This is something I’ve written about before, sort of, in smaller ways, but after reading a post about bribing your kids from my friend over at All Good in the Fatherhood, I started to paint myself a bigger picture. Why are there so many things that people will do to children that they would never do to another adult? Or at least they know they are not supposed to do to another adult. Is it just a power thing? They are smaller and in our control so we can get away with it? Or it is because we ourselves were raised that way, so we accept it as normal and don’t dwell on the cognitive dissonance? Here are a few things that I know people are okay with, as long as it’s their kids.
- Bribery – Check out that link above for a better discussion about the morality of bribing our kids.
- Lying – I have a whole post about the lies we tell our kids, social mythology notwithstanding.
- Hitting – I don’t believe in spanking my kids. I have done it anyway. Why? Why can I control myself when an adult upsets me, but not my kid?
- Ignoring – Time outs, or just plain refusing to answer after the billionth time
- Screaming – I am so guilty of this. I am a loud person anyway, and when I get upset at my kids, I speak to them in ways I would never speak to a friend that I was upset with.
- Taking the Best – Can you imagine going into the office, dividing up the birthday cake, and giving yourself a piece that was twice as large as everyone else’s? And yet I do this all the time. Yes, sometimes it is because they are smaller and cannot eat as much, but not always…
There are probably more things. But as I reflect on parenting today, I wonder why it is that I find it so normal and comfortable to be extra abrasive, both physically and verbally, with two of the people I love more than anything else in the world? It can’t be that they are just extra frustrating, because I know tons of people who are far more frustrating than my kids. And what about the casual, non-abrasive stuff, like the lying and bribing? If it’s not okay in society, why is it okay here?
I worry that the answer is “because they’re kids, and that’s the way things work.” To me, that’s a not very good answer. For anything in life. Is there a better one? Is there something in their psychology that makes all of this reasonable and even helpful? Do they need a little trickery and anger in their life to grow up healthy? I guess I’d better hope so, but probably not.
I wonder what life and parenting would be like without those tactics. I know that there is constant debate about the best ways to discipline children. Every form of discipline is seen as harmful by somebody, and we know that no discipline doesn’t work either. So I’m going to keep on keeping on. I’ll try to yell less, love more, hit never, and treat my kids with respect. And I will fail. And then I will apologize and start over. To paraphrase my friend Christian over at Dad Sews, “Parent. Fail. Repeat.”