Sometimes kids should wear the pants in the house

Helena Rodriguez: PNT Staff Writer

Who wears the pants in the house?

That’s a question often asked today, and I’m not just talking about husbands and wives. I’m talking about parents and children.

My teenage daughter Laura and I recently went through a tough ordeal that really tested us as a family. It pitted us against each other and made life at home almost intolerable for awhile. This really tested the strong morals I have worked so hard to instill in my 15-year-old daughter, and yet she wasn’t the one in the hot seat. It was me. I never imagined the reversal of roles that played out, and yet at the back of my mind, I always knew it could happen.

What I’m talking about is single moms and dating. There was a recent movie on Lifetime TV — “Sex and the Single Mom” — and my daughter watched it with intent interest. But when I recently began seeing someone, this drama played out in our living room.

I knew this person was wrong from the beginning. It wasn’t really a relationship. There were red flags from day one. But when I called it quits for the third time — this time for real — this is the question I got from people close to me: “Was it your decision to end it or was it Laura’s?”

People naturally assume that only children are spoiled, and there is certainly some truth to that, as I will be the first to admit. But these days, there are also a lot of parents who let their children, not just only children, wear the pants in the house.

Now my daughter was not too crazy about this person I was seeing. At first I thought it was only natural that she was going to resist the first person that came along because I had not dated in so long, so I was unwilling to negotiate. You know the rule: Never negotiate with terrorists.

But it didn’t take long for me to realize there was much more to this than just maintaining my pride and my parental authority. It was about maintaining my integrity and, more importantly, about practicing what I preach.

So although I did feel some pressure from my daughter, when push came to shove, the ball was in my court and I knew I had to do the right thing like I’ve so often told my daughter to do.

It wasn’t easy. Even the person I was seeing made a wisecrack about my daughter being the boss. Sometimes kids do have to wear the pants until we adults come back to our senses and maybe Laura did temporarily wear them.

But as I look back now, I can’t tell you how proud I am of Laura because she did exactly what I would have done had the roles been reversed. She lectured me about having more pride in myself, about not letting someone treat me with disrespect, and about having greater expectations for myself.

That’s what happens when you teach your child to stand up and do the right thing, even when it involves taking risks, and Laura certainly took risks. I’ve tried to raise her to be outspoken when it comes to standing up for her beliefs and the moral values I’ve worked to instill in her, even when it’s not the most popular thing to do, and yes … even when it’s mom on the hot seat.