Monday, May 7, 2012

#127 / You're Not The Boss Of Me

Parents who are attempting to provide effective parental supervision and guidance of young children (a basic requirement for any sane and responsible family life) meet the following claim from the children at some rather early point in the typical trajectory of child development: “You’re not the boss of me.”

This happened to me, personally, with my own children. It turns out that there is even a book about it.

At the moment that a parent first hears one of his or her children make this claim, the statement tends to sound like an outrageous denial of one of the essential truths of parenthood.

Oh yes I am!

Looking at the “you’re not the boss of me” claim from a wider perspective, and in later years, this assertion of individual independence is essentially correct. Such an understanding is the basis good personal relationships. And of of good politics.

In almost any context, it’s not about being the “boss.”

Thanks, Sonya! Thanks, Philips!


  1. It's not about being the boss. It's about rules and expectations of behavior that are necessary in any society, from a family to a community to a nation.

    Societies are defined by rules of behavior for members of the society. If a member refuses to follow the rules, he or she has three choices: work to change the rules, follow the existing rules, or find another society with rules that are more acceptable.

    In a family, rules are set and enforced by the parents. That's their job.

    While children are growing up, their options are restricted to obeying family rules or working with parents to change the rules. "John's parents let him do it!" is the usual appeal. It's up to parents to decide what if any rules can be changed as children grow up.

    Expressions of growing independence are both troublesome and joyous to parents. It's a delight (and a trial) to watch children grow up and a sense of independence is part of the process.

    However, as long as children live within the society of the family they are bound by the family's rules, and it is the obligation of the parents to enforce those rules and make their children know the consequences of disobeying.

    This is where parenting has largely broken down these days. So many parents want to be friends with their children. They are unwilling to strictly enforce the rules and follow through with the threatened and understood consequences of disobeying. So children learn to manipulate parents early on, knowing that the parent will not carry through with threatened punishment.

    The result ranges from public tantrums that make life miserable for everyone within earshot, to illegal activities such as the recent destruction of property at the Mission.

    While we are not the "boss" of our children, we do bear a heavy responsibility to guide their growth and learning to become responsible citizens in the wider society.


Thanks for your comment!