As a father, and as a human being, I’ve learned to take the good with the bad.
For example, it’s a good thing that Boy Wonder has learned the word please. He knows it’s proper use; “Peanut Butter peeze.”, “Binky please.”, “Money please.” Wait a second, what was that? The flip side is that he knows how to weaponize the word too. “Phone please! Pleeeeeeease. PLEASE!” But he’s just so damn cute, how can I say no? I can and I did survive that thunderstorm of a tantrum with the help of another new superpower called discipline.
With Great Power…
Like Uncle Ben said to Peter Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility.” That is why I have to choose how I discipline my little sidekick very, very, carefully.
Every tantrum and disagreement becomes a teaching moment. Discipline is never something done out of revenge. What I mean is that I do not spank him after he hits me. What does he learn from that? He learns to meet violence with violence. That is the same reason I do not stand there and argue with him when he refuses to listen.
Every Batman needs an Alfred. Every Superman needs a Jonathan Kent. Boy Wonder is one after all and still learning his boundaries and it is up to me to steer his moral compass in a mostly-right direction.
When I misbehaved as a kid, my parents did a couple of things that go through to me. I was spanked once or twice. Nothing awful, just a little snap to get my attention. But it was enough to deliver the message through my stubborn skull. When I got older, they had to get more creative with their disciplining but it was always done with the intent of getting me to think about making better choices next time.
Looking back, one of my favorite punishments they used didn’t even feel like discipline at the time. When my teenage angst became too much for any of us to bear, my mom would give me “the look” and tell me to go for a run or take a few laps in the pool. It gave us both some space and time to think. It also allowed me a way to burn off that negative energy and come back with a clear head, fresh perspective, and ready to listen.
I fully intend to use this tactic on Boy Wonder but right now he is still a little young for it. It was easy to adapt to a toddler version though. When times get overwhelming, we hit the park down the street. After a half hour of running between the slides and swings, we are both in a better place with each other.
Different parents will have different approaches of getting through to their kids. I try to come at parenting with a calmer personality. That means being consistent with what I allow and what I don’t.
Yes, I talk to my toddler. I don’t mean baby talk. I talk to him like an adult. I do it all the time too.
“Hey buddy, I’m going to change your diaper.”
“Do you want to go to the park?”
“Are you all done on the swings?”
Or say we are in the car and make a stop at 7-11 and he suddenly my wakes up from a nap. He looks around and realizes we are stopped and mom isn’t around.
“We’re still on our way buddy. Had to stop real fast for a drink. Go back to sleep and we’ll be there soon.”
At first that all seemed pointless but you know something crazy? After a while, he started to seem like he was listening. Then a few weeks later it seemed like he actually understood. Now, I know he understands and, in his own way, asks questions and communicates.
So when I tell him to sit the right way in his chair, I know he hears me. And when he doesn’t listen, I have no problem moving on to discipline.
Make It Count
He may scream, cry, and carry on but I know when I take away his water bottle after he’s thrown it for the third time, he’s going to get the idea. Dad might be a dick but if I don’t want to lose it again, maybe I should put this thing in the cupholder instead of throwing it against the windshield.
As a parent, the Alfred, or the Jonathan Kent, my job is to challenge my little sidekick to think about making wiser choices. Discipline is just another teaching moment.