[Candice is one of my oldest [as in time spent together] Improv friends and now that she has moved to Australia i am realising how much i miss not having her around… but she has written an excellent post which i’m sure is going to resonate with and encourage many of you so here goes…]
Because I am going through a challenging phase with my teenaged daughter and many of my friends are having babies at the moment, I have been thinking a lot about what I would do differently in the parenting department should I have another child. Knowing what I know now about how the mistakes of the past come back to haunt you in your teenaged child, I guarantee you that it is easier dealt with when they are young, even though at the time all you want is some silence and a glass of wine in your hand without having a nervous breakdown. I know, I’ve been there.
Firstly, let’s all just admit what a total life-changer parenting is. It is the hardest thing you’ll ever do, especially the first time round, and you’ll be losing your mind or your temper more often than Naomi Campbell. It’s tough, and many people have little help to relieve the constant strain. Neither my parents nor my in-laws lived in the same city when my daughter was young and I can tell you it was rough. I hardly ever went out. I was sleep deprived and borderline depressed. But I survived. So let’s just break the stigma that admitting parenting is hard will somehow mean you don’t love your child. It doesn’t. Deep breath.
Next let me assure you that as much as you think your young child will hold your actions against you, they really don’t. There is no time in your life when things are so easily recovered from as below the age of 4. Think of how quickly they flit from one mood to the next with no baggage. So just relax, disciplining your child (within reason) is not going to scar them for life. In fact, my daughter laughs hysterically when I recall those days I closed her in the bathroom to finish her tantrums with a solid structure between us for fear of doing her bodily harm. She barely remembers it.
Discipline is super important and sadly, the buck stops with you. You can’t expect your spouse, parents, siblings or the nursery school teachers to do the work for you so that you can be your kid’s friend. Ain’t going to happen. And here’s the most important thing to remember, discipline is more about consistency than anything else. Don’t want your kid to bite? Then EVERY SINGLE time they bite you need to do something about it. Whatever your method, be it naughty corner, a little smack on the hand, time out or whatever, you need to do it every time. And this is where it gets tough because it isn’t always convenient to discipline your child, is it?
So let’s say you’re out having lunch at a swish but kid-friendly café with a girlfriend and her little one. Your usually lovely child bites hers. Now, if she’s a good friend she’ll probably try to minimize the situation because she knows you’re embarrassed. That is sweet, but it shouldn’t let your kid off the hook. Hell to the no! He’s checking to see if the rules always apply. And they need to, otherwise it’s ten steps back. When my daughter bit me I bit her back with the same intensity. She screamed of course but I told her that that’s what it felt like to me. She bit me just once more after that, and when she got a return bite, she decided to pack it in. Consistency rules. Even in public. Parenting requires many things and a thick skin is one of them. Want a child that helps around the house? Make sure they start chipping in at an early age, even if it’s just taking their own plate and cup to the kitchen. Don’t accept excuses! Seriously, do this one. I didn’t. I’m sorry.
Now just because you discipline your child does not mean that they won’t throw tantrums. Of course they will, it’s all part of the process. But they need to know that you have limits and boundaries. When they’ve calmed down give them a cuddle and let them know that you still love them. This let’s them know that if they break the rules there are consequences, but you still have their back. This is vital as they get older and the rule breaking brings with it a lot more real life consequences.
Love and boundaries. And wine after their bedtime. The secret to good parenting. And seriously, the bathroom trick worked for me. Just close your whirling dervish in the bathroom (making sure they can’t drink anything, dip toothbrushes into toilet bowls or pour anything down the drain while in there) and let them calm themselves down. Worked for me.
Just remember, if you overreact and freak out at your child one day, forgive yourself. We all lose our cool from time to time. It’s ok. Nobody’s perfect and we’re all doing our best. If you stick to your guns on the stuff that is important to you, you’ll be okay. And so will your child.