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Maybe You Should Treat Your Children Like Employees

Does raising competent adults require being your children’s boss now?

What kind of parent to be is an enduring issue for most of us — especially if you’ve experienced your child declaring, “You are not the boss of me!” or asking you to pour a glass of milk or make his bed when he is perfectly able to do so himself.

Being permissive and lenient can lead to children who don’t obey, and being too strict like tiger moms may have repercussions. A study reported in Journal of Adolescence , “Don’t trust anyone over 30: Parental legitimacy as a mediator between parenting style and changes in delinquent behavior over time,” suggests that controlling parents are more likely to raise delinquent kids .

Web MD defines the most common parenting styles : authoritative (showing discipline but also warmth), authoritarian (showing strong discipline but no warmth), or permissive parents (showing lots of warmth but no discipline.)

In her latest book, I Am So The Boss of You: An 8-Step Guide to Giving Your Family the “Business,” parenting author and humorist Kathy Buckworth focuses her attention on a systematic and bureaucratic approach: leading your family as if it were a corporation with mom in charge. Sound too rigid to you?

Buckworth feels parents today have a specific problem: mistakenly giving their children (of any age) more leeway and fewer rules in attempts to give them empowering choices. She claims that this method creates a generation of workers who have “traded in their overprotective mommies for frustrated supervisors.” Buckworth insists that raising competent adults requires being the children’s boss now .

Does this method fall into the category of “over-controlling parent?” Buckworth claims that an in-charge parent restores the pecking order and preps kids to become capable adults fit for the workplace. She clarifies her position, “Do I always treat my children like employees? Of course not — they’re children, and human as well. Do I expect things to run as smoothly as possible and to make my kids accountable, responsible and ultimately successful? I do.” I suspect Buckworth hovers on the line between being an authoritative and an authoritarian parent.

From Pushover Parent to Head of Household

So, how do you go from being a democratic parent, maybe an overly permissive parent, to being in charge? Act like the boss! Buckworth has eight steps to reposition parents as the undeniable leaders of capable kids without becoming helicopter parents. Here are her eight simple steps:

  1. Believe that there should be a boss in your family (and that You. Are. It.). – Buckworth reinforces that maintaining boundaries and rules (not catering to a child’s immediate wants), saves energy and time and raises humble children.
  2. Know what you want to achieve. – According to Buckworth, every family, like every corporation, has a “brand.” Are you a family with nutrition and organic food at the top of your priority list? Are you a family that stresses world travel as the key to raising globally aware children? Establishing your family’s brand and mission statement is key in achieving goals.
  3. Establish clear expectations. For everyone. – Every family must have an orderly chain of command for a tight ship. Who mows the lawn, clears the table? And, does failing to accomplish these chores put your children on probation? Does going above and beyond result in a promotion?
  4. Set boundaries. – Households and offices alike swim with complaints — “The coffee is awful on this floor,” an employee might say, while your child may declare, “This dinner sucks!” Buckworth’s solution? Set boundaries; remind your subordinates that you are the boss.
  5. Know (and respect) your own limits. – Get financially organized. Set budgets — for the kids, for you, and for the entire family. And, allowances for completing chores help kids learn the real-world concept of working for money. Meeting financial goals not only keeps your home in shape, but also preps your children to learn how to manage their own financial well-being later in life.
  6. Manage your message. – Understand how to market your family’s “PR,” which is simply talking about the comings and goings of your family in front of others — especially if they involve accomplishments.
  7. Know when you need help. – Employ tutors, babysitters, cleaning staff, etc. They are invaluable consultants to your family.
  8. Have fun with it. – Off-sites, retreats and staff outings in the corporate world translate to family life well: camping trips, miniature golf excursions, for instance. Having fun with your family shows your children that you are not only a leader, but a dedicated mentor, too.

Does Buckworth’s style seem too harsh? Or, will you incorporate some of her strategies in your parenting?

Related: Can Mothers with Different Parenting Styles Remain Friends? and When Mothering Becomes Smothering-Part 2

Copyright @ 2013 by Susan Newman