angry cat’s toe nails.

longgone's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit and @Cruiser Thank you, GAs!

@Dutchess_III I’d love to. I’ve been searching, will include the link when I’ve found it. EDIT: Here you go!

@hominid Maybe it does not, but then, “having expectations and providing developmentally-appropriate responsibility” does not equal “forcing”, does it? I used that term on purpose, to highlight the kind of management I’m talking about. If you give your children the responsibility of tidying their rooms, aren’t you – by definition – not managing, and thus not “forcing” them to tidy up? Maybe I’m misunderstanding you here? If so, please clarify.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I was my question! I can’t find where someone said they leave most decisions up to their kids….?

longgone's avatar

^ The link should take you to the quip. I paraphrased quite a bit, I’ve discovered…I may have exaggerated the jelly’s point.

And, yes :]

hominid's avatar

@longgone – I’m probably just hung up on a regional use (here in our town) of “managing”. I live in an upper-middle class town, and you’d be shocked at how managed these kids lives are. Their parents have picked their schools (ivy league colleges) usually by kindergarten or first grade. And they plan every activity they will engage in as a stepping stone or resume builder. It’s insane.

I suppose you’re right. But in a way, they have little choice in some things. To give them responsibilities doesn’t necessarily mean they always welcome those opportunities with a smile. But they know that nobody is going to do it for them, and we can’t proceed without getting stuff done. For example, we won’t have time to read books in bed unless we get ready for bed at a reasonable time. We can’t go enjoy the day on Saturday until they’ve vacuumed the house. We certainly can’t eat dinner if they haven’t emptied the dishwasher. These are things that need to happen, and everyone in the house needs to contribute.

longgone's avatar

@hominid Ah. You’re right in that “managing” is a term which may lead people to expect a very different question. That’ll teach them to read my details or not! ~

As to your second paragraph, I agree. We may need to make a distinction between being forced, and parents forcing.

Dutchess_III's avatar

My 7 year old grand son just went outside with my husband to help him unload the car. It’s fecking freezing and he didn’t wear his coat. ((( shrugs shoulders. )))

longgone's avatar

^ It always confuses me when parents/grandparents/guardians know exactly how many layers children should be wearing. I know they mean well, but – we accept that adults feel the cold very differently, don’t we?

Clearing one’s plate is a similar issue, in my opinion. A while ago, I learned that a child’s stomach is as big as a balled fist of that same child. Informed my grandma of this fact right away, as she is prone to coax children to eat a set amount.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Checked. They both have on one layer of clothes and neither has their shoes on and one doesn’t have her socks on!

funkdaddy's avatar

Reading your list my initial reaction was an adamant yes to the whole thing, except titles for adults. But I have a 2-year-old, so it’s really a different ball game at this point than it will be at 7. Right now we’re just getting to where she’ll understand explanations of some of the things, before we were just trying to make things happen by force of habit. You get your shoes, then you put them on, then you get your coat, then you zip it up, so we can go to school. We’ve been explaining why since before she could talk, but she’s really understanding in the last 6 months or so.

Right now, we do your whole list and try to guide her to do them herself, some she loves (tidying her room) some she hates (going to bed at any time)... some are big deals (holding hands) and some aren’t (interacting with others). Most we can teach with some sort of game to try and make it less force and more play.

By 7 I can’t imagine forcing any of them except interacting with people outside the immediate family, because I think that’s where those habits are still forming. I don’t know if this would be “managing” or not. As @hominid mentioned, that feels appropriate to continue teaching at that age. Please and thank you aren’t complicated, but gratitude for a gift you’re not thrilled with can be. Maybe bed time is enforced as well? At what age do you learn to love sleep instead of hate it? Right now our bed time ritual is about an hour and a half. At 7 I would imagine we’ll have a quiet time she’ll need to be in her room, but it seems impossible to know for sure.

(sorry for the pondering tangent)

I’m not sure, but the rest seem more like she’ll understand the reasoning behind the decision, so that should be explained rather than forced or managed. Guide her to the way I’d do it, and occasionally let her try it another way.

I think the early school years are probably the only time you have all your options available as a parent, so are probably really important. Before then you’re mainly filling up the amazing sponge in front of you, and by the time they’re teens, you’re pretty much a coach trying to keep a good relationship if you want them to listen. Those middle years it seems like they can understand most of what’s coming their way and you’re still a/the primary source.

I can’t wait to see what she’ll be like then.

jca's avatar

This topic arose originally because we were discussing the merits and pitfalls of making a child give a hug if they don’t want to. @Dutchess_III asked if that was ok.

To me, I would never ask my daughter to hug someone, even a close relative. She does what she wants to, and she’s pretty appropriate. If close relatives reach out for a hug, she will usually reciprocate. Other people, she may hug or she may say goodbye or hello, depending on the situation.

Other than that, I will “manage” her life by things like reminding her to thank someone. I’m pretty laid back except when it comes to her health and safety – things like child seats, of course, are not optional. Things like showers, brushing teeth, brushing hair when we go out, not running in a parking lot (which she does not do but I’m just giving an example). Telling her to put her coat on when we’re going out.

