Kids can be both a joy and a headache. When they act out, you face some of your biggest parenting decisions.
Do you respond like a drill sergeant or an understanding counselor?
I’ve tried both approaches. I doubt any dad always responds appropriately when his child needs correction.
I probably tend to be too easy on my 11-year-old son, Connor. I can be strict as nails, yelling at him and sending him to his room. But sometimes I’m so weary from a busy day that I avoid a big confrontation.
Know what I mean?
I’ll admit I need help when it comes to disciplining my kid. That’s why I read a lot of parenting advice.
Recently, I saw an interesting book called When “No” Gets You Nowhere: Teaching Your Toddler and Child Self-Control.
The last part of the title really got my attention – teaching your toddler and child self-control.
Isn’t that what we’re really after as parents? We don’t expect our kids to always be angels, but we hope that they learn to control themselves. So if they act out, they’ll be able to recognize they were wrong and correct their behavior.
It’s a process, no doubt. I think When “No” Gets You Nowhere has some good advice.
“Sadly and understandably, parents today are more frustrated and confused about when and how to say ‘no’ to their children during their early childhood development than perhaps any other time in the last 75 years,” the book says in the introduction.
The author, Mark L. Brenner, writes there’s a big difference between saying “no” to a child’s feelings and saying “no” to his misbehavior. I think that’s a great point.
“It has been my experience that many parents believe if they allow their children to express all their feelings, their behavior will automatically escalate to become more obnoxious and aggressive,” Brenner writes. “Actually, the opposite is true. If children can’t play it out or say it out, they will act it out! Feelings are at the center of a child’s development.”
This advice, however, complicates our job as dads. It’s easy (but wrong, of course) to say, “Shut up! I don’t want to hear it!” It’s much more difficult to separate the child’s legitimate feelings from his inappropriate actions.
When “No” Gets You Nowhere, a 153-page paperback, is divided into 12 chapters. Some of the titles include “Saying ‘No’ Too Soon,” “A Different Way to Say ‘No’” and “Setting Limits.”
In the latter chapter, Brenner says parents must be very specific in laying out what they will and will not allow.
“For example, if a parent says, ‘Tommy, you can only bang a little on the chair,’ Tommy will see this as an invitation to test his limit,” the author writes. “Does ‘little’ mean three times, ten times, or fifteen times?”
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you read parenting advice. You can become obsessive, trying to hold onto this point or that point.
But it’s better to absorb the information and trust that when you need to discipline your child, you’ll act appropriately. Most of the time, you probably will.
Parenting is tough. You need to stand up and say no sometimes. Your kid won’t like you in the moment, but he’ll benefit long term.