I remember the moment like it was yesterday, my oldest son who may have been around 7 or 8 years old at the time was acting up and being just terrible! As a single mom, I was letting it go. Let’s face it, I was tired from arguing, disciplining and truth be told I felt guilty. Guilty for taking something away from them that I grew up with, a family, normalcy, one home. Because of all of those things, I let things slide. It was easier.
So as my son was having this outburst and I did little to stop it, my dad made the decision to step in. He pulled me aside, looked me in the eye and said “If you don’t put your foot up his ass, one day he will be bigger than you and you won’t be able to.”.
His words hit me. Hard! I heard him loud and clear but I still wasn’t sure if I could do it. What I did know was that it was time to change and to figure out how. My grandmother would say that children are like trees. When they are young, it’s up to us to shape them, to watch them and guide the trunk to grow straight and sturdy. One day that tree will have roots that run deep and a trunk the wind can no longer move.
It all started to make sense to me and I did what was hard to do. I started to discipline. There were many battles at first but slowly over time, they decreased and as my boys grew to become teenagers I grew to have more and more gratitude for that initial conversation with me dad.
When I see a single parent over compensating the way I did, I get it. My heart actually breaks a little for them because I understand the internal battle they are dealing with. I also hope that one day soon that someone or something will help them get the message the way I did and the key to that is that the decision is made to follow through with it.
I’m in no way an expert in this but what I learned through my process was:
Be Loving But Firm : It’s important to make sure the child understands that YOU are the parent and he/she is the child. Be direct, firm and loving at the same time. Get right down to their level, look each other in the eye and say it firmly. It’s ok to lose your temper, but never lose control.
- Be Consistent: Consistency is important so that the child understands that inappropriate or disrespectful behavior is not ok sometimes. This is the most difficult when we are busy or in my case, when a lot of people were around. Initially, I was nervous about addressing the behavior in public because I didn’t know what the response would be. Although I would pull them aside, I knew I couldn’t wait until later to address because they wouldn’t fully understand. I would have to address it right then and there and pray that it didn’t create an embarrassing scene. However, it never did. Or maybe it did and I’ve just forgotten by now, but the point is, they quickly learned what appropriate behavior looked like.
- No Timeline: When I first started to take an item away from them, I would give it back as soon as the scene was over or I would tell them that they could have the item back at a certain time. When that time came around, you can bet they were asking for it back and even if it was unearned, they would argue that I told them they could have it at that time. They were right! Then I learned, NO timelines of when they can have it back. It was at my discretion and I based it off of their behavior.
- Stick To What You Say: If you do take an item or event away, stick to what you say! Don’t threaten that they lost going to that birthday party because of the way they were acting and then an hour later, tell them it’s ok to go to that party. What you just did was take all of the energy and work it took up to that point and tossed it in the trash. They learned nothing at all. It was all lost.
I’ll admit that it wasn’t an easy transition. Their dad was tougher and more consistent that I was and there are times that I wished I had more of what he did, and other times I believe that the balance worked out well. Looking back today and seeing the end result, I can say that the tough times early on were more than worth it!
Children want to be disciplined. Even if they don’t see it today, they will understand it later that discipline is love. I can promise you that they will be thankful. When I ask my boys now who they believe they will discipline like, they tell me their dad! They see the importance of disciplining and they still really like us! Go figure! That’s when I realized that they finally got it.