Balancing Authority and Fun in the Home

rachel guest post

By Rachel, A Mother Far from Home 

If you’re like me (and life probably runs easier for you if you are not) then you find yourself being a lot easier being the boss than you do the playmate or companion to your children. My husband is, in fact, quite the opposite. At times I’ve found myself jealous that he is so easily able to get down on his hands and knees and engage in such a direct way with them. Lately I’ve actively been trying to balance the two.

My mother is in the education system by profession and while at college her teachers gave advice that went something like this. “Be really strict until Christmas, then after the New Year you can have some fun with your students because they’ll be in the habit of good order.” While a home is not exactly like a classroom, per se, there are many parallels between the two and I believe that from infancy if you run your home with fair, loving and firm authority you’ll be able to have lots of fun with your children without everything getting out of control.

(1) Being in control doesn’t mean you’re controlling. A mom is in control of the schedule, the activities and what behaviors she will or won’t allow. But, just because you run an orderly home doesn’t mean that you are controlling in a way that doesn’t allow spontaneity and fun. There will be times during the day that are free and open to wherever your children’s imagination and inspiration lead you. During these times try to get down and dirty with them. Don’t sidewalk supervise, but join in. Dig in the sandpit with them. Get in on that board game. Put on a cape and be the bandit. It will be hard at first but silliness may be a good outlet for stress relief too!

(2) You can have fun and correct at the same time. Maybe you’re afraid that if you join in the fun then things will escalate out of control quickly and you’ll have to step out and referee. It is true that free play and run around fun can get rowdy, but I believe that if you are consistently kind and firm anyway, you can keep the chaos to a minimum. If your authority is not in question (and for your own sanity I hope it isn’t) then a kind but firm “no, don’t go over there, come back” won’t interrupt play for more than a few seconds. Redirect, distract and substitute and then carry on playing. It seems like it is fraternizing with the boss, however, we don’t have a lifelong nurturing relationship with our bosses like our children will have with us. It may take a while to find a balance but it can be struck.

(3) Find time for fun in the mundane. I know the dinner table is a great place to teach manners, order and obedience. However, I think it can also be a fun place. Why not sing a song together? As long food is not flying and forks are not being thrown on the floor what is the harm? Play games in the car and don’t make a bath in the evening an in and out affair. Use the times you are already in direct contact with your kids to make things fun. Liven them up. They will react to you so if they know you are willing to play but unwilling to let things escalate to disorder, they’ll follow your lead. I believe that our homes should be a balance of good order and great fun. And I don’t think you have to sacrifice one for the other.

Rachel blogs at A Mother Far from Home on motherhood, pregnancy, parenting, travel with small children and much more.

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