Like most so many other of my ideas of parenthood, my thoughts and opinions on discipline were literally thrown out the window when my kids were born.
I grew up in a family where physical discipline was used. I think physical discipline was just a little more widely used and accepted in those days. I always thought that I would spank my kids. I thought that was the best way to teach your kids to have respect for you, to learn right from wrong and simply to get them to behave.
THen I had kids and I thought to myself there has got to be a better way to do this. When Mr. T. hit toddlerhood and started the normal toddler behaviour of hitting I started questioning discipline. The idea of spanking my child at that moment seemed so hypocritical. It made me feel like a bad parent for even considering it. How does hitting your child teach them not to hit??? I now am starting to think that spanking kids is not so much about the kids but more about the parents. It’s almost what a parent does when they’ve reached the end of their rope and don’t know what else to do, so they snap and hit.
So begins my search for the best and most effective way to discipline my kids.
Up until now discipline has pretty much consisted of a lot of no’s, don’ts and timeouts. Usually followed by some sort of explanation as to what they are doing is dangerous, wrong or just plain unacceptable.
We are now moving past that stage of discipline with Mr. T and are being pushed to use something a little more structured, a little more intense and a little more serious. His offenses are no longer innocent little baby grievances but have been taken over by offenses of little man proportion. A simple no isn’t as effective when he is wrestling Ms J to the ground. A time out doesn’t necessarily work when we have 2 minutes to get out of the house and Mr. T. is whining ,laying on the floor refusing to put his boots on. My mind races trying to figure out how to handle the situation. What is the best way to handle this while maintaining my authority as a parent, my dignity as a human being and all the while still teaching my son that I love him.
This is the most truly shocking aspect of this whole situation, that disciplining my children is not easy. I mean before I had kids people would tell me that it wasn’t easy. I heard the whole “this hurts me more than it hurts you” but to be honest I didn’t fully understand that. Really?? You really think this is going to hurt you more?? Ummm think again! I didn’t believe them.. How hard could it be, I thought? Say no, be firm, stand your ground and spank when necessary. That’s kind of how I thought it would go.
Not so much! Firstly, these little human beings are persistent! As firm as I think I’m being they seem to be capable of being firmer in their desire to do or get what they want, or their lack of desire to do what it is you want them to do.They are determined and will try with all their might to wear you down until you give in…and they really truly can keep going and going and going. Secondly it really does hurt me more than it hurts him!!! I don’t even spank my kids and it hurts me! Just to say no can actually hurt me. When I see the sadness, disappointment and sometimes shock in their eyes my heart hurts. I know I have to be firm, I know I can’t give in, but when they are crying and pleading I just want to give it to them. In my head I think what’s the harm..why am I saying no? Is it really so bad? The thing is that I know at that point if I give in I lose. I will have just taught them to cry, beg, throw a tantrum and they will get what they want so I can’t give in even if I wanted to.
So now I’m back to what discipline tactics are going to work. I’ve been reading books and talking to other parents and I don’t feel any more prepared. I don’t feel like I have the answer. Lately I’ve been trying the 1,2, 3 magic method and that seems to be working…somewhat. Which is yet another thing that I’ve done a complete 180 on since becoming a parent. I used to judge parents when I heard them counting 1….2….and I watched as their little ones just completely ignored them and did what they wanted anyways. I thought they weren’t doing it right and apparently my young childless self knew better and could teach them a thing or two about raising toddlers. Oh God how wrong I was! I have turned into the counting parent!!!! When did this happen?!?!
The thing is I don’t have the answers. The story of parenthood! Before you have kids you think you have all the answers..you are so smart before you ever have to experience a tantrum first hand…oh and taking care of your cousin, niece, baby brother or any other child does not mean you know how to parent…it just means you know how to babysit!! Then your first child is born and you realize you don’t have a clue! Is that sign of growing up? When you realize just how little you know?
I guess what I’m learning is that the best discipline for us is what works for our family. What allows me to keep my kids in check, ensure they are safe, well-behaved and respectful while still allowing me to keep control of myself as well. My job is to raise confident, responsible people who grow up to be independent and capable and proper discipline is the best way to achieve that. I think that my discipline is also going to be ever-changing, as my kids grow and change , the tactics I choose to use have to evolve. I will continue to educate myself through my books, parenting magazines, mommy classes and tips from other parents and hope for the best! I don’t have the answers. All I can do is try my best. In the meantime if anyone has any tips for me, I’m open and willing to hear them.