I know that I shouldn’t hit, but it’s like my hand has a mind of its own.
– Female Acquaintance of the PracticalDad
Almost any parent with a child, especially a pubescent ‘tweener, can relate to the comment from an acquaintance many years ago. This woman had two kids, one of whom was in middle school while the other was in fifth grade, and they could seriously tick her off through any number of means. She related that she’d try to speak with one of them and would be met with enough disrespect and argument that her hand would just reach over and slap the child.
If you really believe that you don’t want to do this, what are your options when you’re seriously torqued with the kid? Because believe me, you will get to that point.
- Send them to their room immediately. I’m fairly old-fashioned in that there are moments when I’m the father and I don’t have to provide a reason. Yes, I believe deeply in communicating with the kids, but there have been times when they don’t deserve a reason apart from my approach to the PsychoDad realm. You should later speak to them and follow-up on the situation, but the moment doesn’t necessarily require an answer since they aren’t your equals.
- Simply put your hands in your pockets when you have to speak with them. My kids have come to understand that when I speak with them in a certain tone and my hands are in my pockets, then I’m really fighting the urge to give them a "dope slap" across the back of the head.
- Go to your own room for a few minutes, assuming that the kids are old enough to manage themselves without self-immolation. Take that time to get yourself together and then head back to the combat zone.
One final note on this topic. Understand that these are strategies to handle your own anger and to minimize hitting. But this shouldn’t be confused with corporal punishment since corporal punishment – if to be used properly – is not done on the spur of the moment but only with sufficient detachment.