One view, represented in our family by my husband who was raised in a family of ranchers, is that people need to be left reasonably unfettered to learn and succeed. This allows people to learn how “the world works,” how to have personal responsibility, and how to achieve to their true potential.
This also means few exceptions for rule-breaking and the “priviledge” of being allowed to run smack into the unmovable walls of unpleasant consequences. For people like my husband, it’s an obvious and exhilarating approach to life.
In the other corner, represented by me, is the importance of being seen on my own terms. Negotiation, fluidity, tolerance, all of these are, to me, obvious leadership skills that will encourage and develop happy, confident people. For people like me, my approach is grounding and confidence-building, while my husband’s approach is terrifying.
So how this plays out in our family is this: When there is dissent or problems with the children, my tendency is to ask questions, take a little time to hear what’s going on.
This can work very well (no bias here!), but I will admit that sometimes the kids and I can get pretty darned bogged down. To my black-and-white husband in a bad mood, I am being mushy and ineffective.
When he’s in charge of “issues,” he comes down quickly, delivers a verdict and sentence without discussion. It is clear and communicates effectively that the girls must stop whatever they are doing, regardless of cause. To me in a bad mood (and rarely when the girls are having “issues” does either parent escape bad moods), it feels unnecessarily harsh, like they are being choked emotionally, tossed into the water to sink, not to swim.
Obviously this has caused discord between us. And equally obviously, as the children grow, different methods work better at different times and ages and issues.
But because we want and have to work together, we’ve had some interesting results. I can see that the principle of walking a conflict or two in each other’s shoes has changed us.
Over time, my patience pushed to the limit by “she-did-this-no-SHE-did-it!” rants, I’ve gotten better at the karate-chop style of benevolent dictatorship.
And then there are the times when I’ve come home, expecting things to have been efficiently taken care of, have been reduced to crying out in frustration, “Whaddya MEAN they get to finish tomorrow????”
As much as I may feel like it, ultimately, because I am a grown-up, there is no room for demagoguery, attack, and last-minute changes of policy (although all have certainly happened over the years). There is room for trying my best to understand what the other person was trying to do.
What we all want is a family and a country where reasonable patience and help is given to those who need it; where help actually creates independence and success. We also, as a whole, want a country and a family where people succeed and are allowed to enjoy the fruits and fun of their success.
These two views, I believe, are both heart-driven offerings to our children and the outer world. Together, they form an effect system of balance. But to do that they have to stay connected to the integrity of the other side. They have actually have to want to work together.
When I look at the headlines each day, what I see is that more and more, at every level, our leaders are less and less willing to work together. This is not a new insight. It is a simplistic observation that leaves out many issues, many shades of grey. I realize that.
But at our core, things are simple. We either want to get along or we don’t. And our actions spring from that core. As a parent, I see my family needs to have us demonstrate what it takes to balance both sides. And that’s what I expect my country’s leaders to demonstrate too.