Who’s the Boss?

Ah, Tony Danza at his laid-back, witty self in a romantic comedy, “Who’s the Boss” explored PG-rated relationships.  The basic household, only with twists and turns on roles.  Hence, the title.

Although she was head of the family and the wage earner, Angela (Danza’s boss) was the last member of the household to have actual power.  Much of the humor of the show was depicting a strong, intelligent woman, who was totally without insight about how to parent and to be a boss.  If I remember correctly, she made stern, frequent and loud assertions as to her position of “Number One” boss person in the home.   And then we, the audience would smile, knowing that she had so little influence on what actually happened in the home.

Here’s a rule of thumb axiom:  If a parent has to remind a child who is in charge—the parent is in trouble. AND:  If a child has to be reminded who is in charge—the child is in trouble.  (Children display all kinds of behaviors when they sense that they have more power than what they can handle.)

Here are the RULES, the only RULES needed to run an entire household:


Typically between the ages of four and five, you can add the next R:


When we point, quietly to the refrigerator door, our child knows that we are expecting behavior to shift.  Without fuss or fanfare.  If the behavior doesn’t change, there will be a learning consequence.  (For example: 10 minutes on the kitchen stool to think about the offending behavior, and then a short discussion of the child’s thinking processes with parent to get off the chair.)

Often this means the quieter we are, the more strength others see us as having.

Pointing to the RULES or reminding the child of the rules is not the same as telling a child that you are the parent and in charge.  The rules for being RESPECTFUL, RESPONSIBLE AND NICE TO BE AROUND are in charge.  For us and for our kids.

(I believe credit should be given to Nancy Thomas for these rules.  Her work with attachment disordered foster children is both famous and infamous, depending upon your outlook.  However, I believe that these FAMOUS  “refrigerator rules” are as powerful as they are brief.)



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2 Responses to Who’s the Boss?

  1. Jeff Silvey says:

    That’s a great take on discipline. The rules are in charge, and that’s just the way it is. That’s what we all have to adhere to. I get it. Nice post.

    • Hello Jeff,
      Thanks for checking back. I like your comment “That’s what we all have to adhere to.” Yes, it helps for parents to also use the RULES, for example, saying something like, “I (Dad/Mom) need to be respectful and responsible and say I’m sorry for . . . .” –etc.

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