What’s a Real Dad Look Like?

Throughout my wife’s first pregnancy and the first several months of Eldest’s life, I had difficulty believing that I was a father.  The guy in the mirror was the same one that I’d known throughout my life and it didn’t register that now I was going to be someone akin to my own father and all of his peers.  What precisely should a father look like?  Certainly not the guy who several years before was partying in a club.  The idea of fatherhood has settled with time and I now suspect that I appear to my own kids as my dad appeared to me.  But the big secret is that there is no father "look" that makes one stand out as an identifiable dad.

If you want to examine this, spend time watching the men who are with their kids at events.  The event to which I’m referring now was the weekend cub scout resident camp attended by about 150 boys and their accompanying parents – a few moms but mostly dads.  What do I notice about the guys?

  • Most fathers favor beaten and semi-ratty baseball caps, the bills comfortably bent and the headband stained with sweat.
  • The large majority of us have short haircuts that are easy to clean and maintain and a fairly sizeable minority is bald.
  • Many of the fathers are at least in their mid-thirties and some of us are significantly older than that.  There are very few fathers who are discernibly less than thirty years of age.
  • Many of the fathers carry a corresponding paunch varying from mild love handles to beer kegs.  The arms might be thick and muscular but the midsection is as well.
  • Many of the fathers thrived on the morning cup of coffee and are capable of making it last until the early afternoon.
  • Many of the fathers looked at their sons with a varying mix of love, exasperation and wonderment, realizing that they too were once as spastic and wild as their boys.
  • This father at least wished that there could be a similar event to share with the daughter, but is aware that Girl Scout guidelines forbid close distances between men and girls at campsites and that the sense is that men are discouraged from attending due to liability guidelines.
  • All of the fathers were walking billboards, carrying ads and insignia on the caps and shirts.  These range from favorite fishing and boating businesses to NASCAR sponsors and even the Israeli Defense Force.
  • Many of the fathers understood the concept of pacing oneself as the boys run ahead, saving themselves for when they have to carry the boys before Taps sounds in the mid-evening.  The kids can run, but the Dads will find a spot to sit whenever possible. 
  • Despite the regulations about all medications being handled at the camp first-aid cabin, more than a few of us kept a small bottle of Advil in our kit.
  • Many of the fathers kept a running dialogue with their sons about the location of towels, trunks and toothbrushes.
  • More than one father was heard to say of course there are flies out here, you’re camping.  What do you expect?
  • Many fathers looked uncomfortable singing at the first night’s campfire but by the third night, were shouting at the top of their lungs during the songs.
  • While some mothers were concerned with the boys’ appearance – and I have heard more than one talk through the years about staying clean and neat – the fathers’ attitude was indifference.  You’re camping, what do you expect?

There is no look to fatherhood and there is no image.  We’re all different but strikingly similar in the desire to see our kids grow well into productive adults who can handle whatever comes along.  And if that means that we’re dirty, sweaty and unkempt, so be it.

We’re camping.  What do you expect?

Can I Take the Remote Away?

It’s natural that kids are going to press limits and defy parents.  They’re growing and testing limits and the results when the limits are enforced aren’t always pretty.  But what do you do with a kid who ignores you in the moment and proceeds with whatever it is that they want?  That’s the situation that I learned about this morning when a father banned television for his middle-school son and the boy then took the remote and sat down and flipped on the set.  What are the options available?

Let me start by saying that I’m a firm believer in parental/paternal authority, what some now consider to be a quaint notion.  I’m legally responsible for their safety and behavior and I believe that they simply don’t have the experience and judgment to handle whatever comes their way.  So if I expect them to listen when those crunch times arise, I need to be able to depend on them to listen – and obey – when the stakes aren’t so high.  That means that they don’t have the option of picking and choosing when to listen; they can question me if they want and we can discuss it, and there have been moments when I’ll even change my mind if the objection both makes sense and is properly presented.  But the child – and that includes teen – is expected to toe the line when required.  And that’s where it gets dicey.

