Dad-ing, opinion

The Consistent Imbalance of Parenting

Children need to know that they don’t have the power over the decision-making and that they don’t need to worry about what’s for dinner, when to bathe, when to play. All they need to do is rely on his/her parent to take care of the hard stuff. Trouble comes if they’re given decision-making power over you, and they’ll test us. They’ll test us every single day.

They can be encouraged to have a choice, but not the ability to make decisions over what the parent has asked for. Above all, they need to know that they’re cared for, will be fed, cuddled, and played with.

You, the parent or guardian must hold the cards at all times, which is super hard, especially when you’re just exhausted and would love to give in so they can leave you alone for a minute. The temptation to distract or subdue with a treat just because they asked for it, or “it’s the Summer”, “oh come on, it’s Christmas”. There’s always something that’s going to mess with the balance and take things from your control to theirs. If you want to reward them or give them something they want, make it be your decision, or better yet reward good behaviour with something fun (it shouldn’t be food every time).

Kids don’t get to dictate what they wear or what they eat. They can be given a choice and understand why these are what’s on offer, but every idea has to come from the parent or provider.

It’s totally ok for them to be upset when they don’t get their way, they’ll get over it, but it is important for them to be reassured that they are safe and loved no matter what.

If we distract with toys after a tantrum or give candy because they just won’t stop whining for it, they instantly learn that if they want a toy they just have to poke someone, or if they want a candy, all they have to do is be annoying as possible and don’t stop until mum or dad gives in. Instead, it’s important to know that they’re being looked after and if they’re hungry, will be fed real food, not just junk to shut them up. If they can’t play cars together with their schoolmates or siblings, then the cars are taken away while you show them how to share and play nicely.

I didn’t say ‘until they learn how to share’ above as the easiest way to get a child to learn something is to sit with them and show them how. Active play is amazing for teaching new things since they’re already engaged in something they enjoy. 

learning through play

Kids (and adults) usually act out when they’re either hungry, tired, bored, or insecure/nervous/scared.

The first three are easier to fix but the last is where the parent/provider really matters. This is where you affirm your place as the authority and safe haven. Your snuggles give a world of comfort. 

Another thing to nurture through safety and play are their ideas and questions. Oh, so many questions. These are how they learn and develop an understanding of the world around them and to find out why things are the way they are.

parenting, psychology, parenting balance, parenting advice, dad blog, socialdad, hammock

The learned behaviour that those more experienced or able to provide for us are to be recognized will help them later in life too. When they come to school age, they’ll be more likely to listen to their teachers instead of messing around. 

Since you spent so many hours answering their often ridiculous questions and theories, they’ll also be in a much better mindset to find reason in others’ beliefs and find out ‘why’ at school instead of learning facts, dates, and names. 

Later still, the understanding and beliefs that the laws are there for everyone will help them see the balance. If they can’t look after their car and choose to ignore the speed limits, for example then they will have their toy (actual car) taken away (impounded) until they learn to share (the road).


  1. Silver

    July 18, 2019 at 8:18 pm

    Well said. It’s such a balance.

  2. Reginia Lok

    July 18, 2019 at 9:44 pm

    I agree with you and I try to parent this way as well. But my dilemma is once the toy/etc is taken away, how do I determine that it is the right time to give it back? And what happens if this becomes a pattern: i misbehave, they take it away, I get it back, and repeat. The child will start to realize that they WILL get their toy back so it doesn’t really matter if they misbehave or not because they will eventually get it back at some point. I take screen time or toys away from my girls and when I give it back to them, it seems like within a few days, their old habits return. I have also handed out chores as consequences at times I’m at a loss. I have stopped that since I don’t want them to view chores as punishment. But what is there left to do???

    1. SocialDad

      July 19, 2019 at 5:49 am

      Consistency and mix it up. So it doesn’t always have to be toys that you take away, make it the WiFi or going to their fave store. Remember the teacher who had your toy you brought to class in her drawer? She didn’t give that back until the end of term. When/if you give it back or hand out rewards, make it your decision. “Since you’ve been so kind to your sister, I’m going to give this back to you. But remember, if you pinch again it goes away.”

  3. Susan Carraretto

    July 18, 2019 at 10:03 pm

    So true… it’s important to give kids the safety of a routine and boundaries.

  4. Heather

    July 19, 2019 at 9:45 am

    “oh so many questions” is so true 😉 haha They never end! But it’s pretty cool to hear the way that they think!

  5. Michael Kwan

    July 19, 2019 at 10:54 am

    It’s a balance. On the one hand, we need our kids to understand that they need to listen to what we have to say and do as they are told. On the other hand, we want to raise them to be independent and autonomous human beings who can think for themselves. The way I approached it when she was younger (which is a little less effective now) is to give her a “false” choice. Do you want pasta or rice for dinner tonight? For me, I don’t care what we eat; I just want her to eat. For her, she feels like she’s making a decision and can exercise some autonomy.

    1. jamesrcsmith

      July 19, 2019 at 3:19 pm

      Totally! The false choice is everything. “Do you want this dress, or this dress? As long as they know that getting dressed is going to happen and we can’t play outside until one of the dresses is on.

  6. Heydy

    July 19, 2019 at 1:18 pm

    Very interesting read! Actually have no idea how I’m going to get through the rest of parenting haha

    1. jamesrcsmith

      July 19, 2019 at 3:18 pm

      Haha! We’re all just winging it.

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