Remember the theme song to Malcolm in the Middle? “You’re not the boss of me, yeah.“ I found myself singing that a lot during my kids’ younger years, specifically in those moments when I realized my toddler was the one calling the shots. Those instances were serious wake-up calls for me. I actually had to remind myself that I was the mom, and thus the boss by default. It may come across a bit authoritarian, but putting my foot down with my toddler (at times) was sending a message loud and clear: you’re not getting your way, and it’s for your own good.
Saying “no” didn’t come easily to me, though. I have always been a people-pleaser (to a fault, in some cases, like when I was too afraid to risk someone not liking me to speak up about getting my own feelings hurt by them). And, of course, you don’t want your only response to children to be negative. We always tried to look for opportunities to say “yes,” or at least spin our answers positively. However, part of being a toddler is being completely and irrationally self-centered. Little children really do think they’re the boss and, as parents, our job is to manage their expectations and not consistently give in to their whims. “I am not your servant,” I occasionally remind my children, especially when they ask for something to drink as soon as I sit down. They are old enough to pour their own water. So, my goal is to get them out of the habit of trying to pass off tasks, and to be more self-reliant.
But it wasn’t that long ago when they were tiny diapered tyrants who thought they ran the world. Though I’d chalk up the following instances as parenting fails, the moments that made me realize my toddler was calling the shots also showed me that I was doing no one — not me, not my kids, not the world — any favors by enabling their bossiness. Though they ultimately were teaching moments for me as a parent, here are a few times my kids assigned themselves the role of dictator, regrettably under my watch: