Stick To Your Guns Without Being Dictator Mummy

As parents, it can feel like we spend our lives saying, “no!” Much as we hate doing it, sometimes dictator mummy has to step in and be firm.

  • “No, you can’t eat ice cream for breakfast.”
  • “No, you can’t wear your goggles to school.”
  • “No, you can’t sit on your brother’s head.”

I’ve spoken before about the importance of saying things in a positive way (e.g. “Ice cream is a pudding. For breakfast, we have cereal.”), but however you phrase it, we need to set boundaries for our kids. It’s our job to keep them safe and healthy and ensure they’re growing into adults who can function in society.

Dictator mummy makes the rules and needs to enforce them.

And some days it feels like all we’re doing is refereeing our children as they lurch from one boundary to another. Voices are raised, tempers get sparked, and both parties end up frustrated and unhappy.

That’s not the family life I signed up for.

The answer? Don’t be dictator mummy! Yup it really is that simple. But wait! Don’t click away – I completely agree with you that boundaries are important and that kids need rules.

Keep reading and you might just find out how to do both…!

dictator mummy - child and father climbing a steep hill. Father holds hands out to steady child

Be consistent

But first let’s start with dictator mummy… You’ll hear it spouted by parenting experts the world over – consistency is key!

Children (and adults!) learn through repetition. Even as babies, our children learn that they cry and we pick them up, or they suck the teat and the milk comes out.

And the more consistent we are, the quicker our kids will learn. If they’re sometimes allowed to climb on the wall and sometimes not, they won’t learn either way. If they’re never allowed (or always allowed) to climb on the wall, they will learn much more quickly what the rules about the wall are.

Consistency takes away confusion because the answer is always the same. It gives children an open place to play and explore within clear boundaries.

Dictator mummy - child sitting on an old castle wall

Stick to your guns

But it’s not just about being consistent with our rules. It’s about being consistent with our words.

So if you say, “We’re walking this way today”, you need to make sure your walk that way. You said it, so it’s happening, even if your child is determined to walk the other way. Even if they have a tantrum about walking your way. Even if it doesn’t really matter which way you walk, STICK. TO. YOUR. GUNS.

Be consistent. If you change your mind now, you are telling your kids that what you say doesn’t matter or that everything is negotiable.

Shocked? Well don’t be – keep reading!

Dictator Mummy - young child climbing on some stones

Don’t be dictator mummy

So I’ve just told you to stand by what you say, whether it matters or not, even if it causes hassle and friction, but now I’m saying don’t be dictator mummy. Is that even possible?

Well yes it is and the key is giving options.

If it doesn’t matter which way you walk, give your child the choice. You could say, “Shall we go this way or that way?” Or even, “Which way would you like to walk today?”

By giving options, you child has a feeling of independence and equality, without you having to back peddle on what you said and without causing an argument. Your child has autonomy within the boundaries that you have set for them.

So the real trick is to think before you speak – can I offer any options about xyz or is this something that I need to be firm about? Can my child select something from the menu or do I know they’ll only want to eat sausages? Can my child choose his clothes this morning or does it need to be shorts?

If you decide to tell your child what to eat or wear or which way to walk, then stick with your decision (and whenever possible, explain to your child why you’ve made that choice). If you decide to give them options then go with the decision they make.

By being consistent, you child will learn that your yes means yes and your no means no. There is no point in bargaining because when mummy says something is happening, it happens. They will learn that they can trust what you say.

This will be a great comfort when, for example, you drop your child off at nursery and tell them you will be back to pick them up at lunchtime. Or if they are worried about their exams and you reassure them that you love them no matter what. You have proved time and time again that you stick to what you say, and so they can be confident knowing that you are telling them the truth.

It is also critical when it comes to things like road safety – your child needs to know to stop the instant you tell them to.

Dictator Mummy - child holding hands with dad as they go exploring

95% of the time should be a discussion

But it is unfair, unkind and unnecessary to use this level of authority at all times (and nobody really likes being dictator mummy). We actually need to keep “decrees” to an absolute minimum.

I would argue that almost every situation can involve some form of discussion with your child. They are real people with opinions and emotions and desires, and I don’t think we have the right to order them around just because we’re adults.

