“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.” ―Plato
Being a parent can be stressful. I have been frustrated with my children more times than I can count. I think admitting the frustration and talking about it is the healthy way to deal with it. Anger and frustration are emotions which stem from outward stimuli. Emotions make us human. It is what separates us from the animal kingdom. Scientists have created robots which walk and talk; but are yet to create a robot with true emotions. Emotions also make humans love and hurt each other. Human emotions are complicated.
My wife and I have five children. We had the first four one after the other so they are all approximately a year apart ages 15 to 19. Our youngest, Jaydon, was also diagnosed with Autism at the age of three.
Disciplining an autistic child is almost impossible; but that's another article. When we hold our babies and wonder how they will look when they grow up and how they will behave is quite different than the reality of life.
My wife, Connie and I recently decided to let the teens take charge of the house while we took a weekend away. We left a 19, 18 and 16 year old alone to watch the house. We left with our 8 year old son and 15 year old daughter. The other three did not want to visit Auntie Angela and thought staying on their own would be more entertaining.
Well, when we returned home we were expecting an untidy house; but the reality set in when we walked in the house. We found out the our 19 and 18 year old were absent one of the evenings while our 16 year old son had a party with his friends. Not one dish or cup was left clean and there were cigarette butts in the kitchen sink! We do not smoke. We were really angry and I found myself yelling at my son. I kept thinking of the time my siblings and I did the same thing 27 years ago. The difference being when we did it the house was damaged. My son did not damage the house. So should I let the guilt of my past mistakes effect the decision to discipline my son when he has done the same thing? We decided to ground him for abusing our trust.
Was this the right approach? I think it really depends on age. The older the more accountable the child becomes. When the children were small I never yelled at them. Now that I have teenagers I find myself getting angry more often. I have to continually remind myself to set a good example. When raising two teenage daughters, two teenage boys and an autistic eight year old emotions run high most of the time.
You have to ask yourself some questions when you find your blood pressure spike and your face becoming flush. If you are a new parent. Ask yourself these questions when your feeling frustrated.
- What did the child do?
- Was the child in danger?
- Am I setting a good example for my child?
Make sure the rules are clear and concise. Does your child understand the rules? Does the child understand the consequences if the rule is not followed?
When my first four children were younger we had rule about eating at the table. No toys at the table during meal times. This was to encourage conversation and avoid getting irritated with a child who only wants to play with the toy instead of eating. This was a rule in our house for years. Our youngest, Jaydon, is autistic and loves to bring his toys to the table. We stopped trying to enforce the “no toy at the table” rule when Jaydon started having severe temper tantrums about it. We decided to allow the toy at the table so we could eat in peace. My other children are old enough to understand why we have trashed this rule in exchange for a peace full mealtime. The most important rule to enforce would be for the parents to always show a united front when enforcing rules. Sometimes rules need to be changed. Just make sure everyone understands why the rule was changed. This will make it seem more fair.
As children age they start to observe parental behaviour with more scrutiny. When the child becomes rebellious you the parent must realise that this is a natural process. Parents have been dealing with this behaviour for millennia. So you have to realise that your child is not the only one to rebel. You are not the problem. Your child is not the problem. The problem is how we deal with anger. We also have to teach our children how to deal with their own anger and frustrations in a healthy way.
Getting angry never solves anything. Ask me I know. I get angry and my kids keep doing what I do not want them to do. Should I be the hard disciplinarian? Or the more understanding counsellor? What is the right answer? The answer is on a case by case basis. Is the behaviour just irritating or is it dangerous? The bottom line is you are the parent. The power is in your hands; but do not abuse your power.
Encourage the child to make his or her own decisions and reinforce positive enforcement. In other words, reward for good behaviour; but avoid bribes.
Take care of your mental health. How? Here are some simple suggestions: after the children are in bed have a bubble bath with candles; call a friend for adult conversation; work on a hobby and most of all--relax! I know plenty of parents who would baulk by saying, "I can't do that because my house is a mess!" Unfortunately, if you fail to take time for yourself and your spouse you will suffer emotionally. The children will not remember the clean house. The children will remember your absence.
There is nothing more powerful than a parents love for a child. Guard that passion with care. Children grow up fast. That's what my mother said when I was a new parent. Remember to not feel guilty for being human while raising small humans with similar emotional make-up to their parents. We are only human after all!
LongTimeMother from Australia on March 29, 2013:
Hi Kenneth. I enjoyed this hub. I believe every parent with teenagers goes through a process of self-doubt and questioning the wisdom of our decisions.
Good suggestion about finding at least a few minutes every day to relax.
Voted up +.
Ken McGonigal (author) from Maple Ridge, BC on April 13, 2012:
Thanks mariale2003. Enjoy your kids now. 7 & 9 are fun ages.
mariale2003 on April 12, 2012:
Lovely and wise words from your mother!!! and very informative hub in advance for me, as mother of a 7&9 year old!!!
Is very hard sometime keep the rules straight without lost the temper, as a mother now, I'm thinking sometimes I was a very bad daughter, wear parents shoes is not an easy...My grandpa as a "joke" always said every grandson were his revenge, very hard statement to undertand when I was little.
Definitely as our children grow we have to do it with them and always remembering that tiny child equal tiny problems, big child equal big problems.
The good news our love for them is big enough to solve any challenge in the way.