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)
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.