I’m no expert on parenting. I used to be. I used to know everything. I was brilliant. Then I gave birth and it all went away.
Every child is different. You discover this when all the things that worked with the first peachy little cherub are completely, utterly useless on the second and third and every one thereafter.
Each parent is different. You know this if you had two of your own, or if you created a child with one other than yourself, or if you’ve ever lobbed a parenting question into any group of more than one person not including yourself. Everyone has a philosophy; everyone has a body of experience; everyone has an opinion. Or two. Or eighty-five.
Here are mine.
Children Are in Charge of Nothing.
I am the boss. What I say, goes. Period. My house is not a democracy; it is a benevolent dictatorship.
But isn’t that unfair?
No, it is not unfair. Because I am the adult with the life experience, the wisdom (hopefully), and the responsibility for the safety and welfare of my home and my family. The snaggle-toothed ankle-biter who licks the bottom of his own shoe and, given the opportunity, would eat nothing but Pez, Pepsi, and Pop Rocks all day, does not get to decide whether or not he will wear his coat outside, how long we will stay at the grocery store, or what time he will go to bed tonight. He will do those things when and how he is told. Because if he doesn’t, he will go to Kid Hell.
|Where I learned|
the concept of Kid Hell
I am the Gatekeeper and the Keymaster of Kid Hell.
What is Kid Hell, you ask? It is the place your child least wishes to be. It is the environment or situation he will do anything to avoid.
It’s the pack-n-play when she won’t stop pulling the cat’s tail.
It’s losing Blankie or his favorite plush snuggle bear for the night when he refuses to get in bed and stay there.
It’s alone in the bedroom when he won’t speak respectfully to his parents, siblings, or playmates.
It’s the front of the grocery cart, facing Mom, legs through the square holes. If the eight-year-old throws a tantrum in the candy aisle, her round little butt goes in the cart’s baby seat, even if it gives Mother a hernia to put her there.
It’s holding Mom’s hand to cross the street, when the ten-year-old can’t or won't remember to look both ways first.
It’s Mom attending every single class, all day long, with the middle-schooler who bullies other kids or uses inappropriate language in school or claims the teachers NEVER assign homework.
I Am Not My Child’s Friend or Buddy.
If I do my job well, I will be her friend someday, when she becomes an independent and responsible adult. Until then, I am her advocate, her mentor, her tutor, her cheerleader, her confidante, her counselor, her manager, her taskmaster, her spiritual guide, and her trainer. But not her buddy. If I take on the role of Buddy, I abdicate all other positions. And if I’m not filling them, she’ll find someone else who will. Probably one of her buddies.
Discipline means “training”. Lately it has come to connote “punishment”, but that is only one of the many components of discipline. To discipline a child means to train him toward self-management.When I give my child a directive, he will follow it. Immediately. If I have to count to three, or ten, or two hundred and fifty to get him to step up, I have already transferred all of my authority to him. He is now in charge of what he does with his time between one and whatever number I claim is the point at which he must comply. And according to what I’ve witnessed from adults who employ this strategy, the end of the counting typically signals either the beginning of a second round of counting, or an angry, perhaps physical outburst on the part of the grown-up.
I want my children to learn what appropriate behavior is, and then to practice it. And with less and less intervention from me. To this end, I enact discipline. An ounce of prevention (“Here’s what I expect from you while we are at the Jones’s house…”) is worth a pound of cure (“…and if I am disappointed in my expectations, here is what will happen to you…”).
for People Who Don't Like
the Word "Discipline"
Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say.
I bluffed one of my kids once. It ended badly. I will never do it again.
Remember that old Oil of Olay commercial? “If we say it makes you look sixty years younger, it does!”
If I say I will take away my son’s Nintendo 3DS if he misbehaves, and he misbehaves, I take the Nintendo 3DS.
If I say my child will get nothing else to eat until she finishes her peas, she gets nothing else. Even if it takes thirty hours (yes, thirty—I’ve been there) for the peas to be consumed.
If I say there will be no trip to the waterpark until all the homework is finished, the truant homework-er will not see the wave pool till the last math problem is finished correctly and legibly.
I do not negotiate with small children or terrorists. (Is that redundant?)
Your Kids Are Awful.
It’s true. They’re deranged little savages who behave like deranged little savages. All children are. Mine, too.
So do something about it. There’s no dearth of resource material out there. Pick a book, find a strategy, get a plan, and follow it. Ask for advice from parents whose parenting you respect, and then take the advice. Your children will not turn out to be well-mannered, self-regulating, successful human beings just because you want them to. Just like nobody will hand you a bag of money because you sat on a bench in front of the bank and hoped for the best.
Children are clever, selfish, willful, manipulative, obstinate, petulant, impulsive, and wildly creative human beings. So lower your head, steel your nerves, and meet their challenge.
If parenting were easy, a child could do it.
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