I believe in treating children with respect.

So be mindful of the language you’re using. Speak openly so that your child can talk things through with you and explain your thinking to each other. But remember that if you happen to say “you can only have 1 more sweet,” even if you said it without really thinking, you need to make sure that they only have 1 more sweet!

That’s how trust is built up because you always go through with what you’ve said.

It also makes you more honest and thoughtful about the way that you speak to your child because you have to stand by the words that come from your mouth. You’re much less likely to issue threats like “Sit still or we’re leaving the restaurant” if you know that you’re bound by your words. Instead, you have to think more creatively and say, “Sit still or you’ll have to come and sit outside with me for 5 minutes.”

This style of parenting is actually the opposite of a dictatorship because you offer MORE choices. It is also a very respectful way of parenting which welcomes and encourages our children’s choices and feelings. And it means that we are more honest with our children instead of throwing out empty threats to scare them into doing our bidding.

But you can’t have one without the other.

If you only offer options and never stick to your own decisions, you will spend your time bargaining with your child and they will effectively be in charge, knowing they can get their own way by tantruming or shouting.

If you only dictate to your child, they will resent you and either end up defiant or broken.

Stick to your guns without being dictator mummy!

I try to be the mummy who plays on the slide - dictator mummy

So over to you – is this similar to the way that you parent or do you take a different view? Are you good at sticking to your guns or do you often give in to your child? Do you find dictator mummy creeping in from time to time or are you quite laid back? I know this could be quite a hot debate so please leave your thoughts respectfully in the comments section below.

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  1. 1
    Heather Keet

    I think so many parents walk a line trying to figure out how much is too much and how little lets the kids run wild. This post was great at giving ideas, respect is absolutely key. Children are people indeed! #BlogCrush

  2. 2

    This is exactly my way of parenting but I do get criticised for it, people think I’m too soft and that I’ll do anything to avoid conflict. This latter is true but I believe in treating my children like little adults and with respect.

  3. 4

    it is hard to find the balance between dictator and push over. I am focusing on consistency and removing idle threats. So if I say you can’t do something and that there is a consequence then I am trying to make sure I follow through and do it all without just being a rotten old nag and meany – its a work in progress and there some great tips here

  4. 5
    Noleen Miller

    I don’t see myself as a dictator mom as I do there is a little leeway, however if I stick to something I follow through on it. Having mixed approaches will confuse them. Kids need to know that there are certain boundaries but we also need to keep in mind how we speak to them and should never use negative language when reprimanding or trying to get a point across. Respect goes two ways, we want them to respect us then we should do the same #blogcrush

  5. 6
    Mother of 3

    Absolutely! My three boys are in their tween/ teens and this is pretty much how I have raised them. I’ve also realized that not only do I need to sit back and see if it’s something I can give choices for I also have to sit back occasionally and think about whether or not it’s worth saying “no” to. Obviously, I don’t want my kids to eat ice cream breakfast… but can I let them eat ice cream for breakfast one day as a special treat?? Say their birthday?! Then I’m FUN mommy too… at times. It’s all about finding that balance. #blogCrush

  6. 7
    Enda Sheppard

    I so agree .. so much can be negotiated, to the benefit of both parties. For example, our boy from when he was much younger hated to be dictated to so we learned to negotiate. Like shower time. Instead of ordering a shower immediately, we would say, “which would you prefer: shower now (late in the evening) or first thing in the morning?” He would pick one (usually the morning) and stick to it. No problem. #BlogCrush

  7. 8

    This is something I really struggle with because I do feel like if I let him, my 4 year old would just walk all over me. I try not to shout, and I give him choices and I’m calm and I try not to make empty threats but a lot of the time he just doesn’t care and will kick off if he doesn’t get his own way. Like if he’s misbehaved with his brother and I’ve said he can only have one bedtime story (I warn him first ‘You need to be kind to your brother Leo as you’re upsetting him. If you don’t start being gentle I will have to take away one of your stories tonight’), he will just scream and cry after I’ve finished reading and when I ask him does he remember why he’s only allowed one story he says no! It does feel like sometimes he just bounds from one moment to the next and doesn’t care about listening to me or the consequences that have to hapl n when he misbehaves. What am I doing wrong? Help! Great post though, I do believe kids should be treated with respect as they are humans with feeling too after all xx #blogcrush

