PracticalDad:  Must Discipline Be a Contest of Wills?

It had been a brutal session with one of the kids, who frankly refused to do what was asked on multiple occasions.  With a father who used to be a drill instructor, I learned how to get into someone’s personal space and face and this is finally what I did when I’d tired of the nonsensical back-and-forth with this recalcitrant ‘tweener.  The face looked up at me as I glared down, inches from the nose and with that, the child retreated to perform the oft-requested task.

My wife shook her head at me and sighed as she said, does it have to be a contest of wills?

It’s a question that has stayed with me since that evening some time ago.  Does there have to be a contest of wills between the parent – and when there’s a father around, it often falls to the father – and the child?  Discipline is one of the less pleasant sides of parenting and in today’s world, many parents seemingly want to be a friend or pal and nothing puts a dent into being a pal than having to assure that rules are followed and chores performed.  It can be much easier and less likely when the kids are smaller – they’re more eager to please, their social world hasn’t expanded to a point at which they’re too heavily influenced by other kids, and they can be more easily redirected when they get stubborn.  But shouldn’t it become easier when they become older, seemingly old enough to be reasoned with?

Unfortunately, no. 

Kids do grow and as they’re exposed to more people and situations, they start to change.  While I can try to pick my battles, there are simply some things that I can’t let slide and this is where it gets hairy.  The kids are undergoing huge changes as they explore their sense of independence, their unwillingness to appear "under the thumb" before their peers and the general sense that Dad is now a blithering idiot.  It’s compounded with male teens as some are surging with the testosterone that makes them believe that they’re ready to assume the role of Alpha male in the household and that is something that can’t be permitted lest the inmates take over the asylum.  It’s difficult, and this is coming from a guy who’s made it a point to assure that the kids understand from an early age that Mom and Dad have the final say.

So I’ll just have to continue to try to manuever through the situations as they arise and hopefully, keep the clashes to a minimum.  But they’re still going to happen.

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