Being the Bad Guy: Why Parenting is Hard

A  couple of years ago the hubs and I took a popular parenting class: Parenting with Love and Logic.  We learned a lot of great things.  Mostly consistency and letting your children experience natural consequences.  We had reached a point in parenting where we felt that our children would only listen if we started yelling at them.  This was frustrating for many reasons.  We don’t like to have to yell to get our kids’ attention and we don’t want to parent in anger. Our daughter has ADHD and our parenting strategies for her have to be vastly different than our boys.  After 11 years, school interventions, and her medication, I’m finally feeling like that the way we are parenting her is what’s helping her the most to be a fully functioning adult some day.

That said, I really hate being the bad guy.  I really hate listening to my children cry, whine, or complain.  It would be so much easier to give in to them so that I never have to hear the bickering and arguing.  But what favors am I doing for them if I parent them like that?  That’s certainly not how the real world works.  They don’t get to whine and complain their way out of school assignments or bad grades.  Once they’re adults, they won’t get to whine and complain their way out of work assignments they don’t like, having to show up to work on time, pay their bills, or obey laws that will land them in jail if they don’t.  So although I believe that home should be a safe haven and a child’s soft place to fall, it shouldn’t be a place devoid of any consequences for behaviors.  I will always love my children more than the world will love them, praise them more than the world will, and accept them for who they are more than the world will, but it is our duty as their parents for the hubs and I to provide them with consequences, the world will one day provide, when the stakes aren’t so high.

Last weekend the hubs came home from a business trip sick as a dog.  He rarely gets sick and when he does it’s always really awful.  Saturday morning my youngest woke me up saying he had a pokey in his foot.  When I looked he had this huge sliver in his heel and there was no way I felt qualified to perform surgery on him.  So I took him up to the Urgent Care clinic as soon as it opened (8:00 am) while I left the older kids with their sick dad.  The doctor found other slivers in the back of my little guy’s calf and had to give him three shots of xylocaine to numb the area so he could extract the slivers.  Which means I had to hold him down while he was screaming his head off from the burning stinging sensation of the shot.  After it was all over, they had to give him a Tetanus booster.  It was not a fun morning.  I would rather get those shots and be in pain than watch one of my children endure that kind of pain.  Then I had to carry my 40 pound child out to the car because he couldn’t walk on his little foot.

None of us had had breakfast yet and I had bought some Texas toast at the bread store for the express purpose of some French Toasty goodness on Saturday morning.  When I got home the older kids were no where in sight.  The hubs was asleep on the couch and I woke him up to ask where the kids were.  He said that they had asked if they could go around our neighborhood to all the yard sales going on (we had a neighborhood yard sale this particular weekend) and he said that they needed to wait until I got home.  They were impatient and snuck out after their dad passed out on the couch.  Our daughter was already grounded for her and the neighbor boy shooting BB guns at each other the night before and she knew she was in trouble.  Maybe they thought they could sneak back in the house before their dad woke up and before their mom got home.

I didn’t yell, even though I wanted to.  I was upset that for a few minutes we had no idea where on earth they were and if they were okay.  Also, I was upset they disobeyed a direct order from their dad to wait.  So we told them they were grounded and they were going to be stuck inside all day on a beautiful Saturday (and probably close to one of the last warm Saturdays for the year) and do chores.  They have daily chores they have to do after school (plus homework) before they’re allowed to do any thing fun and we usually give them one more in-depth chore for Saturdays, but usually we let play for most of the day on Saturdays.  I had a few loads of laundry I hadn’t yet folded.  I usually fold everyone’s laundry and then they are in charge of putting it away.  Instead I made them sort the laundry into who it belonged to and they had to fold their own laundry and put it away (this worked so well I might do this from now on!).  After they were done we made them spend several hours in the basement cleaning.  We are going to start finishing our basement soon and it needed to be straightened up so we can measure out for where we want walls and such. (Even though our basement is unfinished, the hubs still uses it as a home office, the kids have a majority of their toys down there, and we have a TV with a gaming system).  After that was done, we had them pick up our front room and vacuum.  I was surprised that for the most part they didn’t complain.  They knew they were willfully disobedient and did their chores.  Of course there was fighting among the two of them because they always measure how much they’re doing against the other one.  And there was a meltdown when they figured out when we said they had to stay inside all day, we meant it.

This isn’t how I wanted to spend my Saturday.  I didn’t like starting it having to take my child to the doctor and see him in pain.  After spending all week alone with the kids I wanted a break and instead spent the day ordering children around and taking care of my sick husband (which I’m happy to do because he takes care of me every time I get sick and I’m sick a lot more often).  I was hoping to spend my Saturday folding the laundry, going grocery shopping, and once that was done, kicking back with a good book.  Instead I was Mom-Dictator ordering children about, monitoring their progress, and basically feeling like a Prison Guard.  When the children are grounded, I’m pretty much grounded too.

In other words, I hate being the bad guy and forcing my children to feel the consequences of their actions.  It would have been so much easier to yell at them for disobeying and then letting them go about their day playing with friends and buying things for cheap at the yard sales.  But what would they have learned from that?  They would know they could take advantage of us again in the future.  They would learn that you can take advantage of their future teachers, bosses, and other authority figures.  I hope that by reinforcing the rules even though I was exhausted and at my wit’s end teaches them that we love them enough to not let them get away with bad behavior.  I hope it teaches them you can’t run off and not tell anyone where you’re going (I didn’t even do this when I had roommates…it’s safer to always let someone know where you’ll be).  I hope it teaches them that first basis law of physics…for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Saturday wasn’t all about crime and punishment.  After a nice dinner together as a family, we watched movies and ate ice cream.  We even let our oldest son spend the night at his cousin’s because they had already planned it and he worked extra hard to earn that privilege.  It would have sure been nice to spend the day as the nice guy instead of the bad guy, but the long-term effects of good parenting will outweigh a day of inconvenience.  At least I hope so!


One thought on “Being the Bad Guy: Why Parenting is Hard

  1. One of the things I took away from my major was how to parent using love and logic (authoritative in acadamese if I recall). I'm not perfect especially because, like you, I *hate* being the bad guy. And I am also tired of working hard at parenting. Ha. But the benefits from using these principles are amazing. I bear my testimony of love and logic. 🙂

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