Raising a Follower

Boys in a dog pile

Photo by Julie Elliot-Abshire

Of these mommy types, I’m pretty clearly a dominatrix. I’m a control freak and a perfectionist. I’ve gotten better since I’ve had kids, but it’s still problematic. I’m especially concerned about how my six-year-old son Zach will blindly follow and believe everything other kids say, especially if they are older, more confident boys.

One day, my son’s principal told me to ask Zach about “poop tag.” Apparently, his friend Lucian told him to touch some poop on the ground and tag two other kids with it. I explained to him that no matter what other kids tell him to do, he still has to “use his brain,” and ask, “Should I be doing this?” or “Is this okay?”

There’s another boy Seamus who tells Zach tall tales about dragons, unicorns, portals, and something about “bad God” and “good God”. Zach was getting scared from some of these stories, but insisted that his friend was telling the truth, and that I “just didn’t know.”

Part of it is that these boys are checking out books from the school library titled “Fantasy Encyclopedia,” “Dragonology,” and “Monsterology.” I told Zach that “fantasy” means it’s not real, and he said, “But it’s an encyclopedia!” I had a talk with the school librarian, and she explained to the boys that none of those creatures are real although it’s okay to make up stories about them.

I asked the principal what suggestions she had about getting Zach to question other kids’ authority instead of accepting them as his cult leaders, and she said if he’s used to being “dominated” (although she apologized for using that word), he’s going to seek that in his friends. She recommended giving him some tasks and a deadline, say Friday, posting it on the fridge, not reminding him about it all week, then going over the list at the deadline to see how he did.

Clearly, I do order him around a lot, but isn’t that supposed to be part of my job? I try to give him more responsibility, but in small increments. When I bring him to pick up his sister Kaylee from preschool, sometimes I ask him to stay buckled in his seat in the car while I run in and get her.

The other day, I had Lucian and Zach in the minivan and asked them repeatedly (including right as I was getting out) to stay buckled in their seats. When Kaylee and I got back to the van, the boys were in the trunk area of the van. I yelled at them to get back in their seats. I said that when they’re with me, I expect them to follow my instructions, and because they didn’t, they’re not allowed to have another play date for at least a month.

I like the principal’s suggestion of basically giving him a project, but I’m not sure when he’s supposed to do that when he’s already pretty over-scheduled already.

This feels a little damned if I do, damned if I don’t.

My husband and I do a lot of things for the kids that they could probably do, but it takes them so much longer and requires more nagging. Zach is turning seven this summer. It seems like we’re at the point where we need to swap expediency for the hope that being more independent at home might make him more confident with his friends.

It might just be his personality to be impressionable with certain kinds of people, but it’s a good practice to encourage and enable independence and self-confidence.

Are your kids followers? Does it worry you?

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3 thoughts on “Raising a Follower

  1. Mara Migraineur March 21, 2014 at 11:23 am Reply

    Just a thought, but your principal is just one opinion. An opinion that doesn’t necessarily know you or your son very well. It’s certainly fine to start giving him some more responsibility, but, I really don’t think we as parents need an extra layer of guilt for how we parent. My kid can certainly be an independent thinker, but he’ll also do stupid stuff his little sister did or what other kids tell him to do at school. Remember, it’s a process. He isn’t going to join a cult tomorrow. Keep talking to him – maybe when he watches a show, ask him whether he thinks it was a good idea or if he thinks a character could have made a better choice, things like that. I bet there are even books about this if you want to go that route 🙂 But, overall, I don’t think you’re really much more of a dominating parental figure than I am (me likey control!), but…well, our kids are different because that’s who they are.

  2. mary brown March 21, 2014 at 8:33 pm Reply

    I agree, especially with boys (Kaylee will be entirely different). Boys are dreamers and love make believe, does not mean they will not accept responsibility and reality…if that were not true all the gaming companies would be out of business. As parents we guide when we feel they are at risk, otherwise need to learn a hard lesson and allow ourselves to let them stumble and find there way…knowing we are there for them if they need support. It does get easier, but the problem s get bigger. The payoff is when they reverse rolls and prop you up mm

  3. ks March 22, 2014 at 6:30 am Reply

    Worry, not really. But of course i am proud when she is defiant. I don’t really like the principal’s suggestion, what if he forgets? I to do things for my daughter in the name of expediency, but i think some of it is her comfort in routine or that she feels the love if i help her with shoes. Best to go with it at times i guess.

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