“HEAD OF THE HOUSEHOLD”—WHAT IT REALLY MEANS
In modern society, the “head of the household” seems almost as outdated as the absolute monarch. Especially in a home with two adults (or even three or more, as in some multi-generational families), most people stiffen at the idea of being relegated to an “inferior” position. Even when a household comprises one parent with young children, kids may rebel at unquestioningly obeying Mom in all things.
In some ways, this development is for the better. One reason the “head of household” fell out of favor was that there were too many swelled-up “heads” demanding all the privileges of being in charge while accepting few of the responsibilities. If your kids “won’t do as I say,” you may be getting what you deserve if:
- You’re always doing “something more important” when they try to initiate a conversation.
- You make all the decisions, even ones that deeply affect your children, without even telling them in advance that something might change.
- You get instantly defensive whenever someone questions you.
- You punish in the heat of anger.
- You never say “Please” or “Thank you” to your kids.
No one of any age feels cooperative when treated as if they had no feelings, intelligence, or rights.
For all that, someone has to organize the basic household structure and make the occasional final decision. If you’re in the position of household leader, through mutual agreement or by default of being the only adult, you (and the household) will function more effectively if you take seriously your responsibility to:
- Respect. Allow your children the same basic dignities you’d show an adult relative—no interrupting, barking “shut up,” or cleaning rooms and throwing out “junk” in the owner’s absence.
- Protect. Not just in the sense of installing smoke alarms and teaching your kids not to talk to strangers, but also by offering an emotional safe haven. Do you listen with open heart and mind when your kids come to you? Do you offer them a shoulder to cry on without telling them not to make such a big deal out of things? Do you encourage them to believe in themselves, and to try again when they feel discouraged?
- Provide. Besides bringing home the bacon and doling out allowances, provide your kids with opportunities to help you with chores and to otherwise discover their skills and take on challenges. Strange as it sounds, some “heads of household” don’t really want others to assume any responsibility, lest the “head’s” position of power be threatened. Don’t let that be your family.
You may notice that all these points involve appreciating your children as intelligent individuals, even if they’re under your authority for now. They won’t be part of your household forever, but if you’re an effective leader and a loving parent, they’ll be glad to keep in touch long after they’re at the heads of their own households!