Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Equality Is Overrated!

Like all good organizations, families need a hierarchy.  Why?  Because when there is no chain of command, decisions are difficult, arguments are frequent, and the lack of efficiency can result in total frustration.

Have you ever kicked an ant hill?  I am not condoning this behavior but for illustration sake, you can visualize the ants all begin to run in every direction and total chaos results.  Some families replicate this within the walls of their home.  These families are characterized by parents who have not established any authority with their children.  Children within these families view themselves as in charge. Siblings battle for domination of their wants and needs over the wants and needs of brothers or sisters.

I have worked with parents who feed into this disorganized family dynamic by trying to espouse the philosophy that all children are equal within the family.  This should not be the case, and I will tell you why.  Unless your children are multiples, children have age differences, which should be respected.  A younger child should not be given all of the privileges of an older child, but the older child should understand that he/she shoulders more responsibility.  Establishing a pattern like this for your family results in many benefits.  Here are just a few:

  • Older children feel valued and special when they are granted privileges that younger children do not have.
  • Older children can help monitor media messages and other inappropriate content to aid the parents in protecting younger siblings.
  • Younger children learn the powerful lesson of delayed gratification.  If an older child is allowed to walk to the store, the younger child anticipates the day that he/she is allowed to do the same.
  • Older children are more developmentally prepared to handle items that require self-discipline. (cell phones or MP-3 players)
I have worked with parents who believe it was best for their children to give them everything equally, even though they were a few years apart.  This results in a loss of opportunity for the parents to teach the powerful lessons about hierarchy.  It also results in the siblings being more competitive with one another because they are trying to understand where they "rank" in regards to how their parents feel about them.  Siblings are inherently competitive with each other in an effort to garner their parents attention.  By treating age different siblings as total equals, the older child feels disrespected and is determined to undermine the younger sibling at every turn in order to establish their dominance.  And the younger sibling views him/her self as an equal to the older child, and therefore willing to strive to dominate in situations.This is a lose/lose pattern for family harmony.

Think about your family's dynamic.  Have you established a hierarchy?  Are you teaching the powerful lessons about delayed gratification and anticipation?  If not, make some changes.  Look at bedtimes or neighborhood boundaries or electronics.  Make sure you are sending the important message that with privilege comes responsibility through extra chores and expectations.  And know that you are helping to build a brighter future for all the members of your household, instead of inhabiting a disorganized, chaotic household.


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