Almost from the moment of conception you will receive advice, whether wanted or unwanted, about the best way to raise children. From the very annoying ’embrace the mess’ advice ( blogpost to follow on this one!) to the cornerstone of good parenting…when it comes to discipline parents need to always be singing from the same hymn sheet.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I see the merit in this advice, I can see how, in an ideal world, having both parents believe in the same fundamental rules is a great way to bring up a child.
The reality though, is that in most cases both parents have differing personalities, different temperaments and different lengths of fuse!
Most parenting issues don’t arise at convenient times, when calm and rational thoughts are used to deal with the situation in hand. They happen as you are driving on the motorway and one child refuses to behave, despite the warnings. They happen when you are rushing around the supermarket trying to get the weekly shop. They happen when you are racing to get out for work and someone just won’t put their damned shoes on.
Of course, you should take a deep breath, count to ten, kneel down to make eye contact with the offending child ( not to be recommended whilst driving mind you!) and deal with the matter calmly. The reality is that at some point you will lose your shit and all hell will break lose. And everyone’s version of hell is different.
So punishments get dished out that to the calm, not-losing-their-shit parent may seem unfair, but in that exact moment they seemed like the best option.
And here comes the conundrum, do you back the unfair punishment, or do you stand up for fairness?
For my part, I’ve a quick temper but am over it quickly. I have learned not to give out long term punishments as I won’t stick to them. My husband is much slower to lose his temper, but when he dishes out a punishment, he sticks to it like glue.
So how do we work this out?
Well, we do a version of parallel parenting. If he dishes out a punishment, then he has to enforce it. I might try talk him out of it if I feel it’s really unfair (and he likewise). I won’t go against him, but neither will I be here when said grounded child is missing the promised play-date or party, it is not my caterwauling to listen to. Equally I put up with the wailing over the missed treat punishment that I have dished out.
If you dish out the punishment, you have to own it. And if it’s perceived to be an unfair punishment by a child, you can rest assured they will let you know in no uncertain terms. Children are very clever, and although they will give out, they quickly realise when a punishment fits a crime, and will in most cases accept it…but if a parent gets it wrong, they will shout it from the rooftops.
Maybe this isn’t ideal, maybe it’s a cop-out, but maybe this is the best way for two parents, of differing personalities, to parent together.
What do you think? What works for you?