The children have started to show their asses.
During those first few years, a lot of the disciplinary issues we ran into were due more to a lack of understanding on our little angels’ parts than anything else. The children didn’t understand that the walls of our home weren’t blank canvases to create upon with their un-washable markers. They didn’t understand that grabbing something right out of someone’s hand is theft as opposed to reclaiming that which they never knew they owned to begin with. It was lost on them that joyful demolition of their surroundings is not a financially or socially acceptable outlet for releasing pent-up energy. So we had to give them a bit of a pass, say “no, no!”, and help them recognize these transgressions as unacceptable behavior that would result in negative consequences. They were then supposed to wholeheartedly accept those lessons with grateful hearts, learn from them, and never again engage in such adverse behavior. That’s how it was supposed to go.
That’s not how it went. Not by a long shot.
You see, we’ve moved beyond blissful ignorance to willful defiance. They’ve started to question the program and doubt the teachings of their loving and well-meaning Life Guides. They’ve taken the word “no”, which is supposed to be for the exclusive use of said Life Guides during teachable moments, and twisted it into a battle cry for their campaign of chaos and disruption. It’s not about the confusion of right or wrong anymore. It’s now a battle of wills designed to test their parents’ resolve.
They’re showing their mother’s stubbornness, cause they damn well didn’t get that from me.
All of which leaves me in a position I am ill-trained or suited for:
Judge, Jury, and Executioner.
Man, I don’t want to have to deal with this shit! I’m supposed to be the cool, laid-back dad! The guy who watches cartoons with them and stages light-saber fights and pulls mischievous yet heart-warming pranks on Mom with them. I don’t want to have to be the hard-ass that crushes them beneath his jack-booted heel, filling their hearts with fear every time they step a toe out of line. I don’t want to be this guy:
They’re pushing me, though. I don’t know how many times I have to tell Roundbottom that he can’t snatch his brother’s I-Pad from him. Or leave banana peels on the couch. Chase the cats. Take food out of the fridge without asking. Argue with his parents.
DEAR JESUS HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL THAT CHILD NOT TO ARGUE WITH HIS PARENTS???!!!!!
His brother isn’t innocent, either. He’s like every other six-year-old in that he thrives on PUSHING HIS PARENTS JUST TO SEE HOW FAR HE CAN. Throwing a fit when he doesn’t get to watch “Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein” that day for the 4TH TIME IN A ROW. Throwing the I-Pad he cherishes more than anything in this world on the ground when it takes half a minute to link up with the internet. THROWING TOYS OFF THE UPSTAIRS LEDGE THAT LEAVE A KNOT ON HIS FATHER’S HEAD WHEN THEY COME CRASHING DOWN ON HIM.
No. They’re both guilty as hell. Of willful disobedience and pushing my sanity to the point of breaking. Justice must be meted out. The question becomes, in what form should it take?
My natural inclination is to make it swift, brutal, and without mercy. However, I am at least self-aware enough to understand that this is my hair-trigger temper speaking and not the voice of justice. I don’t think there’s anything that sets me off worse than one of my children deliberately disobeying me and then standing there with their pants all sassy. Nothing except talking politics or religion, which I have wisely vowed to avoid, at the request of family, friends, and my cardiologist.
Unfortunately, while triggering subjects can be avoided and ignored, criminal activity cannot. So I have to make sure that before I do anything I take a deep, DEEP breath and focus on what’s important: NIPPING THEIR GARBAGE IN THE BUD.
Oh, and making sure they grow up to become decent, empathetic, law-abiding citizens not suffering from any form of traumatic stress caused by a brutal fascist of a father.
BUT MOSTLY NIPPING IT IN THE BUD!
So knowing this, what’s my approach?
There’s always the oldest one in the book: corporal punishment. Believe me, I’ve considered it. Only one problem with that – it doesn’t work on my kids. Not even getting into the rightness or wrongness of giving them a quick slap to their brazen little backsides (that’s a subject for most parents just as sore, if not more so, than religion or politics).
Footloose is autistic. He has sensory and developmental issues. A little swat isn’t just a little swat to him. It’s an attack on his soul that will lead to a meltdown far worse than whatever behavior I’m trying to correct. I lost my temper and took my hand to his backside once. I felt like a rat bastard afterwards.
Also, if I’m not going to lay the literal smack down on his ass, I’m not inclined to do so with his brother. “You have to take this and your brother doesn’t just because he’s different” isn’t exactly the message I want to send. So knowing that’s the case, that it won’t result in the desired objective (stopping the behavior), the only reasons I would have left to tear into them would be to either work out my aggression or puff my chest.
That leaves option B – one that allows me to not only dispense fair and equal punishment befitting the crime but also remind them that I am the most powerful force in their universe: TAKING AWAY EVERYTHING THEY LOVE.
Their freedom. Their toys. Their hope of ever knowing the joys of grandparent spoilage or the feel of the sun on their soft skin. Oh yes, Daddy giveth and Daddy will damn sure taketh away if they act the fools. I’ve got the wallet, the keys, and complete dominion over the remote control. They ever want to enjoy the wonder and magic of Disney entertainment or playing with that damn Paw Patrol Look-Out Tower, they best get with the program.
It’s a war of attrition, my friends. It’s depriving them of all those things they hold most dear, which actually isn’t all that difficult because I HATE most of those things! Think I’m going to lose a second of sleep because you don’t get to watch another 4 hours of “Peppa Pig”? THINK AGAIN, LITTLE MAN! Oh, did we lose our loud-ass PJ Mask headquarters that plays the theme song in the middle of the night out of nowhere, waking me from a sound sleep and scaring the living shit out of me?? SUCK IT UP, BUTTERCUP!!
But I digress.
Punishment isn’t about being mean to your kids. It’s not about hurting their feelings or making them feel like you want nothing to do with them anymore. It’s not about harshing their buzz. That’s the exact opposite of why we “lay down the law”. We punish and correct them because we love them, because someone HAS to teach them that bad or risky behavior has consequences. Better they learn that lesson from a parent that loves them than someone else, someone who really doesn’t care about them or their futures.
Footloose and Roundbottom are good, sweet boys with loving hearts. Most of the time. They’re only quasi-evil. I get that, which is another reason I work hard to make sure the punishment fits the crime. That’s the job.
Lord knows I’d much rather spend my time staging those epic light-saber battles…….