I absolutely LOVE being a dad! One thing I have had to learn over the years is that my kids’ perception of me can easily swing from ‘Playful, fun Papa’ to ‘Big Red Hairy Monster’…
I’m also a firm – FIRM – believer in discipline. Not the ‘everything in its place’ kind fo dad, or Georg von Trapp, yielding my whistle of authority. But I do expect my kids to stop when I tell them to stop, to remember when I tell them something, behave appropriately, and obey our family rules. The key to understanding and achieving these objectives is wonderfully layed out in a previous Cheeky Bums post ‘Parenting in the Checkout Lane’.
In that post Lucy Kessler of the Olde Buffalo Inn shares the need for parents to actively take their roles of disciplining their children. She drives home the issue of our kids not knowing any better, and no matter how we respond to given situations we are training them. By not correcting wrong attitudes or behavior, we are training them that their tantrums and loss of control are appropriate…
This post could be considered a ‘part 2’ to Lucy’s article. This is for those of us who aren’t bashful in the area of disciplining our kiddos, and don’t hesitate on follow through. If you aren’t quite ‘there’ yet, keep reading anyway to get a more balanced perspective!
Most people who hesitate or aren’t firm with their children either do it out of fear that they will hurt their kids little hearts and want to ‘win their kids over with love’– or they have seen where the strict disciplinarian knows no boundaries, and they refuse to be that. Both are inadequate and inappropriate ways to approach your kids and parenting.
Let me start with a simple, and very realistic, example.
Let us say there is a 4 year old who has wondered into the kitchen, opened up the cabinets under the sink and has come to find the hazardous cleaning chemicals that we all like to pretend we don’t have under their (this is an all natural focused blog after all!). Would it be appropriate to sheepishly say, ‘uh, Junior, please stop……please……Remember, it hurts me when you don’t obey, please stop.’….or…. Stomp over there and roar ‘What on earth do you think you are doing?!?!!! You know better than this!!!!’ (understand neither scenario includes any physical exchange; this is a verbiage and tone exercise)
Which scenario is better? Personally, I would tend to think the second is better – but NOT best! It’s better because there is an immediate danger and your child cannot afford to have the option of being wrong and missing the urgency of the moment.
Granted, interactions and exchanges are going to differ based on the age of the child. For this example an even better exchange would be to use the second response’s words, but instead of yelling- just talk firmly— very firmly. And ask them why the chemicals are dangerous (teachable moment), then also ask them why they broke the rules of getting under the sink (another teachable moment) then following Lucy’s advice – FIRST: correct attitudes, and THEN administer a warning or punishment for getting under the sink.
So, how does all this tie into being a Big Red Hairy Monster?
Well, believe it or not, children are very emotionally sensitive (new parents believe it, but by about age 2 you begin to wonder…). When we yell at, or even just talk firmly to our children we often forget their perspective. There is someone 2-4 times their height, towering over them telling them they are wrong…
It took one of our girls confiding in Kelsi that they had gotten scared of me when I corrected them to bring their perspective to my attention. Does this mean I walked away heart broken and I never addressed them firmly again? Heavens no!…. it means I also need to parent and guide their perspective (…and realize I’m 2-4 times their height). When I need to be the ‘enforcer of the rules’ and correct a rebellious attitude or warn of danger, sometimes I may stand up and tower, or (most often) I get down on their level and TEACH them the rules.
But when I need to explain and talk I will sit down on the floor and have them sit in my lap. When I am out of line and my attitude is wrong, I sit down and apologize to them— and explain that sometimes I’m a Big Red Hairy Monster and I’m still learning to control my attitude too. This opens up a HUGE door of communication and reassures that child that you ARE the parent, but you are also SAFE.
My title wasn’t to give permission to be a Big Red Hairy Monster—- it was to shed light on the fact that sometimes our kids do see us like that. That is not cause for heartache or easing up on our parenting… it shows us that we need to teach our kids how to have a right perspective of us as we discipline them…
Have you ever been a Big Red Hairy Monster?