I was planning a different post for today, until I read this article on Babble: Why it’s good to scream at your kids. Perhaps you read it too? You have to admit, the title is catchy. What mother wouldn’t want some validation for all the yelling?
The article was particularly timely because my husband and I are currently facing some discipline trials of our own. Our oldest son just turned 4. How come nobody told me about 4? The attitude, the boldness, the maturity of his challenges over our authority, they seemed to appear overnight. And we’re left a little dumbfounded and unprepared. We didn’t see this coming.
A few nights ago I was flying solo at dinner time. It’s never easy to get dinner on the table for two impatient and cranky boys exhausted from their day, even with help. Top that with two fussy and picky eaters and you have the recipe for dinner time disasters. This night no exception. I was tired too, and when my oldest refused to eat his pizza (yes, I went for easy and kid-friendly to make life easy) for no good reason other than “I won’t” I totally lost my cool. I yelled enough and banged my hand on the table. And I startled him. Frankly, I startled myself. I totally blew my stack. And, of course, he cried and looked at me in shock. I felt like a complete schmuck. But as inappropriate as it was and contrary to how I normally would choose to parent, it did get his attention. He decided to eat his dinner and cooperate for the balance of our meal.
So I was intrigued by the argument presented in this article. The author says:
There is no anger like that between a child and her parents — and maybe there is no more useful tool.
It’s true isn’t it? Our children bring out both the best and the worst in us. The thing is, they always seem to bring out the worst precisely when we really need to be our best. And that’s my biggest struggle. Discipline is important, it’s about teaching our children right from wrong, instilling values and helping them learn to control their wants and desires in appropriate ways. It provides an important foundation for self-control later in life. I want to get it right.
But I don’t believe there are right or wrong answers. What works for some children, won’t necessarily work for others. Already I notice that our youngest will need a completely different approach than our oldest. Their personalities are different, so it stands to reason that they will respond to varying styles. Even though I don’t believe there are right or wrong answers, I feel these days as if I am floundering for any answers. I’m just not sure what to do. I want to be firm, but understanding. I want to instill a recognition of authority. I want to be accepted as the adult and respected. I don’t want to temper his spirit.
There are expectations placed on children and young people to respect their elders. But, do we respect them? Are they free to expect from us what we expect of them?….My son needs to be empowered to assert himself and make decisions – and he deserves to have his preferences respected. If I don’t allow him to do that, who will?
As much as I want to agree that we should respect them, empower them to assert themselves and make decisions, I’m torn. I’m torn because I had a healthy fear of my parents and it motivated my every decision. I was afraid they would be disappointed, I was afraid of punishment when I did wrong, my actions were mostly always to please and instill pride. I wanted to be good, at least in some part because I feared retribution for my actions. That’s not to say I was perfect, I did my fair share of rebelling. But it was moderate, and controlled and probably healthy.
So I nodded my head when I read this in the Babble article:
I imagine what my own mother (a real teacher) would have said if she’d found me even using Play-doh anywhere near her carpets. I can still feel the fear, not because my mother’s anger was abusive, just because it was justified.
Because it was justified.
That’s the part I struggle with. My tendency is to relate to my son as if he were a friend or a peer. I feel uncomfortable being firm with him. I forget it’s my job to set boundaries. Boundaries that include speaking respectfully, taking care of one’s own property and the property of others, being kind and gentle always, and living by the rules we set in our home.
When I say no it’s for a reason. I don’t need to justify my reasons to him, only to me. I can do that, mostly, as long as I keep my eye on the big picture and remember the kind of person I’m trying to raise.
This post is part of Bigger Picture Moments, a series where bloggers step back from the hectic, mind boggling pace of the day, pace of life, and take in the hugeness that is life and the small moments adding up to one Bigger Picture.
I also invite you to head over to Here Where I Have Landed, where I’m delighted to be a guest blogger today. My post is part of Justine’s Perspectives series and is all about the joy and challenges of life with two boys.