First thing’s first. I’m not completely a pacifist. I actually think violence can be justified in some circumstances, like self-defense or in defense of others. But when it comes to children, I am completely a pacifist. I don’t think striking a child is ever warranted. Ever. And, for me, even raising my voice to them is a little difficult. My type of discipline looks a little bit different.
I know a lot of people think that swatting kids’ booties in the grocery store when they are acting a fool is ok, but I don’t. And I really can’t stand when someone threatens a “whooping.” I don’t ever want my children to behave just because they are scared of me hitting or hurting them. Think about that … your child being afraid you might hurt them. Of course, that’s the last thing I’d ever want to do.
And this is why, as a fairly new parent of two little boys, I am discovering one of parenting’s grittiest challenges: discipline. I don’t care if you are indeed a spanker, or a yeller, or a time-outer, or a look-of-deather—discipline sucks no matter how you approach it. I am constantly challenged with being consistent with disciplining my kids; and I’m also constantly questioning if my methods are even effective.
This topic causes a little friction with my husband as well—he thinks I don’t discipline at all; but, of course, I do (eyeroll). We ultimately agree, I think, on the ways in which we intend to discipline our children; but it took a million conversations to get there, and it’s still a work in progress. I swear, it’s one of the topics that should be discussed and agreed upon before people get married, and especially before they have children, because discipline is more than a collection of tactics … it’s a lifestyle.
One time, when I was venting about the challenges of disciplining my children—at Kindermusik, of all places—the instructor said something that really stuck with me. “You know, Cara,” she said with a confident and informed look, “It’s easy to be a bad parent. It’s hard to be a good one.” And I think of that statement every time I need to send my child to time-out. It’s hard to be a good parent. It’s hard to set boundaries. It’s hard to be stern. It’s hard to hurt their feelings. But I have to do it … for them.
And once I get a handle on my disciplinary approach for the here and now, I am still kept up at night, thinking of discipline challenges to come. How do I deal with my two children responding to the same form of discipline completely differently? Will such inconsistency undermine all of my efforts? Or what about when they go to a friend’s house and see something different? Better yet, how do I handle challenges to my discipline efforts from close family members?
I’m looking forward to the day when my children are mature enough to understand the consequences of their actions—when they begin to understand the benefits of their own good behavior. I’m hoping that as they grow up, I will have an easier time getting them to comprehend losing privileges, e.g., being grounded or losing screen time. I want to continue to use exponentially more positive reinforcement than negative. And I want to teach them what an apology really means, hoping they will feel sorry for their wrongs and want to express that. At least that’s my plan right now.
I don’t want to yell (although I have). I don’t want to make my children stand in time-out (although I do). I don’t want to threaten to take a toy or a snack or a juice cup away when it is thrown across the room (although I do). And it all sucks. I would rather just look the other way. Honestly, that’s the easiest thing to do in the short term—for their little hearts and for mine.
Some of you might be thinking that’s what’s wrong with me—that I should have gotten a “whooping” or two myself. Better yet, now when you see my children misbehaving when we are out, you might say under your breath to your friend, “She’s the one who doesn’t spank her children. That’s why they are so crazy.”
Say what you want. They might be a little unruly; but they are kids. And the last thing I ever want to do is “hit” that out of them. In the meantime, I will continue to struggle with developing the right discipline strategy for my children.