Some parents rule with a very firm hand. “Kids, brush your teeth.” The teeth get brushed. No discussion.
I sometimes handle things a little bit differently. If I say, “Go brush your teeth,” and John says, “Can I just finish this chapter first,” I let him do it.
I think (although I’ll never know for sure) that my attitude is related to having only one child. If you tell three kids to brush their teeth and instead they run off in three different directions, you have chaos. But if my one kid reads for five more minutes, it isn’t going to lead to a dissolution of the entire power structure in the house. It’s just going to mean that the teeth get brushed in five minutes.
I know that my approach is not recommended. When John is sassy to me, it’s partly sass of my own creation. He’s a talker, and I’m a talker, and the two of us can sometimes end up going nine rounds before anything gets done. (This is so true that even when he and I think we’re just discussing an issue and there’s no problem at all, it can become super annoying to anyone listening to our discussion.)
I worry about this. But I don’t seem to care so much that I radically change my ways. I think John and I have an understanding. We speak frankly with one another. When there’s an issue where I’m drawing a hard line, I tell him and he gets it.
Maybe parenting doesn’t bear too much scrutiny. To break down every decision and every standard will leave you in a hole you’ll never climb out of. When I back up and try to look at my son objectively (impossible), I think he’s a pleasant kid who understands boundaries and works within them appropriately. He eats and sleeps and plays. He still holds my hand occasionally. Of course I worry, but at the end of the day, I think we’re doing ok.