I love my children! I tell myself this all the time. They can be sweet, cuddly little joys at times. Other times they make you long for calm and quite of the lower circles of hell. I have two girls (3 and 4) and a boy (1) and they are the love of my life. They mean the world to me. I would do anything for them. I don’t always like them though.
Most parents won’t say that out loud. They can drive me crazy. It takes all the patience I can muster most days just to keep from screaming and beating them until they can’t move. The older two are at the age where they have developed a mind of their own and want you to know they have one. We spend hours and hours trying to convince them that no we can’t run around outside without clothes. We can’t run into the street whenever we want. That peanut butter sandwiches are not a food group.
We all want the best for our children. We want them to grow up in a better home, with more opportunities than we had. It is in this pursuit that we often do our children a great disservice. I have found myself not wanting them to have to suffer at all. I really want to protect them from the pain of a challenge, the fear of a struggle. This is because I want them to grow up to be happy, healthy adults.
This is a misnomer. It is through the struggles we face that we grow and become better people. I have to allow them to screw up (within reason) so they can feel the pain of the punishment. I have had to learn how to deal with the punishment within a healthy confines. If my only means to punish is to yell and make idle threats what have I really accomplished.
The time I do this the most is at bedtime. We have a set bedtime every night. The go to their room to lay down at 7:45. The two older girls go “Okay daddy, we will gladly walk to our rooms, climb in to bed and wait for you to follow us up to tuck us in.” They, then, lay quietly and peacefully drift off to dreamland. At least that is how it is supposed to go down in my head.
Instead it is “Ok time for bed.” “NO!! we want to watch one more show!” When the answer is a firm but fair “We have watched our show now it is time for sweet little girls to go to bed.” You would think I just told them that santa died and they will never get another present again.
What they hear is “War time!” and the battle begins. So from 7:45 until about 9:00-9:30 we fight, argue, sneak around, and scream. My original approach to this was to yell and make threats that there was really no way to follow through with. As you can imagine this did not work real well.
So now I try a very different way. I let them go for a little bit. As long as I don’t hear any fighting. Then after about 15 to 20 minutes I will go up stairs and say something in the way of ” I know you guys are not tired and it is fun to play. However I really need you to calm down and try to get some sleep.”
This will calm them down for a bit. As you would guess with a 3 and a 4-year-old it only lasts so long. It is much less the next time. I may need to repeat this approach a couple of times. With each successful talk the noise level will decrease until they finally go to sleep.
I have found with this approach I am less stressed out at bedtime. I am no longer the “Mean daddy!” I have found a place that allows each of us to be heard and understood. Them for their desire to not go to bed and me for my need to have some form of peace at night.
Am I able to take this approach every time with total success? Not even close! I do however work at it on a conscious level so I can know that I am doing all I can to make sure they know I love a respect them and I will always be there for them.