Some time ago I was asked to expand my topic list to parenting by a commenter. I’ve held off for the time being seeing I think it is perhaps a little off my chosen topic. I’m not going to break down and discuss what works for diaper rash or how to sneak a sip of your wife’s bottled breast milk, but tonight I had a sudden “aha!” moment about it that I can share that does tie into my main topic.
Right now my kids are 11 and 12 and doing just great and are pretty much old school good kids like I guess I imagine myself being at the same age. A lot of that comes from some of the early parenting that Jennifer and I did.
Back in the day we used a technique of letting the girls chose what they wanted to do a great deal. That sounds very permissive, except for the fact that we completely defined the choices offered them. Seeing both offered options were acceptable to us, it didn’t matter what they chose to do. A little kid isn’t going to be aware of the manipulation going on and will feel a sense of empowerment from making the choice.
Sometimes the options offered were a choice between two good things; a walk in the mall and a pretzel… or… go to the park and an ice cream.
Other times the options were far more behavioral; be mad and stay home… or… be good girl and go park.
See how that works? I’m just not taking a misbehaving child into public. If she wanted to be a cranky shit weasel we’d do that at home thanks very much. You’d be surprised how even a two year old can turn around a tantrum if they are missing out on swings and ice cream from the ice cream truck because of the ruckus they are making. (I swear the ice cream truck had GPS tagged my kids as he never failed to show up when we were there)
Plus we purposely somewhat randomly rewarded good behavior. “Ya know what, you girls are being so good, LETS GO THROUGH THE CAR WASH!”… Yeah they don’t fall for that one anymore. Pity. Simple praise works wonders. “Thank you girls for being good back there, I’m very proud of you.”
Upon a handful of occasions they really did have a complete public melt down. Daughter #1 had a tantrum in the supermarket and was removed by me to the car where we did not listen to the radio. Jennifer and daughter #2 finished the shopping. She had a second outburst a month later in the supermarket and we repeated the removal process. Daughter #2 went berserk in California Pizza Kitchen and I removed her from the restaurant as she sobbed openly on my chest. Outside the restaurant she was given a final choice to behave or sit in the car while Jennifer and Daughter #1 ate pizza. She pulled it together and we all had a pleasant meal.
About two and a half years later daughter #1 started acting out in Old Navy… and it’s off to the car we go… she had this odd look of remembrance and off we went. No radio huh. Nope, no radio.
There was also the night where we broke daughter #1 of her demands to be entertained in the middle of the night when she was about one and a half. She’d stand up in her crib and flip the light on and call us. I shit you not. The night we broke her of this, I checked on her, ensured she was in good health et al, and then left her in the crib. No entertainment. That cued up about 90 minutes of her wailing and flipping the light on and off and generally screaming in outrage as Jennifer wept in my arms. Next night she slept right through. At least I think she did, I’m a heavy sleeper. But I slept through and that’s all that really counts anyway. So job well done.
At the time all this was going down, I was very aware that when we were disciplining one child, the other child was also paying attention and learning from the experience. Daughter #1 got yanked from the store three times, daughter #2 tried it once and decided the rules also applied to her and toed the line from then. The message was clear, bad behavior was not going to be tolerated in our family. In all five critical behavioral incidents, I was the parent that really laid down the intervention.
What I just realized right at this moment was that another person was also really paying attention to these moments… Jennifer. Perhaps that explains the relative lack of testing behavior that Jennifer gives me (it’s actually hard to think of many instances) compared to the way most husbands express it. I’ve proved that I can handle bad behavior and not flinch and calmly and methodically address it. Though to be quite fair Jennifer is the sweetest person I know and acting out isn’t really an issue anyway – part of why I married her. It’s actually hard imagining her being bratty to be honest.
So in summary then, if you’re passing the shit tests that your kids are handing you… and they will hand you some shit tests… then your wife isn’t likely to feel the need to test you. And when the iron fist in the velvet glove is needed with the kids, most women would very much prefer to be the First Officer and not the Captain.
You are after all meant to be the Alpha Male of the Group.