Should Our Children Fear Us?

"Why don't you fear me?" my friend wryly asked her pint-sized dynamo as he ran through the house sending a grin her way. I laughed and shared a look of commiseration with her.

I had a fantastic, if strange, childhood. And by strange, I mean living in a house without indoor plumbing and seeing my father head off into the night with his hounds to hunt raccoon to sell their pelts to a furrier. One thing I remember, though, from my childhood was having what my church called a "healthy fear" of my parents.

When I thought about doing something, I weighed their displeasure and the consequential punishment against the potential fun of the activity. Fun rarely won out. I recently read an article where the author said she wanted to be sure she instilled this sort of healthy fear in her children. Explaining it as the same sort of fear as that of fire, she feels it's a way to raise respectful children. I'm sure my parents would agree with her.

It might strike people as odd then that I take a rather different path with my own children. After all, I have a great relationship with my parents and have turned out pretty well. When it came to deciding how I want to raise my two, I realized long ago that I'm not interested in legalism.

In my house we have two rules. The first of which is to be kind to each other. The second is to remember we're all in this together. Those two rules seem to encompass everything from throwing fits (be kind and throw that fit in your room) to household chores (no one likes laundry, but we're all in this together). I don't make a lot of hard and fast rules with accompanying punishments. I can't remember the last time my children were in time out and I think we'd all be in shock if I grounded one of them.

Instead, we tend to talk things out. Part of it is most likely due to my personality. I'd rather know why they took an action instead of just reacting to said action. Knowing why will help us to come up with a plan to prevent future issues. Part of it might also be being single. As a single mom with two jobs, I don't have a lot of time to enforce a lot of rules that don't make sense to any of us.

That being said, there are times—usually when they get out of bed for the tenth time when they're supposed to be asleep—that I have the same thought as my friend. Why don't they fear me?

As for teaching respect, my children are polite, well-mannered (for the most part), and listen when adults speak to them. Are we still working on interrupting? Yes. Do they sometimes pipe in on an adult conversation? Yes. But for me, these are things to work on, not punish.

I want my children to make decisions based on the merit of the idea not out of fear of consequences. Then again, they're not teenagers yet.

What do you think?