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Remember who the parent is, and teach your kids to honor their commitments

My friend Rich and I have a lot in common when it comes to fatherhood. We’re the same age, we have sons the same age, and since we both share 50/50 custody with our exes, we spend a lot of time parenting on our own. The other day he and I were marveling at how our 10-year-olds suddenly think they’re 20-year-olds when he told me something that hit me right in my Umbrage-ometer.

Now that our kids are out of school, Rich’s son invited his classmate to spend the day at an amusement park. This isn’t a park you can just show up to; it’s a good 90 minutes’ drive away, so you have to clear your day for it, coordinate driving, pack meals, the whole shebang. The kid said yes, so Rich confirmed it with the parents, cleared his schedule (took the day off, etc.), and planned everything out.

The night before the trip, Rich called the friend’s dad to confirm plans, and the dad said, “Yeah, I don’t know about tomorrow. My son sort of doesn’t want to go.”

Um, what?

“You sure? My son is really looking forward to this.” [Not to mention that I moved Heaven and Earth and a few other planets to make it happen.]

“Let me check with him. Hold on.” Pause. “Yeah, he’s pretty adamant about staying home.”

Um, DOUBLE WHAT?

Are you kidding me? Adamant? Who’s running this show, anyway? Does the kid get to be adamant about homework, too? And bedtime? And whether to brush his teeth or just fall asleep anywhere with a mouthful of Oreos?

I’ve been there, too. A parent confirms plans and then lets the kid blow them off when he changes his mind. And it isn’t the kid’s fault. Kids are mercurial. They think new things every 10 seconds. My sons’ friend bases shift so constantly that someone needs to invent a database that updates it in real time. It’s up to the parent to help the kid understand the big picture and say, “Sorry, kid. We said we were gonna go, and we’re gonna go.” If you don’t do that, you’re just being lazy and insensitive, and you’re teaching your kid to be the same.

We all understand that material things come up, and sometimes plans have to be postponed or cancelled. But it’s absolutely not cool to let your kid opt out of something when he doesn’t feel like it. Your kid isn’t in charge. You are. Set a good example and honor your commitments.

Or at least pretend that a material thing has come up, so I don’t have to manage my kid’s disappointment and put your kid on the lowest tier of my Playdate List.

Read more from Doug on his personal blog, Laid-Off Dad.

Follow Doug on Twitter.

Read all about.him.

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