Discipline and Good Parenting, Volume 1: (aka: My cute baby is becoming a kid, so now what?)
Due to popular demand (and by popular demand, I mean two co-workers with two brand new, adorable babies), I have been asked to re-visit the importance of discipline, good parenting and child wellness—particularly for our tiny tots. (You know, the 8-month-to-toddler age, when kids become kids, not babies.)
I am the father of four and my wife laughs out-loud when she hears I’m speaking or writing about good parenting. Why does she laugh so hard?
Because, I am, by all accounts, a typical dude-dad. What’s a “dude-dad?” Our minds wander into sports or comic books when conversations are happening. We are mostly un-tidy and we like fart jokes. When disciplining, we’ve put too much confidence in our “I’m putting my foot down” moments, and we’ve also been disregarded as a whisper in the silent forest of nothingness.
See? Typical dude-dad. Acknowledging our status as normal human beings is critical.This is the first step to discipline, good parenting, and child wellness:
We are not special.
We are human and we screw up and we are tired and we sometimes don’t like to be parents. Don’t you dare think anybody is doing this perfectly. I’ve worked for way too long in the field of childhood mental health to believe that anybody actually knows what they’re doing. If you see a family and you think everything is working out for them you need to practice this mantra:
“Hello Fakertons! Nice faking, fakers.” (Make sure you really pronounce the “a” sound or this mantra becomes very negative—but it could still kinda feel good to say, you know, once in a while.)
Breathe it in. No matter how hard we try, we are not experts. Perfection is a myth.
Good discipline, good parenting, and child wellness will not be accomplished through perfection, but the sloppy, stupid mistakes we (and others) make—and how well we learn from them.
Just so we’re clear, Step 1 to good discipline, good parenting, and child wellness is:
Give yourself a break and stop feeling guilty, like, right now.
Guilt will suffocate and smother good parenting and good discipline.
When we parent out of guilt we can create manipulative tiny tyrants that, (in a weird, sort of accidental way), learn that our pain is their gain. Nobody wants that.
Step 2: Acknowledge that our kids only know what they know (and they don’t know what they don’t know).
In other words, our kids don’t actually compare us to anybody else until way into adolescence when they start spending more time away from home. So, we totally have the upper hand (until around 10 years old, then our upper hand slowly diminishes until they are 26 and have learned how awesome we were).
So what? What is our upper hand?
Our upper hand is that we are the architects of our children’s environment. When I think of this power and responsibility, I reflect on the beautiful words from Khalil Gibran’s masterpiece, “The Prophet” below:
“You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with his might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves the bow that is stable.”
As beautiful as this is (and it is truly beautiful), the take home message, for me, is: “Ben, above all else, be stable. Work your very hardest to be strong and stable and predictable.”
As it turns out, predictability and consistency are key to discipline and good parenting. One of my all-time favorite gurus and researchers on the planet is a gentleman by the name of Gerald Patterson. He dedicated his life to rigorous research that helped (and continues to help) kids and families and schools avoid the pitfalls of being a random, erratic, unpredictable adult.
This concludes Good Parenting and Discipline, Volume One.
What are the take home messages? (seriously, take these messages home):
- It’s okay to be human and make mistakes—as long as we learn from them.
- Everybody struggles with parenting. Everybody. The struggle is what leads to our growth and our appreciation of the good moments in time.
- NEVER allow guilt to creep in and influence our parenting decisions. Guilt is gonna happen, we’re gonna feel it, (and that’s okay), but we have to feel it on our own time. We can go bawl our eyes out in the car or the closet, but DO NOT let guilt dictate parenting decisions. Ever.
- We’re the only parents our kids will know (for a time). SO, we gotta make that time as stable and consistent as possible. Circumstances can change, I get that. However, we owe it to our kids to be rock solid. Parenting is essentially acknowledging that we are going to take on some serious responsibilities. The primary responsibility? Be there. Be consistent.
Next blog: Good Parenting and Discipline, Volume 2: (aka, Kneel Before Zod!)
I totally love sharing my perspective and thoughts with parents and educators. Why? (Mostly because of an inflated sense of self-importance AND the internet says I can.)
I also love the energy and the potential and the brief-moments-in-time kids bring to our lives. I like to infuse this love into my trainings and the good work we are doing with Totem PD. While much of our work is focused on helping school personnel, make no mistake, we have some goods for parents, too. Contact us.