So if Junior takes the remote and clicks on the television despite the ban, what are the options?

  • Do nothing and leave the room, or do nothing and continue to talk/lecture/argue with the boy.  The reality is that the advantage now lays with the boy.  He’s ensconced on the sofa and watching television while Dad’s the one who is standing there talking.  The thought probably running through his head is that if he continues on the same path, then Dad will tire and eventually leave and he can continue on with the show.  The obvious problem with this approach is that the kid’s learned that he’ll win and the situations will continue and worsen through the years until the situation is untenable.
  • Physically go after the remote and remove it from the boy’s hands.  Adolescent boys are particularly difficult with testosterone and growing masculinity and the risk is that there’s going to be a full-blown brawl.  Worse than that, if the kid is hurt then you have to consider the prospect of being charged with abuse.  If that doesn’t happen, you’re still faced with the roiled emotions and damaged pride that can created further damage.
  • Know what the boy truly values and then use leverage to regain the remote.  If the kid has a cellphone, use that to regain the remote.  Threaten to take the cellphone and if he physically has it, then promise to call the carrier and cancel the contract.  The key is that if you’re going to use leverage, you have to follow through with whatever’s promised.  It helps then to have a history of following through with what’s promised and that’s something that comes from paying attention and following through from the youngest ages.  You can still do it if it’s new to the boy, but the situation will still be a mess.  Full disclosure:  I have a track record of following through on unpleasant consequences and have used leverage successfully on a number of occasions with all three of the kids.

That’s the reality that you often won’t see on the parenting shows, a reality of tension and unpleasantness that simply has to be waded through.  There’s liable to be yelling and while I don’t spend my time bellowing, there are actually moments when it serves a purpose.  But the important thing is to make sure that Junior toes the line because if he doesn’t, then the unpleasantries will spill outside the house into other, more public, venues.

PracticalDad’s Language:  I Can’t Believe That I Said That

I saw Scott at an auction recently, also a father with three young adult children, and I unfortunately put my foot in my mouth – a not uncommon occurrence for me.  He was relating that they were gathering furniture in the garage for their youngest’s move to a new apartment with his college friend and his wife commented that they’d have to probably "move that s*** for him as well."  When he asked if I could believe that she would say that something like, my response was that I really could believe that.

He was visibly annoyed, especially since his wife is a quiet and capable woman who never uses profanity. 

Kids will act -or not act – in a way that’s guaranteed to irritate you and one of the ways that this will show is your language.  My late father was a former Korean War-era army drill instructor and I grew up in a household that wasn’t obscene but certainly profane at times.  If I had to characterize him as a television father, he was closest to Red Forman of That 70s Show.   He was capable of stringing together expletives and phrases that alternated between colorful, vulgar, scatological and physically impossible – which made them especially hilarious to a boy in his middle-teens.  That’s carried over to my own household although I do try to monitor what comes out of my mouth and can honestly say that much of what I heard as a kid and teen has never made it to my own kids.  Tell my kids that however, and they simply won’t believe it.

The upshot is that I can’t just haul off and yell when they in turn use a poor choice of words.  I can say that I’m an adult and they’re not, but that will only carry over to behavior within the presence of adults and  not to language used around their peers.  I have to set an example and try to actively monitor what I say.  There are certain guidelines that I’ve adopted over the years and to which I try to adhere.

