I used to think that tough love was the way to go. I used to think that the way to being a good parent was to have a firm grip and finger tip control over my kids. Because of this thinking, my children’s behaviour was really important to me. I saw it as a direct reflection on me. Well behaved kids equaled good parenting. Poorly behaved kids equaled bad parenting.
I have come to recognize this as an insecure approach to parenting and I’ll tell you why. What I thought was strong, turned out to be weak. Any way that my kids acted that wasn’t happy or helpful, wasn’t acceptable to me. If they yelled, cried, or had a tantrum, I felt like it was a threat to my image of what a good parent was. If I couldn’t stop them from “misbehaving”‘ I wasn’t doing my job. But the problem was, I was confusing misbehaving with normal behaviour. This is the truth of the matter.
I was making it about me and I wasn’t allowing them to express normal and healthy emotions. For those of you who don’t know, this is not healthy, not good for kids, not good for me, and not good for the family.
Happy and helpful children are great, but we have to allow our kids to feel other feelings. Sad, frustrated and mad are also very human emotions that we all experience. I wasn’t being realistic. I was holding my kids to an impossible standard, all to protect myself and my image. I felt the need to control my children, force them to be obedient and happy…so that I would look and feel good.
Here is the irony of it all: it wasn’t even working. My authoritarian parenting led to power struggles, outbursts, and a tense environment. I was creating more of what I was trying to avoid. This situation I put myself in wasn’t allowing me to enjoy my children and enjoy being parent.
Perhaps you can relate. Maybe you can see yourself in my story. It’s hard to come face to face with our own insecurities and ineffectiveness, but it’s the only way forward. So, be honest with yourself, but be compassionate too. If you’re trying, that’s what’s important. You might not feel like you have things figured out yet, that’s okay. No one ever taught us how to parent. Life is a learning process.
But if you are interested in making a change, in learning some new skills, I can help. First, here are some articles that might help.