Murray Goldberg from The Goldbergs
Fatherly Forum

My House Isn’t A Democracy, It’s A Benevolent Dictatorship

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Why is it now considered abusive for a parent to put their foot down and let their children know who is in charge of the household?

“It Ain’t What You Do, It’s The Way That You Do It.”

My household is not a democracy, as you can digest from the many rules I made for our household. I’m in charge, but to be a leader, you have to lead well. Leading well requires letting go of the ego to lead for selfish reasons.

It’s like the time my daughter told me I was not the boss of her. And I set her straight — she’s absolutely right, I’m not her boss. But I’m her father and therefore responsible for anything she does, especially the things that can harm her or others. Or property. So I will have to put my foot down and tell them something is off-limits because I will have to bear the consequences of their actions.

I also take parenting seriously. I know that I have a limited time to teach my children how to become independent and productive members of society. So I have to correct them in what they do or say when I can see the propensity for social failure.

For instance, my daughter has a tendency to hate things. Like hating certain foods. She loves pasta, but she hates sauce. Drove my wife batshit, but I just told my daughter she didn’t know what hate was. It’s fine if she disliked something, but you cannot hate types of food. You can have a preference for some food and dislike other food, but hate is too vehement an expression. And if you use this verb in relation to food, you’ll end up not being taken seriously. Because words have value, and she just devalued ‘hate.’

I know that I have a limited time to teach my children how to become independent and productive members of society.

I was abused as a child, but I know that children need discipline and structure and rules in order to feel safe. I know that strict parenting rarely succeeds, but that you can be firm and kind at the same time. I’m aware that self-discipline is an important skill if you want to succeed in life, so I explained to my children the notion of Rights, Duties, and Privileges.

By linking their privileges to their duties, I can positively enforce discipline without punishment. The punishment is the loss of (part of) their privileges, which they can earn back by doing their duties. Which is kind of how things work in the real world, so I can give them discipline while also furthering their education and fostering their independence.

So, while my household is not a democracy, I’m a benevolent dictator.

Martyn V. Halm is a fiction writer and professional confabulator. You can read more from Quora below: