Do you prefer a family Hierarchy or Consensuality? Updated! - Mothering Forums

View Poll Results: Family Dynamics: Hierarchy or Consensuality?
Definite hierarchy with rules, strict structure; decisions made on behalf of children. 17 2.81%
Hierarchy with guidelines, routine, soft structure; most decisions made for children. 176 29.14%
Consensual family; decisions round table, children are self determining; few or no rules. 56 9.27%
Mostly Consensual; guidelines, choice where possible, highly structured 61 10.10%
Combo; children know their place in hierarchy but have as much freedom as poss within that structure 277 45.86%
I don't know what you are talking about. 17 2.81%
Voters: 604. You may not vote on this poll

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#1 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 08:39 AM - Thread Starter
 
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UPDATE
Well, this turned into quite a long, circular discussion. I thought I would make it easier by summarising where we have gotten to, so those of you wishing to catch up can see the issues I am still working through in Consensual Living. The summary is made up of a list of those things CL states as fact or as useful/necessary to execute CL. I question they are necessary for being a CL parent, and I question they can be true at all.

This is the summary post

which can be found here.

Which is, at time of writing, almost at the end of the thread so you can skip to that and see how you feel about those CL premises.


***********************

I know there are many types of family structures, but I'm interested to know that out of the choice of just these two, which appeals or which you actually follow more than the other.

I don't think they are opposites, but I don't think they fit together very well, although I am trying to make them fit.

I thought I was a consensual parent, at least, that's what I was aiming for. For the most part, this is true for me. However, I have to admit to a preference for some hierarchy so I looked into it. Anthropologically, it is actually congruent with my preferred type of parenting which is along the lines of Continuum Concept, or The Vital Touch, or to not use a book - untouched tribal type parenting.

I thought consensual living was in line with AP, but within the most AP type of communities there is a definite hierarchy and structure within the community and also family unit. For instance, in the Continuum Concept, Jean mentions how when eating, the children do not talk at all. There are a few other offhand references in her book that highlight a definite non-consensual, more hierarchical structure in the family and community.

I was brought up with a definite hierarchy, with strong masculine leadership in my father. It was a very secure feeling, and although there was a lot of non-consensual structure in my life, I had and still have the most enviable relationship with my parents. Our relationship grew into a friendship but NOT until I was a teenager (right when a girl needs that friendship, ironically). It was like the structure in my childhood, and the hierarchy, freed me from the stress of decision. And this is outlined in the classic book Magical Child, where the author presents evidence of how damaging it is to engage logic in the child's brain too early.

Logic is required to make reasonable decisions. How does one reconcile this with consensual living? Esp when dealing with very small children?

All this suddenly hit me when I found myself totally and utterly intolerant of my daughter's insistence that she ride in the front seat of the car. In my determination to follow a consensual pattern, I negotiated with her long ago, and we shared. What a ridiculous thing to do! I meant well, but really, I was doing her NO favours in her future as a reasonable human being. The moment I quit the total consensual stuff and started being a little more hierarchical she stopped being so demanding and disrespectful.

I didn't change much other than things like, to continue with the car example, tell her that I am the adult, and I get the front seat, no discussion, no argument, get in freakin' line lassie. I earned these damned stripes, I sat in the backseat my whole childhood while my mother, and rightly bleedin' so, sat in queen's position up front with dad. I never questioned it, I never resented it, nothing. It was a respect thing, or something I can't quite find the word for.

I can have sex, I can drive, I can drink, I can do many things she cannot simply because I have earned both society's seal of approval to, and my own personal stripes. Some things, I have realised, are earned and granted only at maturity. That is what makes maturity so special, our milestones. Like the ceremony when a girl first gets her period and everyone comes over wearing red and welcomes her into womanhood.

So I'm starting to lose favour with consensual living, not in totality, I have just put it in a new place in our life. I always discuss with my daughter and she has more choices and freedom than any other child I've ever met. But sitting in the back seat of the car I had an enlightenment moment, not of resentment for a better seat, but for my earned place in the hierarchy – it was symbolic, and life is nothing if it isn't rife with symbolism. It spoke volumes about why we were having so many struggles she and I. It seems, in my family at least, that there are now things in which there is little choice. I will listen and I will help her understand a particular decision, but I probably won't budge. And I'm now ok with that, and oddly, she didn't seem as put out as I thought she would be. It was almost like she felt... relief.

Thoughts?

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#2 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 08:55 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I can see that I messed up on the poll, as everyone usually does AFTER it is posted. It can't be changed. One of the mistakes was to not allow an option for other. Consider the last option to be the "other" option.

Hunger is political.  Wherever there is widespread hunger, it is because people with guns are preventing other people from bringing in food.  
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#3 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 09:03 AM
 
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I should say from the start that I'm not really into "tribal parenting" which I find disturbing on a number of levels as a concept, particularly that there is one archetypal peace-producing type of tribe/parenting, the one that had a big book written about it by a white woman. *cough*

Anyways. For me attachment parenting informs our family structure and our approach to decision making in that we are close and we really care about each other's needs, wants, and feelings. In that sense we are consensual about trying to find a solution to problems that respects that.

And I appreciate learning about consensual approaches and solutions because to me, that is new, and so it brings fresh ideas and perspectives to the table.

But who is deciding still? Myself and my husband. And we do impose things that have to happen, from brushing teeth to sitting in a car seat to (eventually) curfews. (Although we try to do them more as 'routine' than 'requirement,' and by "enforce" I don't mean punishment, etc.)

I see my role as gradually opening up freedoms as my son becomes capable of the responsibilities that come with them, not as an equal partner. After all who would decide whether or not or family was going to be consensual? My husband and I. If my son said he would rather I hit him, I wouldn't. You know?

And although I've already said that I'm not a big fan of trying to copy some culture, I will say that so many societies have a pattern of transition from child to adult that for me I think these little rites and rituals along the way of NOW being old enough to X (although obviously we don't have to /create/ them) is fairly deeply human, so I'm fine with delaying some decision-making roles until later.

Those are my early morning thoughts anyway.

~ Mum to Emily, March 12-16 2004, Noah, born Aug 2005, Liam, born January 2011, and wife to Carl since 1994. ~
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#4 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 09:05 AM
 
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I chose mostly consensual. Although we don't have a strict structure....but I think that's the one that best describes us. We strive for a consensual household, but I've long since given up on perfection and 100% consensual all the time. There are times that dh or I will have to make a decision based on what we, as their parents think is best for them, and we are ok with that. However, in most everyday matters, the kids have just as much say as we do. This should be an interesting thread...
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#5 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 09:17 AM
 
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Ok, so I just went back and read your response, Calm, and I totally agree. I've never been so resentful and irritated with my child as the months when I tried to be 100% consensual. You just can not expect a 2-3-4-5-6- year old to be rational sometimes, and that's ok. It simply means that they are developmentally on track, and you have to step in and help them out. Not in a mean way, but in a loving and gentle way. I find I am much more patient and my kids are all much happier when we live this way, when they don't feel the need to negotiate every. single. thing. all. day. long. : Sometimes I pull the mama card, and you know what, it's ok.
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#6 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 09:18 AM - Thread Starter
 
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So far so good! Interesting already.

I think we all copy a culture or a format, we either choose it consciously or have it thrust upon us and follow what we know. Sometimes we follow a mix of things that have shown results we'd like to copy. I wouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater, as is so common on forums like MDC when it comes to The CC.

I have a friend who says he should have been born a century earlier (due to fashion and social preferences), well, I feel I should have been born in a jungle, or in "water birth Russia" as they say. Somewhere like those places. I feel such a lack of community in my western culture, it saddens me. It struck a chord in me when I started learning about other cultures, and then as a parent to learn more... and apply that to my life. I bought 50 acres of land as I couldn't find the right commune to join ...

I lived in Japan and that was a culture shock initially. They cosleep and carry their kids and are so traditional, so cultural, so together. (Very VERY hierarchical culture, just as an aside, to highlight one does not preclude the other, in fact, it often goes hand in hand as mentioned). Provincial France is also a big AP place, with tight community. It isn't black or white. There are AP cultures scattered all over the globe in all colours and this is what people seldom know. I didn't pick a culture to emulate. I feel I chose a parenting style and I use cross cultural references simply to help explain it, and the benefits of it.

Hunger is political.  Wherever there is widespread hunger, it is because people with guns are preventing other people from bringing in food.  
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#7 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 09:18 AM
 
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i was already doing the consensual thing before i even heard about it. as my dd grows older - she is 6 1/2 - it is so much easier to be very consensual.

its just dd and me. and i draw the line where safety matters. in my opinion. but i do it in the gentlest way.

i dont think (i havent read much about it though) being consensual means having no hierarchy. its more about how you carry out the hierarchy rather than what you do.

but then again you are operating from your point of view.

i miss tribal parenting (not sure what you meant but kinda the likes of continuum concept). i was raised in a kinda sorta 'village' of parents. i miss not having others parent my child. i miss not having that village to love my child, discipline my child, guide my child, wipe a tear of my child. it is sad. and i miss it. i miss not having that opportunity myself.

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#8 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 09:33 AM
 
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I don't buy into the consensual or "tribal" approach at all. I've read the Continuum Concept. I've read ethnographies of many cultures. Not all "tribal" cultures are anything like what's portrayed in the Continuum Concept, and I have to say that I don't understand why that particular book would be regarded as a model for child rearing.

Children are children. They don't have the experience or maturity to make many decisions. We have a benevolent dictatorship in our house.
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#9 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 09:41 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Calm View Post
So far so good! Interesting already.

I think we all copy a culture or a format, we either choose it consciously or have it thrust upon us and follow what we know. Sometimes we follow a mix of things that have shown results we'd like to copy. I wouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater, as is so common on forums like MDC when it comes to The CC.

I have a friend who says he should have been born a century earlier (due to fashion and social preferences), well, I feel I should have been born in a jungle, or in "water birth Russia" as they say. Somewhere like those places. I feel such a lack of community in my western culture, it saddens me. It struck a chord in me when I started learning about other cultures, and then as a parent to learn more... and apply that to my life. I bought 50 acres of land as I couldn't find the right commune to join ...

I lived in Japan and that was a culture shock initially. They cosleep and carry their kids and are so traditional, so cultural, so together. (Very VERY hierarchical culture, just as an aside, to highlight one does not preclude the other, in fact, it often goes hand in hand as mentioned). Provincial France is also a big AP place, with tight community. It isn't black or white. There are AP cultures scattered all over the globe in all colours and this is what people seldom know. I didn't pick a culture to emulate. I feel I chose a parenting style and I use cross cultural references simply to help explain it, and the benefits of it.
Sure, I get you on the finding things that speak to you and letting them inform your parenting, and of course we all are impacted by culture. I'm totally with you on looking for AP models, or at least, looking for influences beyond the SuperNanny brand of current North American culture.

I just have a thing about CC - as someone who is in very small part First Nations, it absolutely set my teeth on edge. I could go on but I won't.

~ Mum to Emily, March 12-16 2004, Noah, born Aug 2005, Liam, born January 2011, and wife to Carl since 1994. ~
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#10 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 10:07 AM
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I put mostly consensual but who knows!

To me (and the dictionary), consenual means:
Agreement in the judgment or opinion reached by a group as a whole. So, yes many times my children make decisions for themselves and sometimes I make decisions for myself, but often we make decisions as a family. I am part of the consensus. It doesn't mean that I get the final say but it does mean that my needs will be met too.

Example: Child wants to run around in the parking lot.

Permissive: letting them do so because it's their body to do with what they want.
Parent as Dictator: Unacceptable doesn't allow it.

Consensual (in our family) I would Empathize and Validate their desire and feelings. My feelings on this ARE part of the equation. So running in the parking lot is not an option - but we do have options. We can go somewhere else, like a park, to run. We can find an abandoned parking lot to run around in. We have choices. They are welcome to suggest some ideas as well - all ideas will be considered. They can turn down my suggestions and I can turn down theirs. We can find a mutually agreeable solution. I realize some people think "but they don't like their options and I don't like theirs" in these cases I find whoever feels the most strongly ends up "getting their way" we keep empathizing with the other person, and eventually the other person sees that we feel more strongly then they do. Sometimes a consensus can be reached in 5 seconds. Sometimes it takes 20 minutes. Sometimes we have to revisit it later.

In unconditional parenting it says something like "Reasonable structures are imposed when necessary, in a flexible manner, without undue restrictiveness, and when possible, with the participation of the child"
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#11 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 10:36 AM
 
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I would go so far to say that 100% consensuality is almost a disservice to children. EVERYWHERE for the REST of their lives outside of the home, there will be a hierarchy. There is no escaping it unless you move to a deserted island, and even there, nature has the upper hand.

I believe that my job as a parent is to gently guide dd to make good decisions as she gets older *based on our beliefs as a family*.

