I think that most people would agree that it’s important for them to feel safe in their relationships by knowing that they will be treated with dignity and respect and that any wrong can be reconciled amicably. This is chiefly seen in marriages and close friendships and I don’t know why we don’t treat our children the same way.
Most people seem to think that using phrases like “because I said so” are normal and acceptable, but I question that. Such phrases imply that there’s a servant and a master, rather than a level playing field. As for me and my wife, we think that our children are little humans with feelings and ideas. While we have a responsibility to protect them from the dangers that they may face, they can make their own decisions and we try to allow them to do so at every opportunity possible. We empower them to be responsible for and to themselves.
This approach means that they know that they’re responsible for their actions and need to apologise when they’ve wronged someone. In turn, because we’re not hypocrites, we need to apologise to our children when we’ve wronged them. Even the simplest things (a raised voice, a moment of vented frustration) deserve an apology in much the same way as I would do for my wife.
This mutual accountability has allowed our children to know that we are no better than them, that we are human and that we make mistakes too. And most importantly, that it’s OK, so long as we clean up after ourselves. It’s built a really high level of trust and partnership with our children and I would never change that.
I think that people play the “parent card” a bit too often to cover up their failures that they’d rather not deal with which is an injustice to all parties.
Just because our children are younger than us does not mean that we are better than them; they deserve the same treatment as our spouses and close friends, not least when our relationship with them has been strained by a regrettable action.