The topic of disciplining kids is going to be forever hot for every parent. It is a hot topic because it bothers many parents and it is hot because too many parents find themselves in a huge conflict over it. Here is a question I got about discipline from a reader.
My husband and I do not agree on the right way to raise the kids. I spend most of the time with them and he works until late and on the weekends he needs to rest and goes out with his friends.
This week, he said to me that his job is to be the provider and my job is to discipline the kids and that I was failing as a parent. He said that if he was my boss, he would fire me. He thinks I am not objective towards my kids and I do not prepare them for real life.
What is your opinion about discipline?
How to discipline kids, what is discipline and related issues are a source of friction almost in every home. I think your husband has expectations from you and your children that are probably based on his definition of good parenting and discipline, which I am not sure are healthy, although they were very typical 20 to 30 years ago when he was a child.
To me, discipline is the opposite of motivation and this is certainly true with kids. If you need to discipline your kids, that means you are powerless. It means you are afraid of your kids and that is not good in parenting.
Motivating, encouraging, supporting and helping are acts of giving. You do them for the benefit of your kids. Discipline is an act of taking. You do it for your own benefit. As a parent, you need to give, not take.
Parenting your children is like dancing and you are the one in the lead. Yes, you can use force and your kids will dance along, but they will hate you and disrespect you and when they have a hard time, they will not come to you for support and will never ask for your help, which means you will be failing to protect them.
How many parents do you know that say to their kids who have done horrible things, “Why didn’t you come to me for help?” They used force and abused their parental powers to make their children do what the parents wanted and now they complain the kids do not come and ask for help? Where is the surprise?
I strongly recommend that every parent abandon the desire to discipline. If you think in terms of discipline, you have already lost your power and your credibility with your kids. Many parents think that disciplining the kids is part of the “job description” and this it is what makes parenting seems so hard. I personally know lots of people who have lots of problems with their kids and search for schools that will discipline them. They say, “I have problems with my kids and I need a school that can discipline them”, but they do not understand that it is a vicious cycle.
If you give up discipline, you will not have problems and you will not need a school to discipline your kids. I encourage you to stay away from this way of thinking. From my experience, it is the way to lose your kids at an early stage.
Many parents have conflicts over how to discipline and how to parent their kids. Unfortunately, the conflict between them contributes greatly to the kids’ behavior. I think you need to spend time with your husband and discuss your differences around parenting, encouragement, discipline, authority and the best way to raise good kids. Otherwise, your kids may take advantage of his conflict while suffering emotionally. It is best to do it when you are both happy and relaxed, when the kids are not around and there is no problem you need to sort out. When people are happy, they can think better.
I would probably be upset if my husband said he would fire me (or that he wanted to be my boss). Luckily, there is no boss in parenting (although I can understand that someone who thinks that discipline is an option wants power and would love to be the boss). Parents do the best they can with what they have.
Having doubts about your parenting is worse than making mistakes. Parents are not perfect and that is what makes us human. The core skills we need in parenting are loving and wanting to improve. I think these are the core skills in life. Love can do a lot more than discipline. I know it sounds like a cliché, but the desire for power does not go hand in hand with love.
I have had many disagreements about being an objective mother. So many people, including family members, have said to me that I was not objective towards my daughter. How can you love someone and be objective at the same time? Love is not objective and the expression “objective parent” is an oxymoron.
No human being is ever objective, because we have feelings. In parenting, objectiveness is a horrible condition. It means the emotional umbilical cord between you and your kids is cut. If a parent says to me, “I have to be objective about my child”, I tell them to get help. It is a myth that objectiveness is an ability needed to prepare kids for life. Objectiveness means we have no bias, as if we have no feelings, but how can we prepare kids for life without feelings?
Your husband may see some aspects of the kids’ behavior that he would like to change, but focusing on good things is always a better strategy than focusing on the problems.
Every parent should recognize the small panic attack when their kids do not match their expectations and ask themselves, “Why do I expect them to do this differently? Did my parents think the same about me? Did I like that? What are the risks of following what my parents did? If my child behaves like this, does it mean they will be like this when they grow up? Am I strong enough to support my child or do I seek power because I feel weak?”
Remember, kids can do anything you present them in an encouraging way. They will be confident and strong if you help them move forward with small, gentle pushes, but if you push too hard, the will resist.
Think of your kids as they took their first steps. You never push them to walk. You stretch your arms wide open around them to protect them from falling and you move back so they come towards you. It is the same with every new thing they do, even behavior. Small pushes towards a place they want to go is encouragement. Big pushes against where they want to go is a form of violence.
You probably want to give your children many values. Do not focus on discipline so they do not think this was your gift to them. The only people who can fire parents are their kids and they can only do it when they have their own kids and they understand what parenting means. I will know I am fired big time if my grownup kids ever say, “My mom was a good mother, because she knew how to discipline me”.
Ask your husband to read the series motivating kids. It will help him avoid being fired by his own kids when the time comes.