I think all children need to be led to a certain extent. I don't think you can let your child make every decision from birth without there being some sort of negative fall out. Now that is my opinion... based on what I have read, seen, and experienced, and I don't expect everyone to agree with me. However, this works for us, as dd is a very sweet, respectful, mature, and loving little 7 year old. In fact, her teacher at school is always talking about how mature dd is. We let her make age-appropriate decisions and as she's gotten older, she has developed the reasoning needed to make those decisions wisely. I have no doubt that gently parenting her about her decisions has led to a kid wise beyond her years.
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#12 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 10:40 AM
 
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I picked the Combo choice. I might have gone with Mostly Consensual, but I don't think anything around here is highly structured. The parents are definitely in charge, but there aren't a lot of hard-and-fast rules, and we're usually willing to hear complaints or suggestions. There are times every day when I tell a kid what to do or not do. ("Don't throw that in the house." "Pee before you put on your snowpants." "It's time to leave now.") And there are times every day when I decline to do something a kid wants me to do - make pancakes, buy candy from the vending machine, read another book, take them on a particular outing. But sometimes I change my mind based on what I hear from the kids.

I feel like adults deserve to choose the way they want to live their lives - where they live, whether they have any animals, what hobbies they spend time and money on, whether or not they have jobs, etc. I think it sometimes makes sense to compromise on what you want for the sake of your kids' happiness - maybe letting your kids have a pet when you don't really want one, or finding a new home for yours if your kid is allergic - but I don't think parents should feel obligated to give their kids equal say in deciding things like whether or not the family will move. And I think it's okay for parents to insist on smaller things they really want, too, like sitting in the front seat, or using the yard for a flower garden instead of a ball field, or painting the deck brown instead of pink.
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#13 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 11:06 AM
 
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I went with "consensual family" but in practice it's more of a combo. There is a natural hierarchy where parents are just more powerful than the child, no matter what; plus I'm kind of a control freak sometimes. So when I try really hard to achieve 100% consensual living, that counteracts my automatic tendencies to the point where it ends up a pretty normal combination.
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#14 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 11:07 AM
 
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I am subbing to read later.
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#15 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 11:16 AM
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I went with "consensual family" but in practice it's more of a combo. There is a natural hierarchy where parents are just more powerful than the child, no matter what.
:

Also, things changed for us over the years.

My ex was far more authoritarian than I am, and he's no longer part of the kids' daily lives. And I've also given them more "power" in the home as they've gotten older and wiser.
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#16 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 11:21 AM
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I also just want to mention that for me, consensual living means respecting everyone's wants and needs, and finding mutually agreeable solutions whenever possible.

It's not extremism. It's not based on the book that's been mentioned a couple of times. I've never read that book and don't intend to.

My goal is not to achieve "100% consensual living." My goal is to treat everyone like they matter. Yep, I nag my son to unload the dishwasher. And he nags me to run out and buy ice cream at midnight. Both usually get done. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. I'm sure the concept was around before any book was written about it.
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#17 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 11:26 AM
 
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In general I do quite well being about being consensual. I learned that when I was on my own recently with the kids for 2 months due to a move.

I have a VERY hard time being consensual with dh though and it seems like the whole vibe is thrown off when he is around. He is very violent (energy-wise) and has rediculous expectations of the kids (6,3,1) And I often engage him in fights about his mistreatment of them. (In front of them - in the thick of the situation.)

I dont understand how to make CL work in my home.

But that was kind of OT. : On topic: I dont try to discuss or rationalize with my young children anymore. My 5 yr old doesnt even understand logic half the time so I have to make some decisions for them. Its just part of it,
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#18 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 11:35 AM
 
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I didn't vote because DS is only 7 months and doesn't make too many decisions on his own yet, but I lean more toward the CL/UP end of the spectrum, though I'm sure, like anything, it will be molded to fit our family's individual needs and situations.

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#19 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 11:37 AM
 
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interesting discussion. a toughie because i know people who are so doctrinaire and unbending wtih their consensual approach to parenting it doesnt look consentual at all to me. and i know hierarchical families where the kids feelings are totally validated. and i know people who think they're being one way, one style of parenting and are really another.

i guess in general i think its good to discuss theories and educate youreslf if that feels good to you but i feel the two most important things are to use and value your intuition and to note what WORKS. we've all seen people try to make theories and systems work in their house - and they just dont. sometimes theories feel good to US - they value our ideas about what worked in our own childhood or not, they identify us as being for or against a tribe, they work to reiinforce OUR ego/identity, but they dont work as well for the kids. (and sometimes they do!)
you can read daily here in any thread about a specific theory of parenting a thread from a mommie who is just like HELP!! this doenst WORK!!!
i know my life works best when i just try to stay loving and fluid in my intuition in the living present....
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#20 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 12:05 PM
 
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honestly a combo of this

Quote:
Hierarchy with guidelines, routine, soft structure; most decisions made for children.
and this

Quote:
Mostly Consensual; guidelines, choice where possible, highly structured
We do thrive off of rountiune and structure and mommy daddy remain firmly incharge but we also allowa great deal of choice round tabling solutions ect.

