My dad was a strong disciplinarian with his kids and I… well, I suck. When I was a kid, you didn’t mess with my dad. Me?… whatever; I’ll take it. With my dad you knew your place – you were a child and he was the adult. He had three kids who were continually praised for being very well behaved. My daughters get praised for… being cute – they’re not as well behaved… or I was really ugly and people couldn’t bring themselves to lie, so they just said I was well behaved. My dad wasn’t abusive, but he could be terrifying when he was angry, so you did your best to never get him angry. My brother was a professional at this, and so was I… accept at home; I wasn’t as smart there for some reason. I wouldn’t dare do anything bad in public because his threats were never empty and he always followed through with what he said he would do. He was very good to not embarrass us in front of friends if we did something wrong around them, but we knew we’d be dealt with afterwards. Most of the time, he didn’t even have to say anything; he just had to give a look – don’t mess with me. He had three kids and we gave my parents less trouble than many parents today have with two or even one kid. My mom recently told me that they were taught you had to train your kids by the age of five for how you wanted them to talk to you, so it’s very important to establish firm boundaries as soon as possible. My dad definitely did that while I struggle.
Here is a scale:
Impatient (-10)——–Patient to a point (0) ——–Overly Patient/Pushover (+10)
My dad would lean towards the negative side where he wasn’t always as patient as he should’ve been while I’m the total opposite in my parenting style. I lean towards the pushover side, and today I figured out why… one of those “Oh yeah, that’s why,” moments.
Before I point out my flaw, I want to note two things I do really well as a dad – it’s good to be balanced with positives and negatives and I want to role model that. When my two year old is having a bad moment, I tend to be really good at distracting her because she has the attention of… what was that? That’s the one bonus of my patience… at least I’m patient if I’m not too tired. Plus, my wife recently said I’m really good at making a game out of things – thank you Mary Poppins for teaching that lesson. This came up when I told her that she’s really good at being silly to distract our two year old… she’s also really patient with our daughters when she’s not too tired. Children are easily distracted and can be made happy and mad with a snap of a finger. What’s important for parents is not to take things their kids say or do personally. Where my dad would’ve scolded us, I’m more into distraction because I don’t want to take my daughters fussiness personally (it’s not personal even if it feels that way) and I like to use the improv tool of “yes and” where you go with what you’re given. Telling someone no doesn’t make them happy… as my daughter reminds me many times a day when she says no to me (I really need to teach her improv). Saying “yes and” is a form of distraction. For instance, when my daughter pouts, I’ll silly pout with her until she laughs or, if I’m holding her, I’ll flip her upside down and start shaking her until she laughs – bad moment averted, and I just went with what I was given. My dad? He used a very different method.
What I need to be careful of, however, is to not just take mistreatment. For instance, the other day my two year old was playfully smacking my wife in the face, which made my wife upset – naturally – and so she exclaimed, “Why are you hitting me?” My daughter didn’t answer; she just kept hitting my wife – bad move. I knew why my daughter was hitting my wife… because she hits me all the time and I let her… I never even thought that was a problem. Does it hurt? Yeah. Should I stop her, absolutely, but it never occurred to me until my wife was upset about being hit. It was like I had never even thought the pain was a problem. This is going beyond “yes and.” I was being overly patient and a pushover. So why did my daughter smack my wife? Because I let her smack me, so she thought it was okay to hit her mom. In a way, my daughter hitting my wife was my fault (please don’t tell her). In general, I just take things without second guessing. On the one hand, I have less stress; on the other, I have a few bruises. Being this easygoing has helped my daughter be great at doing things like climbing stairs before some other parents would even let their kids try. She’s ultimately more fearless than I was at her age and she’s more open to doing things and greeting people, but there are times where I need to make a boundary (like when I get smacked in the face).
Beyond my “yes and” way of living, my realization today helped point out another reason why I can be a pushover with my daughters… I was trained to be. Like many guys, I’ve become very conflict avoidant in my marriage; I do whatever I can to not get in trouble with my wife. I just take things. In many situations I’m overly patient with her, so it makes sense that I’ve carried that over to my kids.
Please know, this isn’t an excuse and I’m working on being patient to a point, but it makes sense that I’ve lost my ability to fight at home because I’ve been taught to just accept when I’m told things like “You’re talking to loudly,” You shouldn’t say things like that,” “You shouldn’t do that,” “You shouldn’t clean it that way,” and “Here’s a list of jobs for you.” My wife and I try to have healthy communication – I am a therapist – but there are still times where I just take it. Like a lot of couples, the guy’s easygoingness (i.e. my easygoingness) occasionally clashes with the woman’s “there’s a right way to do things” thinking (i.e my wife’s “there’s a right way to do things” thinking). And like a lot of wives, mine has a critical, soul crushing look – I’m pretty sure schools teach girls how to do this in sex-ed class when they are separated from the boys: (female teacher) “And this is how you look at your man to make him feel like total garbage and slowly crush his soul so he’ll never fight back. The great thing is, it’s just a look, so how he can he really complain about it?” My wife is not trying to be mean, but like many women, she has this look that says, “How could you be so dumb?” which often comes out because I have a different standard and way of doing things.
The dad becoming the “fun” parent is growing more and more and it follows how many husbands are becoming more and more conflict avoidant at home, which is leaving a lot of women feeling more and more uncared for and neglected. As always, both sides are being affected, and both sides need to work on improving.
This week may you consider where you are on the scale of impatient, patient to a point, and overly patient, and work at being more in the healthy range no matter your circumstances.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people (like me)