Monday, February 14, 2011

parenting, discipline, and double standards

(This post is partially inspired by Raising my Boychick's post on Parenting, Play, and Power)

One very interesting aspect of parenting a young, fully verbal child is that they act as a mirror of yourself, your actions, and your habits.  There are things I won't realize that I do or say, until I see D saying/doing them and wonder where he picked them up (oh, right... me).  It makes you that much more aware of what you do, and it's quite amazing when you realize the double-standards we set up between what's ok for us to do and what we expect of our kids.  We have a rule in the house of no throwing.  No throwing toys, no throwing clothes, not even throwing balls (we have some that are wooden, and it's easier to just say no to all of them, indoors at least, than to try to distinguish).  I'll get upset at D when I see him toss his shirt across the room for the fourth time that week... and then he'll be sitting next to me as I change Quinn's clothes, and without even thinking about it I'll toss a dirty onesie on the ground in the direction of our hamper only to be reminded by my child that I shouldn't do so.  Or, in play, Zach will throw a ball to D in the living room, forgetting the "rule."  I expect D to remember these rules we set in place, yet we, his parents, have trouble remembering them ourselves.

One challenge we've been facing lately is yelling. D will start yelling loudly at us when he's mad (or just tired), or just in play with himself.  I'll get frustrated at him for yelling, but then remember that, well, I yell. At him.  More often than I'd like to admit.  And that's when it hit me-- if I, a mature, grown 30-year-old woman can't keep enough of a handle on my emotions to keep myself from yelling when I'm frustrated or angry, how in the hell can I expect a three-year-old child to do so??  If I know I get cranky when I'm tired or hungry, why am I surprised when my kid throws a tantrum when it's past lunch or nap time (and why is the assumption that he's trying to "get his way" when he's probably just cranky from hunger)?

Sure, I could just claim that, as an adult and a parent, I have different standards than kids. Sort of the "because I said so" approach.  The thing is, kids learn by imitating, and it seems like a lot to expect a toddler or even a preschooler to understand why one person may be allowed to do something when another is not.

Does this mean I relax all my rules?  Allow my kid(s) to yell and throw things however they please? No.  But, it does help remind me to have a bit of empathy and patience towards D's (and eventually, Q's) "misbehavior."  It reminds me to be more aware of my own behavior and the example I set for my children.  It reminds me to try not to assume that he's ignoring rules to be purposefully disruptive or manipulative, but that instead he sometimes genuinely forgets, and sometimes he's just tired/hungry/cranky/sad and try to fix that issue first.  And, it reminds me that I can correct and re-direct while being forgiving of his slip-ups (and of my own).


  1. My DH and I have really been working hard to model the behavior we want our kids to have but you are absolutely right! It is very hard!

  2. Such a great point. It seems that possibly D is also old enough that you can also tell him, mommy isn't allowed to do that also so that he helps you stop the bad habits as well...

    I reminds me of the double standard that many parents swear yet it's definitely not something their kids are allowed to do.

  3. I totally struggle with this, for the same reason. Finn is so verbal, and can tell us whatever he is feeling or wants but at the same time he is still only 3, and gets frustrated. And when I am frustrated with him I raise my voice, so it is only natural he does too. So hard to remember not to but so important!

  4. Anonymous6:58 AM

    I feel you! It is a huge realization, isn't it? Funny story: The other morning when Abbey woke up really early and came into our room to nurse and try to get us to wake up (key word: try) she asked to use our toilet to go potty. But I (7 months preggo) really had to pee, so I told her she could go after mommy went. She looked at me for a second, and I knew - the dash was ON. I lunged for the toilet, afraid that I'd pee myself if I didn't get there first - and (whoops!) shoved her like a line-backer in my haste. She wasn't hurt, but stood up, hugging herself, and said "No pushing me mommy!!" We have been talking a lot about not pushing others, even when we feel upset.

    I felt awful. Even though I was in a gotta get to the toilet before I pee myself at 4 AM haze, I felt embarrassed about how I had acted. I talked to Abbey and apologized. Later, the moment became a funny one. I was cooking dinner and I just started laughing, so proud of Abbey for sticking to the "no pushing" doctrine even when I couldn't.

    It's an every-day challenge, remembering that modeling behavior for your child is one of the most influential factors in their behavior.

  5. You make an excellent point. One thing I am constantly reminding myself of is that I am the model for my child's behavior. How can I be angry or upset or disappointed when I see him mirroring me?

    I shared your article on my blog's Facebook page - I hope you don't mind. You've provoked some pretty heavy thoughts for me.

  6. Anonymous1:09 AM

    Every single thing you said, I could have said, only not as articulately! I hear you, 100%, and share your struggles to parent with integrity. Your words also remind me that, in good ways and bad, I am just a child at heart and sometimes I think maybe not at all qualified to be raising a child!



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