  • Don’t use expletives or racial/gender epitaphs to describe other people.  I’ll use terms such as cretin, moron, idiot or the family favorite, bonehead.  As they’ve grown, we’ve had conversations about judging people based upon their behavior instead of their gender and race – even religion – and I’m adamant that you have to make value judgments but they have to be based on the actions of a person.  It’s not an easy conversation with a young child but it’s easier after they hit elementary school.
  • Certain words have simply vanished from my vocabulary, including the F-bomb.
  • Don’t chastise a child who’s used an expletive immediately after a physical injury.  When Youngest took a baseball in the mouth and bled from a gashed lip, I let the immediate expletive sonuvabitch pass.  We’ll worry about the lip and blood first and if the language continues, then we’ll deal with it.  Besides, when he beaned me in the kidney with a pitch last week, I said the exact same thing.  Like son, like father.
  • Never use a derogatory term to refer to your child, even when they’ve done something that qualifies as certifiably stupid.  I grew up with dumbass and never liked the term.  It’s better to condemn the behavior and I’ll try to say something akin to you’re smarter than that, so why’d you do something so idiotic/stupid/dumb?  Full disclosure:  Even I’ve been appalled enough in the moment to refer to more than one child as idiots.  But I try hard to avoid those instances and have apologized in the follow-up conversation.  Except once and I’ll never apologize for that one since they were old enough to know better.
  • There is such a thing as guy talk and I’ve used it in small amounts around the elder son after he reached middle school.  I adhere to the rules as listed above and am clear with the boy that this conversation is strictly between father and son and has no place amongst the remainder of the family or outside.  And when I’ve heard him violate those rules – and you’ll know when you hear it – then the result has been that the guy talk has gone away for a period of time.
  • The flip side of guy talk is that I refuse to comment on another woman’s appearance.  He’s the one with addled testosterone and I expect to hear some comments about being hot, but I refuse to comment.  Frankly, it would be wildly inappropriate and borderline perverse to comment on a child his age and I don’t want him thinking that I’m looking at anyone other than his mother.  Kids need stability and the thought that Dad is looking outside the house is destabilizing.

The language is an ongoing work in progress and I really am much better than I was as a young adult, not that they’ll believe it.  And now I have to figure out what I’ll say to Scott when I next see him.

PracticalDad Solutions:  Uniform Hooks

If  you spend any time talking with other fathers, you can expect to hear the same concerns and irritations about the kids.  They’re disorganized, late, unmindful of the time.  The difficulty is that most of us forget what it’s like to have been kids but if you think about it, you’ll find that you probably weren’t that much different in those regards.  And if you think about it further, you’ll sometimes run across ways to help your kid so that the irritating moments are fewer.  It was the situation that another father – who I’ll call Bill – considered and came across a simple answer for his son’s situation.

Bill is the father of Jacob, a rising second grader playing for a little league team that’s composed of many older boys.  He’s on the lowest cusp of the age grouping for that level but his level of play is such that he’d be wasting his time at the lower level of coach-pitch baseball.  When those situations occur, you expect that the younger player will struggle a bit as he (or she) plays up to the level of boys who might be three years older.  But Jacob is truly a gifted, gritty little guy whose play typically matched that of even the oldest boys.  When I first saw Jacob at practice, I was surprised by his skill level both with the glove as well as the bat.  As the boys were messing around at the end-of-season team picnic, Bill and I chatted and the topic turned to the pre-game household rituals, especially in regards to trying to get out of the door on time.  Bill’s expectations were simple and he understood that laundry meant that the clothing was sometimes out of the boy’s control, but he did expect that the boy would know where his hat was.  It seems a little thing,  but many young boys frequently can’t find their own heads.  After several instances of not knowing the hat’s location – and it is a nice hat with a stitched league logo, by the way – Bill settled on the uniform hook.

The uniform hook is a standard metal coat hook that can be mounted on a wall.  There are two protruding hooks attached to the same base, the upper hook being larger and extending farther than the smaller lower hook.  Bill mounted one of these hooks in the bedroom with simple instructions:  your uniform and hat stay on the hook.  We won’t fold the clean uniform and put it in the drawer with the other clothes, we’ll just hang it on the hook.  And you will keep your hat on the hook, ready for when you have to go play ball.  Yeah, there’s now a hook with clothing mounted on the wall but I think that that’s acceptable given all of the other nonsense that’s in a boy’s room.

