Monday, December 12, 2005

PARENTING: Not for the Squeamish!

"I’ve been spanked with many things but my conscience causes the most pain." - Bigwhitehat

Some friends of ours have a little boy. A cute curly headed little boy … that no one can stand. See, this kid is a brat. He gets no correction, no discipline. He absolutely runs the show in his little world. His “id” has been allowed to grow unpruned, wild as kudzu and just as strangling. He’s so bad that his name has secretly become interchangeable with the word brat in certain circles.

It's not his fault. Kids behave how they are allowed to behave. His parents have failed him because they didn’t have the heart (or the kohones) to straighten him up. I feel sorry for him, really. And I feel sorry for the world when he reaches adulthood.

Incrediboy has been testing us. When he finds something he can do which he shouldn’t do, that elicits the right response from Mom and Dad (in other words, anything that triggers an insistent “No”), he’ll try it again. And again. To see just how much he can get away with. Done with that devil smile of his that makes you laugh if you’re not ready for it and therefore will completely discredit you.

Blossoming into his terrible two's, he’s certainly old enough to have responsibility and repercussions for his behavior enforced (at appropriate levels of comprehension), which let me tell you, is no fun for any of us.

Grounded in the footsteps of my ancestors, I have a loving but firm attitude toward discipline. I remember before I was a parent, when getting into discussions about children in general and disciplinary matters in particular, my friends with children would often belittle me. I can hear them still:

“You don't understand. Just wait till you have kids. It’s harder than you think – you won’t be so quick to crack down on them. You'll see!"

I had always thought at the time (and still do) that these were lame responses. Excuses given for themselves, for not being able to stand up to their children. For not having the backbone to do what was right. Kids need the guidance of their elders. They need to be taught what is acceptable and not acceptable. They count on us to teach them their life skills. Most importantly they need to know who’s boss, and that it isn’t them. And regardless of immediate reactions, children are much happier for it.

Don't get me wrong. It's impossible to make the right call all the time. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since becoming a parent, it’s that AS a parent it is very hard to know what to do at all times. If at any time. LOL. But to NOT give them the best guidance we can is a disservice to them.

I’ve come to realize that while it’s part due to experience (our experience as parents and our experience as former disciplined children) and part due to example (our own actions and behaviors speak volumes to them), it’s mostly about guts. Children need structure and they need consistency. And man, are they sharp on picking up details. Give in once and they know that it’s a possibility for future battles. React differently at different times, and you confuse them. Rules should be set in stone, non-negotiable and virtually inflexible. Kids don’t need to be afforded debates and bargains. They need to be taught “the law according to Dad and Mom” and have it consistently enforced and respected.

It takes more guts than you think.

... And yes, I freely admit! It is very difficult to wield your authority. To love someone so overpoweringly that it feels, as they say, that your heart is on the outside of your body - and not letting them have what they want, or do what they want. Administering consequences. Having the stern tone of your voice or the quick smack of their hand cause those giant tears to well up and spill out of big beautiful hurt eyes. To not crumble at the sorrowful embrace around your knee – it’s very hard. The hardest thing in the world. But it’s not a negotiable responsibility. It’s not something we can put off because we don’t feel like being the meanie. It must be done. For their instruction. For their safety. For their “own good”.

But more to the point, it’s the long-term goal that must be kept in focus. Discipline and guidance in childhood yields a grounded and well-adjusted adult. Not giving in to every tantrum will teach them to cope with life not always going their way. Teaching them manners and respect will help mold them into men and women who are prepared to function in society and appropriately interact with others. The payoff is later, and WAY more important than upsetting them for a short spell here and now.

We know there will be days that Incrediboy will resent us, maybe even genuinely hate us. It sours my stomach to even cast a quick thought upon that. But parenting isn’t a sprint, it’s a long distance run. Focus on the finish line, maintain the consistent pace. In time and by the grace of God, we will serve him well as his parents and he will appreciate it.

Hub and I agree, that while we strive to build and share a loving and fun relationship with our boy, the time to be his buddy is when he’s an adult. And that time will come, no doubt more quickly than we’ll expect.

Until then, much consistent and properly dispensed guidance, discipline, and encouragement needs incorporated in with the learning, laughter, and love.

Until then, we will wear our game face, and will not let him see us cry when we have to be the meanies.

The things we do for love.


Martie said...

How very true! And you haven't even hit on the idea of peer pressure as they become teenagers. Sometimes it seems that even though they have been taught wrong from right, the group they run with will have far more influence than what you have taught, said or think! But stick to your guns; he will thank you when he is older!

I think you are right on track! :)

Bougie Black Boy said...

Incrediboy is lucky to have you as a mommy. Keeps your hands full and don't let him be that "bratboy" you spoke about. :)

And, I do agree the way we are raised influences the "end" result.

Michelle said...

"The things we do for love."

*singing - like walking in the rain and the snow and theres no where to go and you feel like a part of you is dying.

Seriously, I know exactly what you are talking about here. While some things get easier as your children get older, the punishment becomes harder.

I once heard someone say that if your kids are mad at you half the time, you're doing a good job.

Take heart, you are right on target.

Nicole said...

