Or… how to help her survive being my child
There seems to be a few parenting topics which instantly polarise parents into two camps, breast or bottle and to smack or not to smack. The latter I seem to upset both camps as I do not believe in smacking but would defend the right for a parent to discipline their child as they see fit as long as they cause no harm. While I do believe that smacking has a limited use and shelf live it is not a method I have ever favoured.
This argument, in my opinion, has caused children more misery than many others. I have seen too many parents wanting to raise their children without smacking them but lacking the role models, teaching or support to implement an alternative way of raising children. So often raise their children swinging between trying to cope and then lashing out in frustration.
For me the idea has always been a simple one. As a parent I have always seen my obligation as being to raise my daughter so at the age of 18 she had choices about what she wanted to do with her life. For some reason I always thought this would include leaving home ending my fatherly obligations towards her as she became an independent adult.
For this to work two things needed to happen:
1) She would need to develop self discipline and
2) She would need to learn to accept responsibility for her own actions
To achieve these children need love, structure, boundaries and importantly the chance to make mistakes to learn from. See simples
From the age of 4 if she started an excuse with anything that did not start with her I would reject it. At this age I would articulate her excuse in a way that was acceptable to me. For example instead of you were being naughty so I smacked you, I smacked you because you were being naughty and making me feel bad. Once she learned how to express her feelings we were in a better position to help her learn other ways of dealing with things.
Yes, its true. while we did not smack her she seemed to have no trouble smacking us when we were naughty. Well… mainly me.
When she was six we started letting her go out to play on her own. The rules were simple, she was not to go where we could not see her. It was also made clear to her that in letting her out she had to build our trust in her so later on we could trust her and give her more freedom. If she broke that trust we would reduce her freedom and she would have to start again. By this time there was no doubt we would do what we said. So when her friends decided to do something she thought she would get into trouble for she would come home.
Of course that didn’t mean she didn’t get into things we rather she didn’t. Like the day she came home and asked if she could have some bread, took a slice and went happily back out. After doing this the fourth time I followed her to see what she was doing. She dipped the bread into drain hole and when it came back out something had taken a bite. She was trying to encourage a rat to come out so she could play with it.
We hit a snag when she was 12 and we could not agree together what was an acceptable volume for her music. So when the opportunity came at a community event we sat down with the local anti social behaviour team and agreed what was acceptable. At the end I jokingly said I was dad so I could change the rules when I wanted to. The officer gave my daughter her card and told her if I changed the rules my daughter could call her and I would be taken to prison.
The rules became a bit more blurred as she got older. When she was 15 she went to see a band with a friend. They strolled in at 2am, and I was furious. I asked if they had a good time and when they said yes I told them to get to bed. In the morning I asked her what happened. Her friend wanted to get some autographs so they waited. A while later one of the security staff told them they had left and had gone to a local pub. Her friend had decided to go looking for them, so in the middle of the night the two had gone pub crawling in the middle of the night looking for men! I asked my daughter if she knew how incredibly stupid they had been. Yes, but if she ha d left her friend alone her friend would have been much more vulnerable and if something had happened to her it would have been her fault.
In the end I did not punish her for this, I could not fault her reasoning or loyalty to her friend. I did punish her for deliberately leaving her phone off so we could not contact her, and she was not allowed to go to the next concert she had tickets for. When her friend woke up I told her to get some breakfast and then go home, I had spoken to her mother and she was waiting for an explanation. I got a call from her mum apologising for her daughter’s behaviour, but was surprised she had decided to tell her what had happened. I can be a mean git when upset.
One thing my daughter did learn early on was once something had been dealt with it was over as far as I was concerned and once she calmed down we would hug and that would be the end of it.
Remember I mentioned consistency? I used to tell her she could date when she was 18. When she was 14 she seemed to be getting too near that age for me to deal with boy friends and one day changed it to 30. She got very upset with me and told her mum if I could not make my mind up she was not going to listen to me and get a boyfriend when she was ready! Maybe not so simple after all and not the last time my simple plan did not work out.