Deanna

Wife to DH since August 01 mom to a bubbly girl October 2002 and our newest gal March 2010
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#21 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 12:13 PM
 
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I guess I'd say mostly consensual. I like the idea of consensual living, but there are times where we can't find a consensual agreed way to do things and I've decided I'm really OK with that. I don't consider us to be "highly structured" though. That's more a personality thing than a parenting thing maybe. But there really isn't much in the way of hierarchy here. All of our needs are equally considered. The "combo" thing didn't sound far off the mark either. I'm probably somewhere between those two - "mostly" and "combo".
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#22 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 12:27 PM
 
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There really isn't an answer for my view. There are times when a child is fully capable of input and there are times when it's completely inappropriate to let them make the decisions based on what is safe for them at the time.

I believe there have to some rules and structure, but am I a hard structure parent-definitely not. There are times, however when there is just one way of things being done(usually for safety reasons).

Plus my DD needs some structured rules otherwise she is just running all over the place and her decision making is still in normal 2.5 y/o development, so she needs to be directed at times.

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#23 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 12:31 PM
 
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I think that this a kind of a hard thing to compartmentalize like this. Does everyone really follow a single line of parenting the entire time? I don't, it has changed as both my children and my self have grown.
DH and I have vastly different parenting styles in many respects, but at the same time we make them work together.

We are a Benevolent Dictatorship/Oligarchy for the most part here.

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#24 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 12:34 PM
 
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I didn't set out to follow a particular family structure nor have I read books about it.

I think we naturally settled into a combination. I think children need rules and structure but in our family dd has a say within those limits.
It is age appropriate input.

I know some people who could not understand that we would give our child a pretty equal vote on where to go for our family vacation for example. Dh and I would have the final decision- actually I would because dh goes on a solo trip every year so this is more for dd and myself.

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#25 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 12:50 PM
 
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My answer has to be "other". First of all, my job is to protect my children and to keep them safe. That comes before anyone's wants and needs. Many aspects of consensual living appeal to me. I do try to reach consensus whenever possible, but I think that this really applies to older kids more and more. At times when consensus can't be reached, I - the parent - decide.

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#26 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 01:17 PM
 
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I voted for hierarchy with guidelines but after I voted I saw that Combo might be the one I meant. I also am having trouble with the whole consensual thing. For the most part DD, 9, is a very sweet child but lately she has really been disrespectful of her nana and me. It is like she thinks she is in charge, so much so that she has actually argued with me when I said I am actually in charge. And the thing is, I really really try hard to let her get her way most of the time unless it is a safety issue or something but the lack of respect is very hard to take. I do believe in respecting children but it works both ways you know? I am not her slave I am her mother so I hear ya OP!
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#27 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 01:33 PM
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can anyone give an example of when there is only one way of something being done safely? haven't encountered that yet.
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#28 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 01:44 PM
 
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I'm on the benevolent dictator end of things. That said, I try not to have too many demands/opinions because my life is more stressful when I do. In general it seems to me that it's best to give children lots of choices in areas where it won't cause problems and to simply present what is going to happen in areas where there might be problems.

My advice may not be appropriate for you. That's ok. You are just fine how you are and I am the right kind of me.

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#29 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 01:47 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Super Glue Mommy View Post
can anyone give an example of when there is only one way of something being done safely? haven't encountered that yet.
The only safe/legal way for a child to ride in a car is to be in a car seat. It's pretty non-negotiable. The only other alternative would be to not go in the car, but that's not alway an option.

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#30 of 1044 Old 03-30-2009, 01:49 PM
 
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can anyone give an example of when there is only one way of something being done safely? haven't encountered that yet.
I have one walking on the road-it is required for DD to hold my hand when we encounter a car-and she hates it, but it has to be done this way. We live on a country road and when there are no cars, she can run ahead. Not touching the pellet stove period. There are a bunch more examples that I can think of-all having to do with cars, hot things and general safety.

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