Updated: Nov 25, 2020
Us parents definitely know the feeling. The anguish of sitting on your child’s bed, seeing them experience the ills of life as we have come to know them. The sort of stuff you wish you could protect them from, but deep down, you know it’s all part of them growing up. I try to hide my own tears, which is impossible at times.
Early on in the parenting journey, I was concerned that my boys would see my tears as being too vulnerable or that things were really bad — but I needn’t have worried, as they know it’s just part of who I am as they’ve gotten older.
The really challenging aspect though is knowing when and how to discipline my 2 sons (12 & 10) so that they become the
young men I want them to be.
Two things come into play here. My own emotional reaction to the behaviour and the rational part of me that says that what just happened was not appropriate, thus it needs to be dealt with.
Having 2 sons will give you a pretty good idea of what happens that (requires punishment) my wife and I regularly deal with. In the case that you have daughters, then let me say it’s mostly physical.
Big brother attacking younger brother and vice versa. I was an older brother and I’m still brandishing mental scars from how I treated my little brother, so I need to be mindful of not overreacting when I see that particular action. I say ‘need to be’ but it’s hard to do in-situ.
Another issue is the disrespect they show in the way that they talk to us. I said I’d never say this, but back when I was growing up, I would not have dreamt of talking to my parents the way that my sons do. It saddens me and there is some shame attached to that statement because ultimately, myself and my wife are the ones (trying) to set the boundaries.
The thing is though is that we try not to smack our kids. Don’t take this as an article pushing any agenda though. When I say try — I mean that on occasions I have smacked my children. I’m fine with it too. Sometimes fear is a good thing. I tell you, the behaviour stopped pretty bloody quickly — but — again, it is not something I want to be doing all the time. I see it as a last resort. It’s the reason I kept my mouth shut as a kid. I was scared of physical pain. But mostly, I was worried that my parents wouldn’t love me, or I would miss out on stuff as a consequence of me being a brat.
Consequences. That’s a whole other level. Without a shadow of a doubt, I see this as one of the most important discipline mechanisms available to us as a deterrent. I’m not perfect at it. There have been times when I’ve backed down on the consequence because it meant me, or the family missing out on going somewhere or having to stay at home whilst the naughty child was in their room.
The sweet spot here is setting rational and achievable consequences. I’ve often defaulted to — “that’s it! We’re not going to (insert footy, BBQ, playdate, sports team event)”. The problem with these punishments is that it involves letting down other people so it’s not fair on them. For instance, if we’ve bought tickets to the footy and I’m driving the other Dad and his son to the game — it ruins their day. So my wife and I have learnt to pick consequences that act as a stopper but also doesn’t inflict the punishment on some innocent party.
The aspect of parenting that has really helped with disciplining my kids is behaviour modeling. As the title of this piece alludes to, it is the discipline that I’ve instituted in my life that has contributed to healthy boundaries with my sons.
I have a morning process that I stick to religiously. I’m out of bed before 5 to read a book or some work stuff. I then do some exercise for an hour. When I get home I meditate for 10 minutes using the ‘Daily Calm’ from the calm app (trust me, I’m no guru). Then I’m ready for the day and whatever it wants to throw at me.
Ever since I’ve built this discipline into my life, it has allowed me to be a more patient, rational and pragmatic parent. Because I am disciplined, it helps me discipline my boys in a way that I have always wanted to — by example. I haven’t read any books on parenting, but what I have done is be in therapy, which gives me that ever important objective view of how I am living and the choices I make.
So what am I saying with all this? It’s not a new idea but it’s one that I have witnessed to work every single time. It is what I do, not what I say to my kids, that makes the difference. They take in so much from watching what us parents do and say. The better prepared I am through my morning routine and being disciplined about it — the better parent, person and provider I will be.