I remember saying to myself when I was young that when I have kids, I will be a cool dad and be very different from my parents. I thought that my kids would approach me more like a friend and that we would amicably decide what we do together.
Then I grew up!
I advocate that as adults, we should reflect and decide the best course of action which benefits all where this is possible, especially with children. However, where it is not possible, we should do what is beneficial for the child without the need to always have a fifty-minute debate on the reason why. Don’t like the taste of medicine: tough, drink it. Want to stay on your phone until silly o’clock: nope, give me the phone.
I have read numerous studies and articles on strategies for classroom management, positive reinforcement, how to effectively parent and the rights of a child in the home as some examples. I can categorically say that the most effective way to bring up children is to show them tough love. Lots of emotional love and care, but have clear tight boundaries, with rewards and sanctions. A very traditional way. A clear differential between the parent and the child, or the teacher and the child.
Yes. We will discuss and where possible negotiate the parameters of the boundaries. However, once set, they are set. No wiggle room. You meet the conditions, well done. One toe or hair crosses the boundary, well my dear, you take the sanction. As a parent, how often have you told your child that you love them and hugged them tight with kisses to embarrass them? We tend to sometimes forget that we need to say and show our love and care. This demonstration is of course physical, but it is also similar by holding the line, through grit teeth at times, with boundaries.
It is easy to capitulate to or negotiate with the child who pushes at set boundaries. It is harder to remain resilient, especially if there has been a pattern or routine of children getting their way. We all do draw the line somewhere, but the magic is knowing where to draw that line, when and how to move it as children become older and how to not budge. Like in art, you can be shown many ways to draw. You can read about it, view wonderful pieces or even discuss the grandeur of the strokes you see. It is only when you pick up the pencil/paintbrush yourself that you realise the difficulty. Then practise and repetition makes it easier.
Many of us look back at our own childhood fondly and recognise the tough love provided by our parents were demonstrations of their love and care. We may laugh and joke about it, but so, so many of us recognise that it was our parents, behaving as parents, forcing us to take the medicine even if we didn’t want to, that has made us who we are today. We love them back for this and believe it or not your children will love you back similarly.