Some days I did not think I would survive my child maturing.
Now, though, looking back on it, my teenager who will soon be heading off to college has not turned out so bad. Even though our Caroline does well in school and is pretty responsible and likeable, there were times, especially during middle school, that both my husband and I wondered where we went wrong.
If you look past the messy room and the occasional eye-rolling, she is a pretty good kid. I did not completely fail in the discipline department. Yay, me! Well, not completely me. My husband played a huge role in raising our daughter too. Yay, us!
So, as I often ask the students in my classroom to do when it’s time to evaluate a situation, here is my reflection on what we did right and what we would change when it came to disciplining our daughter over the years.
What We Did Right
We made sure our daughter knew we loved her
It is not that we never raised our voices or gave a little pop on the wrist when we felt it was necessary. It was the aftermath. After redirecting Caroline’s behavior, we always made sure to talk about what happened when everyone was over the initial anger. This helped with processing the situation, understanding why actions were wrong and consequences were given. It helped us create a teachable moment while everyone was calmer, and also remind her that although we were unhappy with her behavior, we still loved her and always would.
We did not engage in the argument
If she was sent to timeout when she was younger or had her phone taken away when she was older, that was it. We delivered the consequence and left it alone. If she did not comply, sometimes the consequences were more severe. The main thing was that the consequences were not open for debate. PERIOD.
We were consistent
If I had an expectation, her father had the same expectation. And vice-versa. She knew she could not go to one and then the other when she did not get the answer she wanted. My husband and I did not want to be good cop and bad cop. With that said, as she has matured, she knows which of us to ask on particular issues first. So the little smarty pants has kind of figured a way to circumvent the system when needed.
What I Wish We Would Have Done Differently
Communicated with my husband more honestly to blend our parenting styles
When Caroline was a toddler, I tended to explain why I wanted her to do something. My husband, on the other hand, tended to just take action by either telling her what to do or doing it for her. This was due in part to our different parenting styles and personalities. I do wish we had found a happy medium during this time when Caroline was so young and impressionable. I wish we had talked about how we approached situations differently more openly and honestly, without judgement. Better communication would have made those tough toddler years a whole lot easier.
Final Words of Advice
I am not an expert on discipline, but overall I think we did a good job. I do, however, have one extraordinary piece of advice my sister-in-law, who has three amazing kids, offered…
Every kid is different. You must, as a parent, pay attention to what works for individual kids. There might be some trial and error you go through to determine what’s right, but in the end it will pay off.
She is soooo right!
I no longer worry that I am completely ruining my child through my own well-intentioned attempts at parenting. Trust me, you aren’t either. So think through what is going well and what is not, and make decisions about discipline with a clear head, an open heart and the knowledge that this, too, shall pass.