"You're a dictator. You said, 'That chair is not to be moved anywhere but there' and you don't follow your own rules, so you're a dictator."
My son said this without malice or anger of any kind. In sort of a matter of fact way - and the whole family erupted in laughter, including me! And rather than argue about the appropriateness of such accusation publically - I let it pass.
But I haven't stopped thinking about it. There is a running joke that I have heard and used before that might defend me. Whenever I overrule the 'majority opinion' in my house, I simply tell them that I am not running a democracy, but a benevolent dictatorship! :-) But being told outright, “You’re a dictator" has a certain sting that smarts. So I want to defend my leadership, whatever it is, Dictatorship, Democracy or stewardship.
In considering the matter, one thought occurs, however I lead - will likely be the way they lead later on in adulthood. Is a dictatorship necessarily bad? I have to say that I think not. But it must be carefully looked over. Since we are people who are not perfect and quite apt to err, due to sin a dictatorship can get out of hand and no longer be benevolent. So the Dictatorship has its place - as long as the dictator realizes he is not perfect. He is not God.
For example - when parenting the younger child, at times it makes sense to simply dictate the rule and apply it as necessary since children are not able to grasp the depth of a matter. Later on the matter may be understood and therefore great care must be taken in enforcing rules. It may even be the case that some rules be tossed out as only good for a child, who, now that he is an adolescent, no longer needs it.
So when raising children we do create arbitrary fences to teach them what those moral rules look like to the concrete mind. (This in itself, is a somewhat dangerous practice, in that it may confuse them later in life as to works and faith)
However when the concrete mind gives way to rational thought, so must some of the fences. (I say some of the fences, due to the weakness of our flesh. Each of us knows our besetting sin and ought not to put ourselves in temptations way)
What I am thinking of is Dictatorship with Stewardship. Stewardship, in this context, is understood to be as the raising of our children to adulthood knowing that, at least to some degree, we will be held accountable for the result. And to Whom do we steward the child? God, of course!
I am ever so aware of the fact that in 8-10 years my own children will be moving out, marrying, getting jobs, going to college, and not necessarily in that order. My influence in later years must be a strong as that of the earlier years - when it was relatively easier. Fences are easier to rule by, since these are clear markers to discern whether a boundary has been crossed or not. But ruling by a moral principle takes a great deal of time, love, care, discernment, and dependence upon God.
My friend, Do you know the heart of your child? You absolutely must know it and have captured it in order to raise them in these later years.
So the end of the matter us that I believe I do need to obey my own rules and not be a dictator any longer. But at the same time my family is in transition from fences to moral principles. I as the head of household must be ready to examine old fences, to see if they should be taken down or moved. Not an easy task, since I have 3 children - all in various stages of maturity. But it is part of the job.
Oh - I did put the chair back at the desk and sat in the approved one!
Lord - Help us as we raise our children!