Totally switching gears on what I am writing about today. My original post was going to be about men’s health month. Then I saw this tweet from Jim Turner (@Genuine) while looking at the tweets from the #DadsTalking discussion tonight. The tweet read “There are some days I feel like I am being mentally abusive to the kids. I am much better at that manipulation. I hate that.” This statement immediately resonated within me because that is exactly how I feel. I have written about discipline or diversion on The DaddyYo Blog before, but never have I stopped to think about it all from my children’s point of view. Until I saw that tweet.
I often refer to myself as the Daddy Law Enforcement Agent. A lot of times, that is how it feels when the role must quickly shift into disciplinarian. With two toddlers running around this apartment at warp speeds, the mood can change quickly. Only this evening did I stop to think that it is not my mood that is the most affected in these situations. It is theirs. Of course my son is going to cry when I tell him he has to sit in time out. What 4yo can stand the thought of sitting down doing nothing, even if it’s just for 5 minutes? Then I thought a little deeper and realized something else. It is much better to discipline when you have the discipline to do it effectively and lovingly.
I, like Jim, am also a master of manipulation. Perhaps that is where the children have learned it from. They are very good a manipulating us. The question I throw out in this post today is when does manipulation turn into a mental mind game with negative consequence? Is manipulation of a situation or of the children’s thinking at the time just a straight up bad idea? Or is there a line to draw between okay and too much? My answer after tonight, manipulation is not discipline.
There have been plenty of times I have used my manipulation skills to turn a discipline situation into a calm situation. Sometimes it is necessary for everybody’s sanity. There have also been times I have used my manipulative powers to make sure the day would go exactly as I wanted it to, for whatever reason. Whether it was getting cleaning done, getting emails caught up and posts written, or I was just in a bad mood, I look back and think: my God, how horrible of me was it to do that? How could I do this to my children?
I try to imagine what it must be like for them in those situations. Daddy quickly fills my head with thoughts, I don’t know what I want to do, or what he wants me to do, or if what I want to do is actually just influenced by what daddy is telling me. To be tricked by my own dad, to be confused to the point of tears about what’s going on and why daddy is acting this way. What a horrible feeling that must be for them. And what a horrible person I feel like for having put them through that at times.
So what did I learn after all of this intense thinking? Discipline requires itself in order to be effective, and done in a loving manner. The days of snapping the first thing out of my mouth, to brainwashing and diversion need to go by the wayside. Parenting each child is different. So is disciplining each child as well. What works for LG may not work for LM and the other way around. I need to be more observant and responsive to the child just as much as the situation. Both are emotionally and mentally different and tend to be on total opposite ends of the reaction meter. No matter what though, it must always be done with love. And after this night of hardcore thinking, I now know the true meaning of “this will hurt me more than it hurts you”.