I hate disciplining our kids. I absolutely despise having to yell at them, and it normally ruins my entire night. I’ll kick myself for letting the situation get that far, and I’ll lie awake at night questioning my methods. If you ever heard your parents say, “This is hurting me more than it’s hurting you,” you probably thought, “Yeah right.” It turns out that they were telling the truth the entire time.
I would much rather just let them have their way. I would rather say, “Sure, they might not be listening, but they sure are having fun climbing over the back of the sofa.” Instead of fighting them to go to bed every night, I’d like to just let them stay up until they fell asleep watching movies. When they ask me if they can watch an entire Phineas and Ferb marathon, I would love to say yes. These are all things that I want to do because it would make the kids happy, which makes them smile. Every parent just wants to see their kid smile. If I were a good friend to them, that’s what I would do.
Alas, I’m not their friend. I’m their father. While those two roles are allowed to intersect at certain points, they are not the same thing. While I love making my kids happy and granting their wishes, those are not my primary responsibilities. More than anything else, my job is to help ensure that they become good human beings and, in some extreme cases, simply survive the day.
Climbing over the back of the couch is awesome fun, and to be honest, I would love to join them. Our floors are granite, however, and in the battle of granite and skull, those tiles are going to win every time. They need to be told to stop.
I know they don’t want to go to bed. They’re young enough that everything is new and exciting, and they don’t want to miss any of it. I understand, and I’m sorry that it makes them sad (or, in my son’s case, mad). If we stayed up until midnight playing Candy Land, they would eventually fall asleep on their own anyway, so what’s the issue? They need to sleep. It helps them grow, and the body needs time to repair and recharge itself. Therefore, the nightly struggle has to take place.
I’m always fighting the war when it comes to parent vs. friend. There is a fine line that you have to walk. Your kids have to understand that you will keep them on the right track when it comes to right and wrong and add discipline as necessary. On the flipside, they need to know that they can talk to you about anything. It’s a balancing act that circus performers would be proud of.
As with most things, the easy way isn’t necessarily the best way. It’s easy to let your kids play in the trash and chase each other with forks. It’s hard to make them stop. It’s difficult to discipline, and it’s incredibly difficult to enforce the same rules consistently.
The bottom line is that being a parent is one of the most sacred duties that exists. We are shaping the futures of actual human beings and not taking that responsibility seriously can have drastic results. As much as my kids want me to be their best friend, they need me to be their father.