It’s a simple and effective solution that keeps things easy for the kids and the parents.  Dad doesn’t have to go upstairs to find the game shirt that’s in the drawer where it belongs.  Junior knows that he’s got a special spot for something that he probably prizes and that even serves as a visual reminder of something that he loves.  And the only words that usually have to be spoken are a reminder upon return from the game to put the hat on the hook.

Kids want to please their parents if given the chance and they especially want to show how they’re progressing as they grow.  Sometimes it only takes a little thought to come up with a workable plan to minimize the angst and help the child show what he can do.

The End of School Scheduling

Any shift from one aspect to another is typically bumpy and that’s no different from going from the school year to summer vacation.  The change is noted by a flurry of activity as kids have end-of-school family nights/parties, tournaments, playoffs/championships and recitals.  In this household, we’ve survived the tournaments and playoffs – and championship win – and are awaiting the final recital and the corollary practices.  It creates greater stress as the practices and events sometimes overlap and it’s difficult to manage the usual household activities as well.

There are certain things that I stay on top of during these stretches, even as I’ve learned that some of the daily stuff has to wait.

  • Where’s the equipment?  Kids will tend to shed equipment entering the house as a snake sheds its skin.  Unchecked, the cleats will be left in one location and the socks can be found under the family room sofa while the shin guards have been tossed across the room and landed behind the television set.  Make certain that the child properly disposes of equipment upon entering the house so that when called upon for the next use before the upcoming game, it can be easily found and the frantic agitation avoided.
  • Assure that the uniforms and outfits are cleaned in time for the next game.  It’s tempting to think that the shirt doesn’t look dirty or might not smell, but the reality is that the kids do get dirty and you’re setting an example by how you handle it.  Besides, would you really want to wear a jockstrap that’s been through a seven inning or sixty minute game?
  • The water bottles are cleaned and ready to go.  One of us will also frequently toss one or more bottles in the fridge the morning of a game so that the water’s relatively cold at gametime.  If the weather’s hot, we’ll even throw a water bottle in the freezer for several hours so that the ice will melt in the heat and keep the water cold. 
  • Is there any responsibility for snacks?  Some smaller kids teams will have post-game treats and parents take responsibility for individual weeks.  Even as the kids age, some parents will provide half-time snacks – oranges and grapes – for a quick energy boost at the half.  So what are you responsible for and what has to be done to make it happen?
  • At the end of the season, is anybody taking responsibility for getting the coach(es) a thank you gift or card?  In most instances, these activities happen because different parents are stepping up and volunteering their time and some gesture is only reasonable and appropriate.  In the case of the baseball coaches – all of whom are fathers – each received a gift card and the head coach got a ball signed by all of the players.  The soccer coaches – both mothers – likewise got gift cards accompanied by a card signed by the team.
  • Even if family meals themselves are blown out of the water, the kids still have to eat decently.  Are they getting the proteins, fruits and vegetables that their bodies require?  In our case, we’ve learned to stock up on eggs since they’re easy to fix and are a great source of protein prior to a game.  Likewise, is the food prepared in time for them before departure?  Eating a meal and then immediately running 70 minutes in a soccer game is a recipe for disaster, so quick and decent meals are prepared for eating about 90 minutes before the event – if possible.

Much of the daily stuff will wait until the evening or weekend for completion.  And then when everything’s done, I’ll take a deep breath and get ready for the summer break.

College Debt:  The UK And a Look Ahead

The toxic college debt meme is spreading and if you want a glimpse of what’s liable to happen here, consider the situation in the UK.  As you may be aware, the UK is one of multiple European countries that are looking at grim economic times in the next several decades and the new coalition government is taking steps to lay out new austerity measures.  While the figures are still nebulous, the prospect is that the size of the UK national debt will require up to 20% cuts in many programs, if not all of them.  And financing of higher education is one of the programs on the table.