  8. 9
    Eric Olson

    Consistency is our struggle. Between my wife, our daycare provider, and myself, we all have slightly different boundaries. As the one who is frequently the most permissive, my boys have come to expect a certain level of leeway from me. At daycare it’s just one woman and three two year olds, which creates its own kind of permissiveness. So Mom is often the one who comes across as the bad guy. We’re trying to at least be consistent at home, but Mom’s comfort level with certain activities is much lower, like climbing the play equipment at the park.

    We’ll probably get there some day before they move out…. #BlogCrush

  9. 11
    Alicia Owen

    Great topic and great post! This really opened my eyes more about how I interact with my kids, especially my 5 year old. I pride myself on giving our kids choices (within reason, as you said) and trying to follow through with what I say…But I’m starting to wonder if I really follow through as much as I think I do. My 5 year old is CONSTANTLY trying to negotiate things and it drives my husband and I absolutely crazy! Lately, half the time I let my 2 year old play with stuff I don’t really want her to because it’s better than listening to even MORE fights between her and the 5 year old because the older one tries to be the boss and tell her what to do all the time. *sigh* We’re kind of a hot mess over here. lol I am definitely going to start paying more attention to how I interact with them and try to plan my words out carefully beforehand! #blogcrush

  10. 12

    Consistency is definitely the key to parenting. I’d add being predictable and having clear expectations also is very important. When kids know what to expect from their parents, and they know what their parents expect from them, everyone is happier. Kids thrive with that security. #blogcrush

  11. 13

    #BlogCrush I like the way you formulated the title of your blog post! Thanks for sharing your point of view on parenting. I agree with you. I learned something new from you today. When making if ___ then ___ statements to your kid, better make sure that the “then part” is realistic, doable, and fair.

  12. 14
    Alice | Letters to my Daughter

    This is mostly how I parent, although I am open to negotiation about the small stuff. Dee knows when I’m serious, and she knows when there might be some wiggle room. I always explain my reasoning when giving my answer and I think that helps her understand the difference. So I might say that she can have one sweetie after dinner, but she’ll often try to negotiate for more. If she’s had lots of treats already that day, I’ll say “no darling, just one because you’ve already had lots of sweets today”, but if I don’t really mind if she has 2, I might say “ok, but just one more as a special treat”. She doesn’t kick up a fuss if I say no, because she knows I have a valid reason, but she also knows it’s worth asking because she might get lucky! I like to think it shows her that her opinions matter, and if she has a good enough argument then I respect her enough to listen to it and change my mind. It ain’t perfect, but it works for us! #BlogCrush

  13. 15
    Liberty Henwick

    I hate being dictator mummy myself but easily fall into that trap, there always seems to be another thing that was left undone or mess to be cleared up. I agree that consistency is the key, as well as agreed and fair consequences and choices. It takes out so much of the stress and heated arguments. It’s all the emotion that wears us mums out isn’t it! #blogcrush

  14. 16

    My eldest asked for ice cream for breakfast this morning! Of course I told her no as it was for after dinner. Then secretly wished we hadn’t got it in the house at all. It can be so easy to fall into saying no all the time. To stop myself saying no I find myself explaining why. Even if they don’t understand everything it reinforces the decision. I always offer the girls a choice too as to what they wear too. #BlogCrush

  15. 17
    Lucy Howard

    This is such a fabulous post. And one that I think all parents need to read. Consistency is so important. But it is something that I’m not always great at. Also, when I’m tired the word “no” comes out of my mouth a lot. I need to think more carefully before I speak and be consistent. Right starting from tomorrow this is the plan of action. Thanks so much also for hosting #blogcrush linky. I’m sorry that it’s taken me so long to comment. Hugs Lucy xxxx

  16. 18
    Margaret Langan

    I loved this post! These are such great tips, and I feel like I have days where I absolutely need this reminder. I’ll have to bookmark this post and come back to it for a refresher! #blogcrush

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