Do you know who can be the most critical of parenting? People who don’t have children. I’m sorry to say that I was no different. I would look at parents struggling with their children in private and public places. I would analyze their parenting style. And then I would wander off to future land where I would deal with my children in a more productive, less damaging and much more selfless way.
Yeah… I miss thinking I was going to revolutionize the art of parenting. Now I’m a real parent to real children and much to my surprise I remember all those moments of judgement. While ashamed of my judgmental point of view, I’m glad I was paying attention. I needed some of the lessons these parents taught me.
You Will Weather The Storm
When confronted with the mother of all toddler tantrums, I look back at my sympathetic, yet exasperated spectating self. I thought when I was a parent my child would never get away with such a display. I would confront it once and nip it in the bud and that would be it. After that I would lay out the logic of my decision and my sweet child would fall in line because a tantrum would get them nowhere.
Now I know that a child will constantly check to see if that boundary is still there. I have also learned that there is no reasoning with a toddler melting down in aisle seven because we just passed the toy section. I don’t surrender and go into the toy section to eliminate the storm. Nor do I leave the store because, tantrum or not, we need milk. I ride it out and hope one day my child will stop pushing that particular boundary.
I was never going to alienate my child in time out. I was never going to yell. I was never going to use the silent treatment. I would look at parents that used such methods and shake my head. I would self righteously tell myself that was the best they could do, and I would do so much better.
If I am honest I still look at some discipline with disgust. Others I see the wisdom of using or at least adopting a kinder version of it. For example, I don’t use the silent treatment. I think it can be emotionally damaging. I also have learned that there are times I need to remain silent for fear of saying something equally damaging. So I compromise. I tell my toddler I am not happy, send them to time out (yes, I know, I was never going to do that) and calm down before those hurtful words come out of my mouth.
In closing I have learned like many people that caring for a child is harder than you would think and that even if I’m not a fun parent with happy children at all times, I am indeed a parent. It’s not my job to please the public. It’s my job to care for my children. So I make a public apology for judging you past parents, whether you knew it or not. I also add to those watching me to judge gently. Your time is coming.