Parenting is the best. It really is. There is nothing like it. It's the most rewarding thing in the world. There is no way to understand a parents love until you become one. I love my kids more than life itself.
If you are a parent you've probably said all of these things and you've probably said them multiple times at some point or another along your parenting journey. You probably also meant them too because they are all true statements.
However, parenting is not only the most rewarding thing in the world. It's also somehow simultaneously the most frustrating thing in the world too. I'm not breaking any news. I'm sure this also sounds familiar. In parenting circles we typically replace the word "frustrating" with the word "challenging" because we don't like to admit that the children we spend most of our time trying to convince others are angels, are actually not. They are nowhere close. I guess challenging is a much more positive word and it makes us parents, especially those of young children, feel like we haven't been defeated...yet. Truth is, they are VERY frustrating and its okay to admit that.
Why? Because once you've spent enough time around a two year old you come to the realization that it's a lot like being in a relationship with a tiny bipolar tyrant midget who doesn't speak English very well and makes way too many demands for someone who has such a major deficiency in the tenure department.
The good news is that we, as parents, hold the power to turn these tiny tyrants into human beings who resemble something a whole lot closer to angels than belligerent drunks with an attitude problem. That's where DISCIPLINE comes in. Ah, yes, it is such a necessary evil. There is nothing I look forward to LESS than disciplining my boys. It's simply in my nature to be loving and fun and nurturing and I don't feel like any of those things when I'm sending my boys to time out or God forbid, giving them a spanking. However, I also understand that implementing and adhering to a sturdy set of rules teaches a child his boundaries and if followed through on, one day turns him into an accountable young man.
We are a time out family. Nine times out of ten time out is an effective way to discipline both of our boys (ages 2 and 4). Taking away a privilege is another effective tool and a spanking is certainly not out of the question but it is used as a last resort and rarely do we visit that resort. (Hmmm, speaking of resorts, visiting a "resort" sounds nice right about now.)
Anyway, consistently disciplining your children is tough. Resisting the temptation of letting a threat become empty may seem mean and unnecessary at the time, but it's actually the best thing you can do for your child. I always thought the whole, "This is gonna hurt me more than it's gonna hurt you" thing was a bunch of hippy dippy bologna but it turns out there's a whole lot of truth to it. We all just want to see our kids be happy and the last thing we want is to be the cause of unhappiness. Unfortunately, when we follow through on our disciplinary threats, our children associate that unhappiness directly with us. Who knew it was this tough to be on the other end of the discipline?
Like any difficult part of life a little encouragement goes a long way. My wife and I do a great job of communicating our feelings to one another as we discipline our boys and it helps to keep us on the same page and keep us accountable for our actions. We are firm believers in disciplining out of necessity and teaching rather than disciplining out of anger or frustration. Our boys understand that we love them tremendously as we discipline them because we always make sure to communicate that to them but sometimes it's a little more challenging when both of us aren't home.
Tonight my wife was on a girls night and I was home alone with the boys. My two year old, Fletcher, was being especially challenging at the dinner table. Something I'm very used to. Fletcher had a rough go at it for the first six or eight months of his life. You can read about that here. Since then, however, he's been such a perfect addition to the family... except for at the dinner table. If it's not a pop tart, grilled cheese or cereal he usually does not want to eat it. It really just depends on the night. Tonight he was doing his typical "store the food in the cheek like a squirrel and no one will notice I'm not actually swallowing" routine. Needless to say, the stash of "nuts" in his cheek built up and I wasn't in the mood. So I hastily sent him to time out and told him he could come out after he swallowed his bite. We went back and forth for a good thirty minutes and my 4 year old, Cooper, devoured his meal and began to play.
At this point I began to get discouraged. Doubt started to creep into my mind. Was I being too hard on him? Should I just give in and let him eat something else? Is he just exhausted? I really wanted it to be a fun night and this was the furthest thing from fun. What should I do? I didn't have my partner in crime, my wife, there to ask for advice. Just then I heard the sweet voice of my innocent little four year old from a few feet behind me
"It's okay Dad. You're doing the right thing."
Did he really just say that?!
Yes he did.
Is he infinitely wise beyond his years?!
I don't know if he said it because he thought that's what mom would have said if she was here or if it's something he's seen on a movie, or if he was just really enjoying watching his little brother get sent to time out, but whatever it was, it really helped. It helped me remember that I was fighting the good fight and that this would pay off in the long run as long as I was coming from a place of love.
I just replied to him, "Thanks buddy." and he said, "You're following the instructions."
At that point I began to wonder if his mother had left a set of instructions that I wasn't aware of.
I just gave him a big hug and carried on, feeling encouraged, and knowing that I was doing the right thing.