I’ve been thinking a lot lately of the changes being a parent has made to my temperament. I let a lot more of people’s (big and small) shenanigans slide than I would have before. In some ways, my patience and willpower have grown too. I have also learned the value of the word sorry. It is something that I will only use when I genuinely feel it, but it diffuses a lot of situations and guilt of not handling a situation to the best of my ability. There is one thing that bothers me though; when it comes to parenting our children, I tend to have to fill the role of discipline. I don’t like it. If I’m honest, I don’t like conflict in general (even with a child) and I do try for the more reasoned approach first:
“Hey, that’s not nice is it?”
“How about instead of doing this, we do that”
“Mummy and daddy are talking at the moment, we’ll play as soon as we’re done”
Sometimes this does not work.
I don’t feel great about it but when things are too emotional, busy or the children are going too far, I have to let out a bark of “enough!” occasionally. Of course, if things keep going, there’s time out, there’s taking the TV or a toy away etc and I’ve had to do that. Especially when my 5-year-old started lashing out at his mother (something he has never tried with me).
After all this, I always feel drained and guilty. I'm not naïve; I recognise that disciplining your children is part of raising decent, functioning members of society but it doesn’t come as easy to some as it does to others.
There are schools of parenting that say not to engage in conflict with your child. I try to do that, but I can't make it work. Equally, there is a more old-fashioned approach, this says that discipline is the foundation of raising a child. It implies that saying sorry is a sign of weakness. Nope, can't deal with that. So, it seems a little cliché and I'm the first to groan when someone says this but 'the truth is somewhere in the middle', but actually it kind of is. Well maybe not actually, maybe it is somewhere between the middle and avoiding conflict. Maybe the truth is somewhere between the left and the middle!
The best solution to when these confrontations occur, is to let them happen (less the two-year-old, more the five-year-old). Don't let that be the end of it though. Make time a little later to apologise and to explain why it happened.
“Daddy, is sorry he told you off, but you can’t do this”
Then try to explain how it made the people involved feel.
I’m not sure the kids always understand, but I’ve found that speaking to my son about what he was feeling before he acted-up and explaining its impact has led to him start articulating his feelings and frustrations better.
Perhaps this is because he is developing and growing older or maybe we’re learning to understand each other and communicate better. Honestly, I don’t know. What I am sure of though, is taking that moment to say sorry and explain the situation is as helpful for me as it is for him.
Do not be afraid to say sorry to your children. No matter how young.
The Busy Papa (or Aaron) is a UK based parenting, lifestyle and mental health blogger. He is Dad to two wonderful (if not challenging) children and does what he can to get by. His favourite colour is green and strongly dislikes (though tolerates) tomato. Follow him @thebusypapa on Twitter.