If she wants dessert, she has to eat some logical amount of her dinner first. If I determine she barely touched it, I will encourage her to eat 3 more bites or something like that. I do that because I know she will definitely want dessert, and there will definitely be “room” for dessert, so first, the regular food. The more regular food she eats, she may only have 3 bites of dessert and then be full.

If she wants to do something like take a certain toy to school, I’ll let her but will remind her that she may lose it, will have to keep track of it, and it might be messed up by the other kids. If she really wants to, she can be my guest.

The other day I kind of got into it with my mom (and was considering asking a question about it) when my mom said my daughter needs to wear a hat. I said she won’t wear it and if I try to make her, she will take it off as soon as she is able. My mom said “well, if you can’t make her do something when she is 7, what will happen when she is 14?” Then I took my daughter to a dance recital rehearsal and I observed that of the 7 girls who were walking out at the same time, zero had on a hat! I have not brought it up with my mom again, because I don’t feel like arguing about it, but I did make a note that apparently the other moms cannot “make” their daughters wear hats either. Really, when it’s so cold like it is now, we only go from the house to the car, from the car to the school, etc. Outside for maybe only a few minutes at a time, anyway.

Stinley's avatar

I ask my children to be polite and have good manners, so the list contains actions that I do manage for them. Other actions I leave up to them – like the coat zipped or open. My daughter rarely zips up a hoodie or coat but if she complains that’s she’s cold I will tell her to zip them up and make her do it because her complaints are annoying and her actions could jeopardise our outdoor time.

I think that it’s my job as a parent to teach my children high standards of behaviour so that they know. If they’ve never been taught to say thank you to a host/hostess then that person might be upset by their behaviour.

jca's avatar

Definitely saying thank you is important and I will remind my daughter to do so when she’s given something. Also, I forgot to add to my post above that I try to teach my daughter table manners. I think that’s important and my mom spent lots of time teaching me how to eat properly, correct fork, napkin on lap, etc.

I think it’s hard to quantify parenting, as lots of situations are based on circumstances and are not strictly black and white.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Working with Zoey as we speak to say “Please,” and otherwise communicate clearly. Sometimes she does, sometimes she doesn’t. Well, she’s only 14 months old.
It’s interesting how they absolutely know, at that age, what you expect, and they just choose not to do it.
The last two days Zoes and I have been going through her video list (mostly of the twins) and I’m teaching her to say “Yes (or nod)” or “No (shake).” I’ll put my cursor on “Tootles” and ask, “Do you want “Tootles?” Sometimes she’ll shake her head and go “Uh uh.” I’ll repeat, “No. OK.”
Other times I’ll land on, say, “Dancing” and she’ll point and grunt or squeal. I know it means yes, but I’m not going to respond to grunting, so I’ll say, “No? OK.” And go on.
However, there is one video, of her older sister on a swing, and when I highlight it and say, “Ready? (what I’ve named the video)” every single time she will give her head a definite and hard nod “YES!” It’s like her head goes into free fall and slams on to her chest! LOL! Making good headway (ha ha) anyway.

cookieman's avatar

Given that these answers are age-dependent…

Would you attempt to force a child to, for example…

* ... say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’
YES. Basic manners.

* ... loan a toy to someone else
NO. But sharing in general is encouraged.

* ... tidy her room
NO. I taught this one by example. Thankfully, she caught on.

* ... fake gratitude when receiving a present
KIND OF. She at least has to say ‘thank you’.

* ... address adults with their proper titles
NO. She addresses them however the adult wishes to be addressed.

* ... zip up his coat
NO. I don’t fight that battle.

* ... do homework
NO. This is another one learned by example. We first did homework together and made it fun. She gets more and more control as years go on. Now she does it all herself with occasional help. We also never separated “school work” from day to day life. We’re all always learning stuff.

* ... clear her plate/eat greens
NO. When you’re full, stop eating.

* ... go to bed at a set time
NO. When you’re tired, go to sleep.

* ... wear a helmet when riding a bike
YES. Basic safety.

* ... hold your hand while near busy streets
YES. When younger.

She’s twelve now and gets more and more autonomy as we go along. I don’t want her to do as I say just for the hell of it. She should think for herself — within reason.

I’ve told her for years, “If someone (including me) tells you the sky is blue… go outside and look.”
———-

Also, I agree with @Dutchess_III. “Teaching” is the way to go, not “forcing”.

The only thing I ever “forced” my daughter to do was take medicine. She hates it and would fight tooth and nail. Even the flavored liquids. That was simply syringed in the mouth. We’re not debating that one.

Dutchess_III's avatar

As you said, “age dependent.” I don’t force Zoey to say please and thank you. I strongly encourage her to by delaying gratification for a bit. Often she doesn’t ever say it, but if she does, the response is immediate and positive. Other times I’ll say it for her.

When they get older, 2 or so, I would withhold all together until they use their manners. But I’m also secure in the knowledge that they know what I want.

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