I even “stopped the car” to turn around and tell her that her behavior wasn’t going to win her any Miss Congeniality sashes any time soon. Ok, I’m paraphrasing, but I was stern with her and the look on her face showed me that the message got through.
I had lost my patience. I immediately regretted it.
While some of you may be thinking “no big deal” or “sometimes you’ve got to be the bad guy,” that’s just not me. You may think it’s a mountain out of a molehill, but strong words have a lasting effect. I still remember things that were said to me decades ago that affected who I was and grew into. One of the goals of purposeful parenting is to grow and learn from the past.
It isn’t easy. In fact, it’s hard as hell. Kids can test your limits.
But I made her a promise when she was about two hours old. I told her I would do everything I could to show her what it was to be a good man. So as impossible as it may become (See: teenager), I’m going to hold myself to my word.
That’s why when we got home we had another of our “hands and eyes” talks. It’s just something we do to make sure we are listening to each other when it’s really important. She held my hands, we made eye contact, and I told her I was sorry for raising my voice at her. I explained that even though her actions were wrong, it was just as wrong for me to get upset.
She consoled me and told me that it “was OK, you’re my Daddy” which made me sad to think of how many parents might actually think that is true. Big people don’t get a pass just because they made the little people. I told her that it wasn’t OK and that I would do my best to never do it again.
I believe you can get the desired result without taking shortcuts. To me, losing your patience and raising your voice to intimidate a smaller human is not only a shortcut, it’s detrimental to your future relationship with her.
I have no idea whether I’m in the minority/majority when it comes to this parenting technique. Some of my closest friends have no qualms over using “Dadtimidation.” I have no frame of reference as Grace is my first and only child. I suppose it doesn’t work for everyone. It may not even end up working for me.
But if I want to have a meaningful conversation with her when she’s 14, I’ll start when she’s 4 and try to exemplify how we should communicate with each other.
Actions speak louder than words? I’d change that to “actions should replace your louder words.” In other words, back up what you say instead of raising your voice.
Don’t confuse calm with weakness. While I adore my daughter and cherish every second we share, she still has to follow the rules. There are toys to be picked up, messes to be cleaned, and teeth to be brushed. Those things get done. Disobeying has consequences and she understands discipline. I’m lucky. I’ve seen some other children and how they behave. In comparison, I won the kiddo lotto with Grace.
But I’m the grownup. If it gets to the point where I feel the need to raise my voice, I try and reevaluate what I am doing so it doesn’t get to that point. Most adults have the mental capacity to approach a problem from different angles to find a solution. Most kids don’t.
I’m far from an expert. I’m just parenting by my gut and trying every day to do what I feel is right. So you can take this advice or leave it. But be kind to one another…even when she’s naughty. It will take more time and effort on your part, but that’s fatherhood.
Oh, and if you mess up, say you’re sorry.