Terms of Engagement: Drawing the War Plans

With the change in parental roles in our house, came a change in attitudes, routines, and habits. None of us were prepared for all of the changes, and all of the new stress that came along with it. This also included how to handle aggressive and undesirable behavior from the children. We knew that there would be some acting out, some of that “pushing the boundaries” jazz, and all that other junk, but we did not have any knowledge of how to decide if and how to intervene or administer punishment.

Buzz Lightyear lies wounded on the battlefield. Not too far from him, Optimus Prime lies fallen. Both, victims of a horrific act of violence. Two of the world’s strongest allies became innocent bystanders in a war that was never there’s. The time was 6:47 in the evening. Hell hour. The giants that stood above these iconic heroes, rained tears down on them, as if truly sorrowful for their actions, and for ending the run of the famous toys.

In hindsight, I guess the kids really did feel bad about throwing the toys, sending them to their makers. Or to the force flex trash bag. The war was exhausting on both sides. Ultimately, daddy won the the battle, but nobody won the war. Now we were all in a state of mourning. The kids mourning for their lost possessions, and I for my inability to keep the civil unrest in order, and prevent such atrocities. Then, with just a few words, my son looks at me, and puts it all in to perspective. He says:

I wish Mommy was here. She would bust your tail, Daddy!

He is probably right. She would.

What really intrigued me about him saying this was that it noted in my mind the fact that he knows, without a doubt, the differnce in our parenting styles and disciplining methods. And trust me, him and his sister are both good at exploiting these differences to get their way. They are master deceivers and workers of the system. They sit up late at night, exchanging and comparing notes through the gates at their doors. They are knowledgeable and well armed.

Okay, that was a bit dramatic. My kids spend more time yelling at each other to be quiet than they do plotting. They are sweet in their own ways and for the most part, decently behaved. Yet, as they get older and approach the ages of 5 and 3, they become more possessive over toys, over attention, and over each other. This generally leads to sibling rivalry, and at least once a day, the need to place a call to the Daddy Law Enforcement Agent, for immediate intervention and sentencing. Still, there is definitely the knowledge there that shows that my wife and I should perhaps hash out a war plan, and terms of engagement, when it comes to discipline in the house.

With the change in parental roles in our house, came a change in attitudes, routines, and habits. None of us were prepared for all of the changes, and all of the new stress that came along with it. This also included how to handle aggressive and undesirable behavior from the children. We knew that there would be some acting out, some of that “pushing the boundaries” jazz, and all that other junk, but we did not have any knowledge of how to decide if and how to intervene or administer punishment.

There are times when a time out, or being sent to the room, or the loss of a privilege or toy must happen. Sometimes there might just be the need for a light rap on the hand, or a firm holding of the hand, followed by short and definitive verbal response. Such as “I do not want to see that again” or “We don’t hit in this house”. Then there are times when a simple calling of the full name and the raised eyebrow will suffice. And of course, there are times when the behavior is pure instinct in reaction to the change, and it should be allowed under supervision and understanding. The gray area for us is in how we judge what category behavior falls under, and what the law of the house says should happen in response.

This isn’t the point of the post where I give out wonderfully thought out advice on how to avoid this problem. This is the point where I straight up tell you that I have no advice on this. In fact, this is the point where I turn to the DadRevolution community. I know we aren’t the only ones who disagree on discipline and different aspects of the parenting  job. This is new territory for us, with new changes, new stresses, and new needs to hash out new plans.

So today I am asking you. How do you answer these questions?

  • Who lays down most of the domestic law in your home when it comes to children and discipline?
  • Do you struggle to maintain an even playing field between discipline styles in the home?
  • Are your kids experts at exploiting the difference in parenting and discipline styles?
  • Do you have set rules that were set in agreement between both parents? Share these?
Now it is your turn. Share your answers in the comments below!

Daddy Law Enforcement: Discipline Requires Itself

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?

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”.

Becomming a Disciplinarian

It is not easy to discipline your own child. You can read as many books as you want but depending on the temperament of your child, not every discipline/punishment trick will work. Depending on the temperament of the child you have to be creative and try new things – one size definitely does not fit all.

It is not easy to discipline your own child. You can read as many books as you want but depending on the temperament of your child, not every discipline/punishment trick will work. Depending on the temperament of the child you have to be creative and try new things – one size definitely does not fit all.

In our family Diva-J is a good example of this. We have read many books on parenting a strong willed child and have tried many things, but not all techniques work with her. So we have had to go ‘off book’ per se and at times be creative with our techniques.


This creativity can sometimes cause conflict within the household. Not only within your relationship with your significant other, but in the family environment in general. It is not always easy to keep the peace when other power struggles are going on in the confines of the home.


In regards to disciplining a child, there are many thoughts on what is right and what is wrong on this. One of the most bi-polar discussions surrounds spanking of children. J-Mom and I have struggled with this as we grew up in families that did not pass out spanks/swats very often, but when we did get one, we knew that we were in trouble and that we should heed what was being said. As Diva-J has gotten older and more defiant (at times) we have had to struggle with the idea of using this technique as well to solidify a point. Now I know that there are many who have said that a child should never be hit, and I say, that is your choice. J-Mom and I have decided not to spank Diva-J, not because we do not think it will work (which it may or may not), but instead, for us, we feel that it is not teaching Diva-J anything long-term. For us, we see spanking as a short-term solution, and we have seen situations where children have said, “I just need to get my swat and then all will be better.” This to us does not show that things will change in the future so we are trying other alternatives to discipline Diva-J and down the road Diva-PJ.


