Facing Reality: You Can’t Always be the Cool Parent
Every parent wants to be the “cool” parent. The one their kids think is laid back and easygoing, who doesn’t ever make them do chores or tell them what to do. But we know it’s impossible to always be the cool parent. You have to say no. You have to make them do their chores. You have to scold them when they do something wrong. And when you do, all of the sudden, you go from being the cool parent to the mean parent.
We all know the difference between being a cool parent and being an effective one… so why does it suck so much when you’re not the cool parent? Survey says, it’s psychological. We want our kids to love us and look up to us, so when they’re pouting or throwing a fit and blaming us for it, we feel some pang of grief deep down inside. Granted, we learn to ignore that as our kids get older and we get more parenting experience under our belts. Eventually telling them no becomes easier—especially as they develop reasoning skills and can understand why we tell them no.
Nevertheless, we enjoy those few fleeting moments when we’re the cool parent. When we stop off through the drive-thru for ice cream or let them have an extra hour of TV time. When other parents are saying no to their kids but you can say yes to yours. It’s these moments that really boost our morale as parents, so we start to look for them wherever we can. But that’s a dangerous game to play.
If you’re always looking for opportunities to be the cool parent, you might not be so keen to find those situations where you’re the bad parent. You might even avoid them. The problem is, you put the burden of being the bad guy on someone else. A teacher. Your ex. Another parent. If you avoid being the bad guy, you neuter your ability to parent… because sometimes you need to be the bad guy!
Look at it this way—being the cool parent is only possible as part of a balance. If you’re always the cool parent, then you’re never really the cool parent. But, if you’re just as prone to telling them no as you are saying yes, you create a balance. I liken it to a simple metaphor. If you’re happy all the time, can you really appreciate what it means to be happy? Or, do you appreciate happiness because you know what it’s like to be sad? The same principles apply. Do your kids think you’re cool because you always say yes, or do they appreciate the times when you do say yes because they know you’re capable of saying no?
There are so many aspects of parenting that constantly give me a reality check. Having to be the bad guy or the uncool parent is always one of them. I really want to be the cool dad and sometimes I am. I’m learning to appreciate those moments more and relish the feeling they leave me with, because I know it won’t be long before I’m the bad guy again. And I’m okay with that, because ultimately, my daughter will grow up with a sense of balance. I hope she’ll eventually see me as a cool dad, even when I say no.