The more time that you spend around kids, the more time that you’ll spend around other people’s kids. I typically refer to this brand of child as Opie K (OPK), or just Opie. This raises the issue of how you’ll respond when Opie states that in his house, he’s allowed to:
- drink Mountain Dew at 11:00 PM;
- play Grand Theft Auto at the age of seven;
- jump on the furniture;
- raise holy hell until the cows come home.
And the first three are not theoretical examples, but have happened to me within the past nine months.
Do you want to be the nice guy who wants his child to get along with the other kids? Or do you want to maintain some standards in the face of child protest?
I’ve persistently chosen the latter, and for the following reasons.
- Children lie. When many younger kids find out that something they want is verboten, they’ll flat out lie in the hope that you’ll back down when you see that everybody does it and you’re really out of touch, so if you don’t want to mess with my daddy, you’ll let me continue. The problems with this are that first, the other Daddy might completely agree with you and second, it’s not that kid’s house. It’s yours. And constantly bending rules to different kids leads to confusion and mixed messages.
- Children press and test. They’ll knowingly say things to see how you respond and measure the distance they can take.
- It provides your own child with a sense of certainty about what is and isn’t acceptable. There’s no question as to whether something is okay when the friend, Billy, says it is (but really isn’t). The litmus test becomes simply, would Dad allow this?
- If their houses really are that permissive, then it also provides a glimpse of a household with expected behaviors. They might not realize when they’re younger, but they perhaps will when they’re older.
Over the years, the various friends find that this PracticalDad tries to be consistent in acceptable behavior. And that excuses about levels of acceptable behavior don’t fly but are instead met with resistance that can include banishment from the house.
For the record, Opie had to return the Mountain Dew to the store cooler and get something else.