Which roles do you play in your family?

People play many roles in their lives, some by choice and some by chance. Sometimes we head down a path and things work out more or less as we had envisioned them. Other times, we set out to do one thing and find that we end up doing something totally different. And then there are the times when we are playing the roles that we desired, only to learn that we had not really understood what was required.

Many of the roles we own for ourselves come from personal observations. Others come from the reflections of those who know us. Think about how you feel about the roles you identify with and the roles others identify for you.

Which roles do you choose?

Roles can be both freeing and limiting. There are times when a role in a family frees a partner from a responsibility that another takes on. In Monica’s home, for example, she’s the cleaner and her partner is the declutterer. Between them, all of the basic chores get done. In other homes, one partner may take on the role of indoor household manager while the other takes on the role of outdoor household manager. 

It’s also important to be flexible when taking on roles, since they may change from time to time. Expertise and interest may make some roles seem more obvious than others, although the requirements of the moment often help all of us to broaden our perspectives.

Think about the roles your children play in your family. Do you think those roles free them or constrict them? If you asked them if they wanted to play different roles, what would they choose?

How do the roles shift in your family?

Roles for parents change from day to day, depending on the requirements of work schedules, both outside of and in the home. Likewise, roles for children vary with how much structure has been planned into a given day. The “must do’s” and the “should’s” set up powerful expectations. Some are the result of very effective conditioning during the parents’ own youth and some are the result of conscious decision-making. For all of us, the roles we choose are often more satisfying than the roles we feel we have fallen into.

Children are often less effective learners within an authoritarian relationship, however that is how most of us experienced formal education. Language within a public school is often used to establish a hierarchy. “Listening” to the teacher frequently means obeying rather than hearing and processing for yourself. “Respect” can be used to characterize those who follow rules and not those who ask their own questions.

In a paradigm of mutual respect, however, teachers and children can work together to help make learning more relevant and enjoyable. At home, too, sharing leadership roles from time to time can help make sure everyone’s needs are met.