I’d like to think I am a good dad.
But I can also be a real grouchy jerk, often without even knowing it.
I was reminded of that while having a “constructive dialog” (i.e., an argument) with Abbey the other day about how to handle disciplining Miles these days – he has been acting up quite a bit lately, especially since the new baby came along.
I don’t mean to be a crank, but I suppose frustration gets the best of me too often. I probably raise my voice a little too much. And Miles, being the stubborn, willful child that he is, isn’t particularly inclined to listen any better when the decibel level of my voice gets higher – he simply misbehaves even more in protest.
In addition to my usual triggers – noise, messes, mornings – it seems like all of us in this house let ourselves get wrapped up in it. If one person gets upset and starts raising their voice, it turns into a cycle of tension, frustration and raised voices for everyone. Even when you’re not mad at somebody, you still end up raising your voice, if for no other reason than just to make yourself heard.
One of the things I most admire about my wife is her ability to size up a complicated, emotional problem and come up with a solution. She intuited that if we raised our voices less, Miles would probably behave better.
So far, it is working. There are far fewer episodes of willful disobedience and he is a lot more cooperative with us the last few days.
When he does act up, he goes to his new “timeout chair.” This is a rocking chair in the corner of the living room. There aren’t any toys or distractions – his previous timeout spot was his bedroom, which only seems to exacerbate the situation which put him in timeout to start with. I won’t say the “timeout chair” is perfect, but he seems to respond to it much better. After all, a three-year-old bundle of energy can’t waste time sitting around in a boring chair in a boring corner, there are just too many other things to do.
This has been a good reminder for me how my bad mood can affect everybody else, even when I don’t mean to inflict it upon on my family – and I think Abbey would admit she can be the same way sometimes.
It’s also a reminder that we need to stay flexible in how we interact with our kids. What works for one kid may not work for another, and even with the same kid, what worked a year ago may not be the best approach for right now.
Nobody died and made anybody a parenting expert. We are learning just like everybody else and doing the best we can. Hopefully, one of these days, we’ll be able to look back and say we did a good job.