Becoming a disciplinarian also brings its’ share of times when you wish you could just disappear. At some point you may end up hearing your child say things such as “I hate you” or “Go back to work” or “I don’t like you.” As a parent you don’t want to hear this, and if you are a Love and Logic parent, as Jim Fay says, you should simply say “Nice try, but I love you.” Again, not always the easiest of things to say in the heat of the moment, but again, you have to love being a parent in these situations.


Being able to change and not see yourself as a friend to your child but instead as a parent to your child. This is not easy but it is necessary as there have been numerous situations that I have been in where a parent wishes to be a friend to their child and this is at the sacrificing of overall respect for the parent. The child does not see these parents as authority figures, or as someone to respect and look up to or revere, instead they see them only as a buddy, pal or friend.


Now there are some parents who see no problems with this and I am not saying that they are wrong. I am only saying that from experience and from some of the children I have seen that have been raised this way, as the kids get older, some problems at times arise due to the lack of respect, sometimes it backfires.


Every parent really has to ultimately make the final decision on what works best with their own child. You may note I did not say children. I did not say children on purpose as there are many cases where two children are polar opposites on the behavior continuum. One may be, as someone in my office said yesterday, “a pistol”, while the other may be as mellow as mellow can be. So a parent’s job is never easy, and what worked with one child in regards to discipline may not even come close to working with a second child, thus is the crux of a parent’s existence.


Personally I have found it difficult to become a disciplinarian myself. I tend to be a person who likes peace instead of conflict int he situations around me. Because of this it would be great to simply be a friend to my children, but I also want them to respect me as a father. Eventually I do hope that they will see me as a fiend when they get older, this is my ultimate goal, but you have to work toward this through the entire lives of your children, it doesn’t just become reality.


Here’s a few links to some sites on this that may help!

“What the… Get your… I’ll put a… Get out of my face!”

When you’re a father you censor yourself. You get just as angry with a child but you don’t want to say, “What the filth and foul and I’ll filth and foul, filth and foul and, yeah, ya filth and foul face, and I’ll filth and foul, foul, filth!” You don’t want to say that to a child so you censor yourself and you sound like an idiot: “What the… Get your… I’ll put a… Get out of my face!”

– Bill Cosby (Bill Cosby Himself)

I used to laugh until I cried when I listened to Bill Cosby’s routine when I was growing up. I was not a parent, yet, but as a child his portrayal of parent’s was dead on. Now that I have a kid I still laugh until I cry because everything he describes about parenthood matches my experience thus far. All the contradictions and all the moments in which you have to remind yourself that you are dealing with a child and not with another adult are described down to the detail the same way I have gone through the initial stages of daddyhood.

The way a child can infuriate you and melt your heart into putty all in the span of a split second is the craziest thing I have ever witnessed and experienced in my life. Whether it is a genetic coping mechanism that children have hard wired into them or a gift they pick up in a very short time period right after they are born is not something I am privy to knowing. I find myself often exasperated with my son’s stubbornness in any given situation and close to tearing my hair out and screaming bloody murder (see above quote) when he’ll throw his arms around my leg or give me one of his gleeful giggles – and I’m toast. So what if the couch was turned into a Jackson Pollock, I never liked that mug anyway, we really needed a new clock radio and so on and so forth.

For now the excuse is always, “he’s still too young to know any better…”, but that will not fly for much longer. Already my wife and I have adopted the accusatory adjective “your” as in: “Do you know what your son just did?” So before we go down that slippery slope we should probably starting making sure he learns who’s boss (yeah right!). It is really hard to discipline a toddler, though, when he is making funny faces and hugging you or worse laughing (at you?). The “innocence” of the young is so disarming that for a novice like myself it really rattles your game. Even when two parents are actually coordinated and are working in tandem on teaching a child “wrong from right” breakdowns are common and as one parent falls the other is often close behind.

The restraint and infinite patience that is necessary makes “cracking” even more unnerving to me because there are moments in which the tantrum or the “no, no, no” is so grating that I just want to roar at him like in the cartoons with all the air coming out of my mouth making my son whimper into submission. Instead, much like in the cartoons that I remember, it’s as if by batting his eyes or smiling lovingly at me he takes out a huge pacifier and sticks it in my mouth.

I figure I better start practicing for the inevitably harder challenges that lie ahead that will need discipline for things that go beyond spilt milk. In the meantime, my wife and I should think of using a coin toss to determine if he is my son or hers on a case-to-case basis or we could to alternate.

Negotiating with the neighbor kids

Parenting styles and decisions are some of the toughest issues to deal with when the kids get together but by being humble and having a conversation you can go a long way to making sure that the kids get a long as well as the parents.

Dealing with discipline issues with your own kids is difficult enough but when you add in other kids that are not your own you run into some dicey situations. In our neighborhood there are no shortage of little friends to enjoy a sunny summer afternoon with but when all the kids end up on my watch I have to think about how to handle the inevitable fights that come up.

With my boys I’m pretty quick with the whistle and handing out infractions. First offense gets a warning, second gets a timeout, and the third gets a toy taken away. Now I can give the warning to anyone but the timeout is tougher to administer to kids that aren’t my own. I have found that some quick chats with the other parents go a long way in making this easier. Since I am more strict than the other parents on the block it is important for me to understand what their rules are to help maintain the peace. For the most part the discipline issue is important in just keeping the kids safe. I need them to listen and respond the first time to keep them from getting in the street or hurting each other. By knowing how their parents discipline I am able to maintain that consistency the kids need.

Parenting styles and decisions are some of the toughest issues to deal with when the kids get together but by being humble and having a conversation you can go a long way to making sure that the kids get a long as well as the parents. We may do things differently but it is not from a lack of care and concern. Let’s establish that we all love our kids and want the best for them and be willing to learn a little along the way.

Portland Dad writes over at Stay At Home Dad PDX about raising two boys as a stay at home dad. You can also find him on twitter as Portlanddad.