Before I had kids, I was a pretty good parent. Actually, I was the best parent. Out in public, at a grocery store for example, I’d would judge other parents. I’d observe parents having a hard time with their children and would think, “Can you believe that parent is letting her kid have a tantrum? Just tell him no, and if he keeps it up, give him a spank. How hard is that?” I imagined myself at the helm, in control. A child wouldn’t dream of acting up around me. I’d rule with an iron fist. I equated obedient behavior, with good behavior, and good behavior with being a good child. I thought the way to get that “good” behavior was to be strict.
It was a simple equation… Almost too simple.
It should come as no surprise that when I first became a parent, I wanted fingertip control of my kids. I wanted it bad. So bad. But, I didn’t get it. And when I didn’t get it, when my son would disobey me, my brain would short circuit. I’d be beside myself in disbelief.
“What’s wrong with this kid?”
“Is he trying to mess with me?”
“What doesn’t he understand about, no?”
“Does he speak a different language than us?”
“I just said no, I know he heard me?”
The worst of it was the “intentional” defiance. It killed me. It made my blood boil. I saw it as complete and utter disrespect. I would think- He knows what I just said, yet he keeps doing it. He’s basically telling me that I’m a worthless weak parent who couldn’t control him if I tried.
Looking back, I don’t think it was intentional defiance in the way I have described it. There is no way that my kid was trying to communicate to me all of those negative assumptions. I’ve learned that kids don’t think like that. They are way too focused on themselves and preoccupied with their own problems. So, those were thoughts in my head…not his. Not by a long shot.
Still, I found my parenting worth being tied up in to being able to control my kid. If I couldn’t control his behavior, then I must not be a good parent. I was failing and no better than those parents in the grocery store. I assumed that my son’s actions were a direct reflection on me, and people would judge me like I judged them.
For those of you who don’t recognize this, this is an insecure, inaccurate and ego-driven approach to parenting, and is bound to fail. Parenting like this is actually weak, not strong. And because of this insecurity, I held my son to impossible standards of behavior…so that I would look good. Because of my insecurity, any way that he acted that wasn’t happy or helpful, wasn’t acceptable to me. If he yelled, cried, or had a tantrum, it was a threat to me and my worth. This is the truth of the matter.
I felt the need to control my child, force him to be obedient and happy…so that I would look and feel good. I was making his childhood about me and I wasn’t allowing him to express normal and healthy emotions. For those of you who don’t know, this is toxic parenting. And it’s some weird shit…not healthy, not good for him, not good for me, and not good for the family.
Happy and helpful children are great, but we have to allow our kids to feel other feelings. Sad, frustrated and mad are also very human emotions that we all experience. I wasn’t being realistic. I was holding my kids to an impossible standard, all to protect myself against my insecurities. Yikes. And to boot, it wasn’t even working. My authoritative parenting led to power struggles, outbursts, and a tense environment. I wasn’t enjoying being a Dad, and I wasn’t even getting the cooperation that I was looking for.
This was the very failure that I was actually trying to avoid. I had to admit it. Things needed to change. Continuing down this path would be to continue down, and double down, on toxic, insecure and ineffective parenting. No thank you.
Perhaps you can relate. If you are honest, maybe you can see yourself in this a bit. It’s hard to come face to face with our own insecurities and ineffectiveness, but it’s the only way forward. So, be honest with yourself, but be compassionate too. If you trying, that’s what’s important. You might not feel like you have things figured out yet, that’s okay. No one ever taught us how to parent. Life is a learning process.
But if you are interested in making a change, in learning some new skills, I can help.
First, here are some articles that will help.
And of course, you can always contact me to set up a free consultation.
In Truth and Love,