Raising a Follower

3 years ago
Boys in a dog pile

Photo by Julie Elliot-Abshire

Of these mommy types, I'm pretty clearly a dominatrix. I'm a control freak and a perfectionist. I've gotten better since I've had kids, but it's still problematic. I'm especially concerned about how my six-year-old son Zach will blindly follow and believe everything other kids say, especially if they are older, more confident boys.

One day, my son's principal told me to ask Zach about "poop tag." Apparently, his friend Lucian told him to touch some poop on the ground and tag two other kids with it. I explained to him that no matter what other kids tell him to do, he still has to "use his brain," and ask, "Should I be doing this?" or "Is this okay?"
There's another boy Seamus who tells Zach tall tales about dragons, unicorns, portals, and something about "bad God" and "good God". Zach was getting scared from some of these stories, but insisted that his friend was telling the truth, and that I "just didn't know."
Part of it is that these boys are checking out books from the school library titled "Fantasy Encyclopedia," "Dragonology," and "Monsterology." I told Zach that "fantasy" means it's not real, and he said, "But it's an encyclopedia!" I had a talk with the school librarian, and she explained to the boys that none of those creatures are real although it's okay to make up stories about them.
I asked the principal what suggestions she had about getting Zach to question other kids' authority instead of accepting them as his cult leaders, and she said if he's used to being "dominated" (although she apologized for using that word), he's going to seek that in his friends. She recommended giving him some tasks and a deadline, say Friday, posting it on the fridge, not reminding him about it all week, then going over the list at the deadline to see how he did.
Clearly, I do order him around a lot, but isn't that supposed to be part of my job? I try to give him more responsibility, but in small increments. When I bring him to pick up his sister Kaylee from preschool, sometimes I ask him to stay buckled in his seat in the car while I run in and get her.
The other day, I had Lucian and Zach in the minivan and asked them repeatedly (including right as I was getting out) to stay buckled in their seats. When Kaylee and I got back to the van, the boys were in the trunk area of the van. I yelled at them to get back in their seats. I said that when they're with me, I expect them to follow my instructions, and because they didn't, they're not allowed to have another play date for at least a month.
I like the principal's suggestion of basically giving him a project, but I'm not sure when he's supposed to do that when he's already pretty over-scheduled already.
This feels a little damned if I do, damned if I don't.
My husband and I do a lot of things for the kids that they could probably do, but it takes them so much longer and requires more nagging. Zach is turning seven this summer. It seems like we're at the point where we need to swap expediency for the hope that being more independent at home might make him more confident with his friends.
It might just be his personality to be impressionable with certain kinds of people, but it's a good practice to encourage and enable independence and self-confidence.
Are your kids followers? Does it worry you?
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