A few words about the UK university system.  The universities there are largely under the purview of a Universities Minister within the government, who in this case is David Willetts.  Like the US, many of the students will borrow to finance their education and the average English University graduate will leave with a debt owed of about 22,000 Pounds (almost $32,000 at an exchange rate of $1.45).  Much of the money comes from public funding and unlike the US, repayment isn’t required until the graduate is employed and has an annual income of at least 15,000 Pounds (almost $22,000 at the same exchange rate).  With job prospects amongst young people much poorer than their older countrymen, that means that a significant amount of debt is simply being carried without repayment until the student is several years older and no cash flow back to a starving national treasury.

The upshot is a series of moves – and corresponding comments – from the UK Universities Minister that are best likened to a bushwhacking of unaware students unprepared for the real world about to be unleashed on them.  The first and obvious move is discussion of a rise in annual university fees.  Yes, being essentially part of European society, there is an English National Union of Students which opposes the increase; and being English and students, they’ll probably find their voice in a series of riots. 

The other aspect is a structural changes that are really more daunting.  First is the suggestion that English teenagers place a greater emphasis upon entry into an apprenticeship program with practical training.  If they continue and do well, then an actual degree could be considered.  The article provides the example of entry into an apprentice position with British Telecom followed later by a possible degree in Electrical Engineering.  The problem with that is the question of just how many hands-on positions there are in the English economy to support the masses of young people who would want such a position.  What exactly does England do and make anymore?

Comments made by Willetts indicate another major institutional change.  As Willetts first stated, public funding of student higher education is a "burden on the taxpayer that had to be tackled."  The common view for years has been that the public should help pay for a youngster’s education, akin to it takes a village to raise a child on a larger scale.  But in the new austerity, the government and culture will shift its view to one that again places the bulk of the educational onus back onto the family.  This paradigm shift back to the individual is reinforced by Willetts’ other comment that "the so-called debt (students) have is more like an obligation to pay a higher income tax."  So we’ll no longer call it debt but instead consider it as something to be paid for the added benefit of an education.  Regardless of whether or not that value-added education actually leads to higher income.  The response of the young president-elect of the National Union of Students, Aaron Porter, was that it "very much felt like debt to them." 

The situation is a microcosm of the coming debates on the role of higher education and how to pay for it.  The comments section contained a succinct summation of the position in which English teens and young adults find themselves.  "Kibblesworth" writes:

And it’s all very well urging everyone to go into apprenticeship now – but the fact is that schools, for the last 13 years, have pretty much based their goals on getting their students to pass exams to get into uni.  No real skills are taught…We were constantly told that uni was the only way we were ever going to get a decent job.  Many of us have applied – and many more have taken out student loans already.

The reality is that this view has been promulgated for more than 13 years, but it’s been about that long to the young Kibblesworth. 

Our job is to prepare our children for their adulthood and our real influence should last greater than the years that we are their legal guardians.  Times are changing and we have an obligation to both understand the present circumstances and speak frankly and honestly to them about what they should expect and how to enter their adult world prepared to survive and prosper.

Clothing Teen-age Boys

Shopping for kids clothing gets a little dicier when the kids reach the teen years.  The occasionally wild swings in the growth rate makes purchases a hit/miss proposition and my response is to keep things simple.  The everyday wear is cheap enough at Kmart that I’ll hit there for jeans and shirts, supplemented by hand-me-downs from friends with boys older than my own.  But one of the things for which I’m responsible is teaching the boys how to dress appropriately and that means that they have some basic and decent items for events such as church, school concerts and more formal occasions.  That also means that I have to show them how to pay attention to the details so that they don’t come off looking like Jethro Bodeen.  Unfortunately, I don’t believe that any quality dresswear is available at Kmart.  So how do I match decent clothing that’s also inexpensive for a boy who’s going to last in it for a maximum of 6 months, if that?

After our end-of-school lunch with Mom and the kids, we split up in the mall; my wife and Eldest went to look at bathing suits while the boys and I browsed in a music store.  After we finished, we went to the department store bathing suit area to pick up the ladies.  Middle, who’s now 13, and I wandered to the Men’s Department and after eyeballing him, asked him to try on a plain men’s blazer.  My appraising eye is still decent and he went into a 36 jacket, although the sleeves were too short so I moved him up to a 36 Regular.  As he tried on the blazers, I asked him to do certain things to ascertain if it fit properly and I also made it a point to explain why he was doing these things. 