How loved your little guy is, to have a mommy that actually does worry about this stuff & takes the time to follow it through. So many kiddos these days (like the one mentioned in your first paragraph) do not.

Wonderful article!

Twisted Cinderella said...

Very true. Prince Charming and I have come together on our discipline and rules. I know that I can be too soft so I rely on him to help me be more firm and I am getting better at it. Prince Charming knows that he can be a little too strict and he relies on me to help him with that. We have discussions about what we will and won't allow. But with her, we are absolutely firm a rule is a rule and it is always obeyed. She craves that kind of consistency.

bigwhitehat said...

Deliberate. Clew you are Right not wrong when it comes to your expectations and goals with your son. Parent him deliberately with goals in mind.

You know I am all about discipline. Any reasonable person can see that children are responsive to positive and negative stimuli. Sometimes you praise him. Sometimes you spank him. Sometimes you let him touch the hot tea pot. That is all your judgment call. So, pray for wisdom.

You made some comments about example. This is the straightest arrow in you quiver. Examples outlast discipline. This is the tough one. Are you the type of person you want your son to be? How about Hubby? Do you two have the relationship you want Incrediboy to have with his wife? This is what kills me and Echotig. Modeling is not molding. It is being the role model he deserves.

Don’t worry about Incrediboy becoming the bratty kid. Your not the same as the bratty kid’s parents. You misspelled the term cajones. It literally means drawers but, is a Tex-Mex term for testicles. That is appropriate because this couple probably emasculated their parenting method a long time ago. I don’t see you having that problem.

Love, Consistency, Discipline, and Modeling have been the backbone of good parenting for thousands of years. Any one who would leave one of these out can kiss my Brazelton.

clew said...

BWH, I spell it the northerner's way ;) - LOL.

BWH as well as everyone else - Thank you for your kind comments. As a first time mom I get nervous about my parenting skills, even when I know I'm taking the right path. I appreciate your ear and your encouragement!

bigwhitehat said...

Clew, I have to warn you. If you correct my spelling, I'll correct my spelling. Yes, I will edit the post. And you my dear, are officially appointed as a bigwhitehat spelling correction consultant.

Rivka said...

Great and aweseome post! Thanks for visiting my blog! Parenting is something I definately DON'T have down. I make tons of mistakes, but the key is apologizing. You know when I have sinned against them. Like yelling so hard i spit.. You know.. Of course, i don't know your situation, but we have 4 boys ages 6 and under. 2 of them are on the autism spectrum.
We used to not spank our one with autism. We do now when he has been directly disobedient and we know he understands it. I can tell, being his mom, that he wants to be spanked like his brothers. He used to feel left out believe it or not! I remember when i would spank his older brother and he would lean over my legs butt up, and ask me to spank him.. He would say.."Spank me now!".. I would say.. "No Isaac, you have done nothing wrong"..
Back then he didn't understand them, so we didn't use that form of discipline. When we use it now, we have to do it RIGHT AFTER the crime, or he will forget and not get it.

Anyway, you have hit a nerve here. I think parents today are far too permisive. I think most parents who are conscientious tend to not just spank as a 'last resort', but as a first resort. My kiddos know they get spankins when they directly disobey or are defiant. My oldest back talked me once. Has never done it again. He said something under his breath that was totally disrespctful. I pulled the van over, hopped in back and spanked him with a stern warning never to disrespect me with his mouth again. HOWEVER,when he shows great respect, and goes out of his way to be considerate, kind etc.. HE GETS TONS OF PRAISE.
Whenever any of my boys shows any kind of love toward one another, or looking out for one another, they get tons of praise. We reinforce good character qualitites as well.
It takes a lot of work, and sometimes so much work you feel you can't do much more, but God gives you the strength to keep going.

Rebecca said...

Amen sister. Parenting is the toughest job you'll ever love....

It gets easier; once they understand the "rules" of the game, they tend to test you less and less because they know where they stand. Instead of being tested daily, it's more along the lines of changing of ages - when they gain a stronger sense of their individuality.

My daughter has already expressed more independence at a younger age than my son had at this point; she is going to require a firmer stand than my son required. But you are so right.... it's so worth it in the long run. :)

Nelly said...

This is ringing loud and true in our home right now. My little guy just turned 6 and he knows exactly what he can get away with. It is all about consistency and that is something that is hard to turn back, even though he is only 6. We have lost some ground and we're playing catch up right now. I don't want my little 21 month old girl to follow in his footsteps!

*** said...

Wow, very well written. I was having a conversation with my boyfriend last night about some of these very issues. I'm more the laxed one and he's, well, a hardass. I'm beginning to think that's the way it should be. Especially after reading this post. Thanks

Kodijack said...

As more and more time goes on with me as a parent I continue to harken back to how I was raised, how my parents were raised, and I have really come to the determination that we are really really soft on our kids nowadays. I will admit to spoiling them in some things, like video games, but each week brings more responsibility on them and what I expect them to do. They are slowly learning, and I am also slowly developing some patience.

Gayle said...

You are absolutely right! Kids need love, protection and discipline. They have their enough friends in their piers. You can become their friends when they are grown up and out on their own. I know of what I speak. I have raised Four children.

Excellent post! :)