If you struggle with parental authority – or wondering if being the “boss” is somehow dictatorial or harsh, then this is for you.
Sometimes it seems confusing to know just how a mother should be. She wants to raise independent children. She wants her children to feel heard and accepted for who they are. She doesn’t want to bark orders all day or be a dictator. Nor does she want to be too permissive and run a lawless home. She wants to live and make decisions in the moment but also be wise at big picture thinking.
Sometimes I think we aren’t ever fully ready for the responsibility that being a mother gives us. I don’t necessarily want the buck to stop with me every time. I don’t always want to make every decision. I like to let the kids do what they do and hope it works our for the best. Except, normally, that just doesn’t work.
As parents we are given authority over our children and our household. We are older, wiser, and more mature than our children. We understand cause and effect and sowing and reaping in ways they simply cannot.
That’s why we can’t shy away from our job.
Note: I know an employer/employee relationship is fundamentally different than a parent/child relationship as one is contractual and performance-based and the other is relational and position-based. Don’t send me hate mail yet, just work with me here…
So how is being a mom (or a dad) like being a boss in a good way?
1. The boss covers
I worked in the marketing department for a Christian non-profit organization, and one of my duties was to send out the monthly newsletter to thousands of subscribers. For one such newsletter, I interviewed a man from Africa. He claimed to be a bishop from Uganda, and went on to explain why he was furthering his training in the UK.
After the newsletter came out, my boss had quite a few people respond that he was not, in fact, a bishop at all. I had assumed he was telling the truth, but hadn’t fact checked. I was shame-faced before my boss for my lack of diligence. Do you know what he said?
Not “You’re fired, you stink, or you made us all look bad.”
Nope. He said, “Rachel, the buck stops with me and I approved your work before it went out. I’m not throwing you under the bus here, we’ll sort it out together.”
Like bosses, parents cover their children. They watch how they are learning, progressing, and where they thrive and don’t thrive. They don’t leave the children thinking they must do it alone, fight battles alone, or face the world unsupported. Great parents help their children to feel they are free to shine and free to come in for refuge.
2. The boss empowers
Bosses generally have more experience, knowledge, and hands-on training than their employees. They can carry heavy loads, manage multiple things at once, and help keep the business or organization moving toward its goals. A boss also empowers their employees in their growth.
To empower means to make someone stronger and more confident, and a good boss does this with their employees. They praise milestones, progress, and successes. They help pick up their employees when they fail, struggle, or can’t see the way through.
Children naturally look up to their parents and think they hung the moon, and this places parents in the perfect position to help nurture children’s self-confidence and self-esteem. By helping them rise to challenges. By expecting them to contribute and then by praising their efforts. A parent, like a boss, need not be a dictator. A parent is a child’s greatest champion.
3. The boss promotes
We are often unable to see our own abilities and strengths clearly. I often think I’m good at things when I’m not, and think I’m hopeless at things where I’m not. Left to my own devices, I don’t know when I’m ready for a new challenge. Bosses see growth in their employees and know who is capable of handling more weight and responsibility, and who isn’t.
If a child is left to rule the roost, they’ll promote themselves to President before they were even elected Mayor. Promotions and advancements are best left to those who are more mature. Letting your children make important decisions on their own will simultaneously build false self-confidence and insecurity.
Parents have the privilege of seeing their children grow in self-control, wisdom, and skill and then giving them ample opportunity to grow and expand even more.
4. The boss sees the big picture
Employees lower down on the ladder often question upper management’s decisions. They wouldn’t do it that way. They think that’s a stupid idea. They are only thinking about the bottom line.
The fact is, bosses see the big picture and make decisions accordingly. They have an aerial view. In a helicopter above the freeway system they see the upcoming curves, accidents, and traffic jams. The employee below, in a Toyota Camry, is not able to get a full picture and make a wise decision based on all the facts. Even if they are wise beyond their years.
Children live and think in the now. That is okay. In fact, it is right. It’s a blessing and joy to enter into the now with them! But, they shouldn’t be given reign to make important decisions when they simply aren’t able to understand the facts and consequences. Of course this must be taught to them. That’s our job as parents! But, to let them make decisions they are not equipped to make is not training, it’s negligence.
So, while I know the relationship between a boss and an employee is fundamentally different from the relationship between a parent and child, I hope you get my point.
Children want to be in charge. That doesn’t mean they should be in charge.
They will push the envelope against your authority. Developmentally, that is natural. It doesn’t mean you should absolve your role.
They challenge you because they want to know you are ultimately in control. That brings safety, not fear.
If you’ve noticed your home environment is slipping into one of chaos, disobedience, and rebellion. Think about this concept for a while. Where have you perhaps given authority to your kids when they can’t actually handle it? Are they “wise in their own eyes” or have they promoted themselves beyond their capabilities?
It’s not about being a dictator. It’s not about bossing everyone around. It’s about maintaining your position of leadership so you can allow your children to thrive.
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