Wednesday, March 16, 2011

More Parenting Woes

I keep thinking about the power struggles I've gotten into with the kids lately and while we usually sort things out, the same types of problems keep repeating themselves. I keep waiting for them to just learn how to 'do the right thing', but it's just not happening. I hesitate to question myself (one of the worst things I do as a parent), but some adjustments might be needed since my partner and I want to slit our wrists by the end of the weekend.
As a general rule, my partner and I try to avoid bribes, threats, rewards and punishments. Our goal as parents is to teach the kids to make good choices, to take responsibility and to have self-discipline. Rather than force them to comply, we try to educate by giving reasons about why they should do what we ask of them. This works some of the time, but not always. It requires patience, empathy, and more patience -- not my speciality.
It's hard not to resort to threats because they work. Some parents feel these are acceptable tactics because they are short lived -- kids quickly learn to listen. But then there are some that never learn -- they grow up without self- discipline, needing someone else to always tell them what to do. They are ME. What if this happens to my kids? Here's another case in point -- a friend of mine, plagued with guilt over an extra-martial affair, finally confessed to her husband and afterwards said to him -- "I'm ready for my punishment now." WTF! She needed him to discipline her. *Sigh*
When I'm disciplining the kids, I try to think back to my own childhood. I remember being really angry with my parents for punishing me -- rarely would I learn that what I did was wrong. Instead I'd be plotting revenge on my sister who ratted me out or vowing to not get caught the next time. I want my kids to learn from their mistakes, know the difference between right and wrong and take responsibility. The only rewards for their behavior will come from within their own heart and conscience, because I won't be there to do this for them when they're adults.
So where does this leave me? If I want to stick to my 'no threats, punishments, bribes and rewards' philosophy, I have to factor in more time and patience. I cannot peacefully come up with logical reasons when we are always scrambling to get out the door. Our plates are way too full again -- I need to simplify. I also have to get better at instilling consequences ... which are kind of like punishments but more closely linked to the behaviour and framed so that they seem logical -- it's a bit manipulative. My partner is the master of coming up with and communicating these. I'm just lazy. He can turn a "you don't get to have dessert until you finish your supper" bribe into an informed consequence using the 'When/Then" rule --WHEN you finish your supper THEN you have dessert.
Lastly, I have to cut myself some slack. There are no hard and fast rules and I should not be disappointed in myself when I can't live up to these ideals. Nothing is ever that absolute. There is no such thing as a perfect parent. I'm sure I am causing other neurosis by some other action -- it's normal. Golden Rule, once again -- I would never dream of using threats on my friends, so why should I do that to the three little people who mean the most to me?


  1. Why is parenting so difficult?! We bribe waaaay too much. I always said I wouldn't, but here I am, doing it practically daily! I find we're still at an age with H where it's hard to explain some things to him, and bribery works LOL... hopefully once he's a bit older (I think 4-ish?) he'll be better to understand.

    We do make our punishments connected to the "bad" behavior, and we don't do time-outs, but there are a gazillion things we do that we probably shouldn't.


  2. don't feel badly -- I posted this as more of a reminder to myself that I am *trying* to do the right thing. When I'm at the end of my rope and no one is listening, I need to remember that it's okay -- compliance is the not goal. It's also easier to blog about than follow. Last night I was dangling a cookie alongside my boy's vegetables. I think bribery and mild threats are things I can wean myself off of once they get older and can be reasoned with, as you say. I doubt very much either of us will be telling our teenagers that they can't have dessert. They would just tell us to shut up and go get dessert themselves.
    On another note, how's the exercise/diet battle going? I am going no where except for UP. :-(