Parenting to the Lowest Common Denominator


For those of us with two or more children, we need to recognize that each child deserves different treatment and should be granted freedoms according to their age and level of responsibility. Many of us get caught up in parenting to the lowest common denominator. We treat them the same, and all freedoms tend to be guided by the responsibility of the younger child. The Ezzos call this parenting from the youngest up.

“The fear that the younger child will not understand or will seek the freedoms of the older child causes some parents to pull back on age-appropriate freedoms, creating a condition of frustration,” (Parenting the Middle Years, p. 64).

Certainly, when we restrict our older kids’ freedoms simply out of fear of what we will have to say or do with the younger child, that older child feels frustration. While this is important on a day-to-day basis, it’s also important to parent differently from a philosophical level. As our children age, we need to parent more from the influence of our relationship and not by the power of our authority.

“By the time your kids approach adolescence, you should be well on your way to leading by your influence and less by the power of your authority. Too often the exact opposite takes place. Coercive parental authority is still the primary way of controlling the child. It shouldn’t be, and it will backfire on you. Do not parent your oldest child out of the fear of what the youngest might think,” (Parenting the Middle Years, p. 64-65).

We have all heard about the pitfalls that parents run into when parenting out of fear. There’s the fear of what the child will say, whether he will obey, how big of a fit he’ll throw, and whether we’d be damaging the self-esteem. But no child wants parents who don’t have the strength to stand up to the child and do what’s right no matter how the child may react. Our children WANT boundaries, and they want freedoms and boundaries that are appropriate for them as an individual, not as part of a sibling unit.

So the next time you’re tempted to lay down a ground rule for your kids, stop and think about whether that rule should apply to both/all of your children. And by all means, if you’re headed into the middle years (starting around age 8), begin to shift your mindset and parent by the influence of your relationship, not the power of your authority.