“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother – which is the first commandment with a promise – so that
it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:1-3 NIV)
It’s Mother’s Day today. I am a bit late to post for it, as I couldn’t think of a theme to write on. Then I read Nicole’s post over at One Picky Chick, in which she lists ten reasons why she’s the meanest Mom (and wouldn’t change it) and I thought of the ways in which my parents set rules. The above Bible quote only popped up when I chose a memory verse for a Christian women’s group I’m a co-admin for. My parents are atheists, so they’ll probably not like it that I start a post honoring them with a Bible quote, but it’s fitting. This post isn’t focused specifically on my Mom, as my father was my primary caregiver, but I still want to say I definitely appreciate my Mom.
My parents weren’t perfect, of course. When I was in schema-focused psychotherapy and reading up on the things children need from their parents in their upbringing, I had negative comments on about everything mentioned. However, the last one was “realistic limits”. Though I had some negative experiences with those, most times my parents in fact provided me with good enough realistic limits.
My parents had some non-negotiable rules. School was pretty much the most important thing in life and always came first. We didn’t get to stay home from school unless we ran a fever, because, if we didn’t run a fever, we weren’t sick. Of course, there likely would’ve been exceptions to this rule, but at least it was clear that seeking an excuse to stay home in a slight tummy ache was not acceptable.
What rules like this taught me, is to be quite a rule-abiding person. I only learned in my teens to early twenties that you could actually get away with not doing your chores, but even now, I don’t like to break rules like this one. When I don’t do chores, it’s usually because I flat out forget.
On other rules, my parents were more flexible. When I was young, bedtime was bedtime. However, as I had trouble sleeping, my parents eventually relaxed this rule. I still had to go to bed at a certain time, but I didn’t have to go to sleep right away. Particularly once my sister had moved to a room of her own, this meant a lot less stress and less bothering of my sister and parents (at least at night).
I was an irritable child, but, thanks to my parents’ realistic limits, I didn’t become a defiant child. It also caused me to gradually learn self-determination. For example, the above example about bedtime taught me to regulate myself re sleep. I had my own rules about how much sleep I needed so when I needed to go to bed. I never slept in on school days.
When I think of what I’d do if I were a parent, I think of setting rules in a similar way that my parents did. Some things are non-negotiable and a child will just have to obey. When things are not that important and particularly the child isn’t a threat to themself or others (physically or psychologically), I’d be more flexible. My parents had a hard time with me sometimes, because, though I wasn’t openly defiant that much, I did have quite severe behavior problems. It must’ve been a tough balancing act between giving me too much room for self-determination and not allowing me to develop that sense of self-determination. I thank my parents for setting realistic limits.