  • Lift your arms in front of you like Frankenstein.  How far up along the wrist do the sleeves ride?  Let you arms hang naturally at your side.  Does the sleeve come about halfway between the bottom thumb joint and the wrist?
  • Button the top button of the jacket – you typically don’t button both – and look in the mirror.  Does the material lay naturally around your midsection or does it appear to be tight?
  • Turn around and keep the jacket buttoned.  Does it appear to be tight and stretch ("span") across the back?
  • How far down along the torso does the jacket hang?  Teens are notable for some call the colt stage since they can grow disproportionately.  In Middle’s case, he’s got a long torso and disproportionately long arms that grew ahead of the rest of his body.

 How do I reconcile my belief that he, like all teens, needs to have some truly decent clothing and the recognition that this blazer was on sale for $90 and he’ll be out of it in months?

The plan is to make one or more visits to Goodwill in the next week.  In my experience – and some of my own clothing comes from there – the dress clothing tends to be gently used and in decent condition.  The men’s clothing typically comes from guys who have outgrown it themselves but has been cared for in its previous use.  We’ll drop by several times and search for a 36 Regular jacket that has held up well and pick it up for about $7.50.  If I can keep on top of Middle so that the jacket continues to be in decent shape, it might go to Youngest when he’s older.

That assumes that their the same torso/arm proportions.  If they aren’t, then it’s back to Goodwill again.

When the guys have finished growing, then we’ll take them out for some new, high quality menswear.


What Do I Really Have To Teach Them?  (Part 3)

As the kids age, they have a full range of new experiences and they sometimes aren’t as prepared as they think that they might be.  You move beyond the shoe-tying and get into other life experiences.  What are some of the more recent things that I – and my wife – have to teach the kids?

  • Using a power jig saw for cutting plywood.
  • Pulling a minivan into a space between two vehicles.
  • Catching behind home plate before the first pitching in the next game.
  • Reading a contract in its entirety.
  • Driving a nail straight while building a bird house.
  • Plunging a clogged toilet.
  • Removing the spark plug cover before turning over the lawn mower.
  • Fixing bent bike handlebars and a broken caliper brake.
  • Putting air in bike tires and adjusting a bike seat.
  • Changing the sheets on a bed.
  • Cleaning a bathroom and scrubbing a toilet.
  • Practicing for a four minute school presentation the next day.
  • Monitoring deadlines for school activities and projects.
  • Estimating costs and laying out the steps for a summer fishpond project.
  • Countersinking screws for a kayak project.
  • Discussing plans and activities for managing a group of younger children.
  • Apologizing for careless or thoughtless remarks.

The point is that kids aren’t going to automatically figure things out by themselves and you can’t assume that they just "get it."  Not to mention that power tools can be coldly unforgiving.

Apologizing to the Kids

There are moments when I overreact and last night contained one of those moments.  I made a comment in addressing a situation at dinner and shortly afterwards, the family dispersed as my wife and I took the kids to multiple activities.  While I was gone, the comment nagged at me until I concluded that I had no choice but to apologize to the child in question.  Before that child’s bedtime, I apologized for the comment; as we talked, I specifically stated that I didn’t apologize for the other outcome of that mess, but did want to say that I was sorry for the words.

On NCIS, Jethro Gibbs has a  rule that forbids making an apology because it makes that person apologizing appear weak.  And there’s some merit to that since it’s common to hear people utter the word sorry – especially children –  in a flip and unconvincing manner.  And many parents are leery of apologizing to their children because they fear that it calls their authority and image into question.  If I apologize for this, then they’ll question me or throw it back in my face later.  It’s not that much of a concern for the littler ones but it can be legitimate for the ‘tweens and teens.

But I concluded some time ago that it’s better to apologize than stay close-mouthed when wrong.

  • I realized soon after becoming a father that a child has to be taught almost everything.  That runs the gamut from holding a spoon to tying shoes but also an intangible skill such as issuing a meaningful and appropriate apology. 
  • If a child with hurt feelings can hear an apology for what created those feelings, they’re more likely when older to consider their own comments and the effect upon others.  They’re more likely to realize when they’ve said something stupid and recall how it felt.
  • Apologizing for something legitimate forces me to carefully work through the situation again with the child.  I can again review a situation with the child and yet some of the burden of being reminded is removed from the child.  In last night’s case, I took responsibility for uttering a cruel and stupid remark.  And in the same conversation, I was also able to explain to my child why their preceding action was also wrong and worthy of discipline even if the comment was unnecessary. 
  • It simply keeps the lines of communication open.  Wrongly used words can be corrosive and if there’s no recognition that they’re said, then there’s damage to a relationship that’s going to be tested as the kids age.

In their own eyes, kids have a lot more to prove than their parents.  Many want to show that they’re able to do for themselves and it’s natural that they fear an apology will make them appear incapable and weak.  So I’m going to have to continue to be willing to apologize when I’m legitimately wrong.  There will be a time when they’ll also step up – in fact, there have already been several occasions when that’s occurred.

And I also need to work on my own mouth.

Fatherhood and Discipline:  It’s Not Like Television

I enjoy watching shows like "Supernanny" but find myself conflicted while watching it.  On the one hand, it does a good job of introducing important tools and points that bring the particular family from train wreck to functional.  But even assuming that everybody’s not on absolute best behavior for the camera, the one hour limit doesn’t show the maddening, frustrating efforts at getting to that desired point.

Being an involved father – or mother for that matter – isn’t always easy.  The end of the show displays an engaged family playing in the yard and smiling happily.  But the reality is that while those moments certainly exist, there are plenty of other moments where you’re trying to ride herd on and teach kids that sometimes aren’t going to cooperate.  The non-cooperation can be limited to one child but if there are more kids involved, it’s likely to spread as kids start to veer off the track for various reasons.  They might find it fun to drive Dad over the edge or they start to misbehave to gain attention like the repreobate sibling.  Or they join in solidarity of teen rebellion.

Let me give you an example.  Time-outs are a good disciplinary tool when the kids are younger and a TV show will demonstrate it being done by a parent in a several minute segment.  You might see the Dad returning the kid to the spot when he tires of it, but that only takes a few times before the kid knuckles under – and that’s exactly what it is – and remains there.  And again, at the end of the show, things are infinitely improved.  But the reality is that the process by which a child learns that you’re serious can take far longer.  I’ve had early time-outs take longer than an hour as the child repeatedly gets up to leave without permission and the mutual frustration level is high.  But you can’t quit because that only teaches the child that further disobedience is permissible.  So don’t be surprised if you find that your voice and blood pressure are raised and an out-of-body view shows you to appear to be on your last shred of patience.

So what are your options?

  • Tag-team the situation with your mate so that you can get a short breather before re-entering and taking your turn.
  • Enforce the discipline with further measures.  I’ve enforced time-outs with a recalcitrant child by using a three-count with loss of favored toys/privileges for refusal to cooperate.
  • Then be sure to enforce that measure.
  • Send the child to bed for the night.  They’ll scream and carry on but will eventually wear out and you’ll get some quiet.  If that means it’s as early as 5 PM, so be it.  There are times when the child is legitimately at the end of his tether due to exhaustion and simply cannot control himself.
  • If you’re alone and have to take a breather to keep from snapping, take that break and remove yourself.  Then go back and resume.
  • When the situation is finally resolved, remember to go back and follow up with some conversation about behavior and consequences.

There are times that you will become angry and some of those times are entirely appropriate.  Being angry doesn’t make you a bad parent.  The difference is what you do with the anger and how you channel it.