It is very disconcerting when you look at your child and think: "I don't really like you right now."
It is even more disconcerting when you look at your child and think: "I'd like to slap you right now."
Right across the face.
No, I am not abusive. I am not even big on spanking. I've been a teacher for 13 years, love my children and my students, and consider myself a pretty kind individual.
But some days, I want to hit Ben.
Some days, I think what he needs is a good smack across the face...a wake up call. (Although, if I have to be completely honest--and why the heck not, at this point?--I often think the smack would be much more for my own benefit than his, which is probably the only thing that prevents me from doing it.)
I know what you're thinking.
Some of you who are reading this right now, aghast, shocked, indignant, are thinking: "I would never..."
Some of you who are reading this right now, shocked but relieved, are thinking: "I have so felt that way..."
A small few of you who are reading this might even be smirking knowingly and thinking: "Oh, I have done that..."
There are so many things you can't possibly understand until you are a parent. There are so many shocking realizations. The one that's killing me is the realization that I can only control my child's behavior to a certain point. I can mold, I can teach, I can explain, I can love, I can show through example, but I can not make this child be a particular way.
My four-year-old is, truly, a product of his parents. He is verbal, tenacious, silly, passionate, energetic, and bright. He is not afraid to stand up for himself when he feels he is being wronged. He is not afraid to ask why things have to be a certain way when he does not agree with them. He is a leader. He is outspoken and social. All wonderful qualities to inherit, I think.
But...also like his parents, he is obstinate, stubborn, strong-willed. He knows what he wants when he wants it, constantly questions authority, and thinks he's pretty damn smart. (The fact that he is, in fact, pretty damn smart is part of the problem.)
90% of the time his good qualities outshine his bad. Everyone who knows him, loves him.
The other 10% of the time?
I want to hit him.
I hate not liking my kid. I hate that his behavior and defiance make me short-tempered, snappy, and ugly. I hate that because I don't like him, I find that I don't like myself, either.
I am an "If-then" kinda person. As in: "If I do this, then this should happen." When something goes wrong, I need to know why. Then I need to correct it. I would preach this kind of thinking as a solution to the parents of my misbehaving students: "If Little Johnny does not do his home learning, then you should provide a consequence at home." "If Little Johnny has a good day, then he should be rewarded." If-then. You have a parenting issue? Here's the solution....all wrapped up nice and pretty with a bow. Be consistent. Be firm. Let your expectations be known. And always, always lead by example.
If Ben hits a kid during recess, then he will not attend his friend's birthday party.
If Ben does not listen to the teacher the first time, then he will not be allowed to play outside.
If Ben is nice to his little brother, then we oooh and aaaah and celebrate.
If Ben gets a happy face on his daily report, then we let him ride his bike outside.
Consistent. Firm. Expectations known. Good example.
If Ben continues to misbehave, then Mommy is going to have a breakdown.
It's no secret that I have control issues. I like to be able to control everything. I know. It's impossible. I'm starting to understand that. I'm learning to accept that I can not control the weather and I can not put my kids in a germ-free bubble just before a vacation, but I always thought I would be able to control my own kid.
Not most of the time...all of the time.
I know my kid is going to screw up. We all do. But there are certain behaviors I did not expect. Not listening to the teacher??? Hitting another kid??? Not acceptable.
Except...apparently, unacceptable is not enough because it keeps happening.
If I am this kind of parent...If my husband and I work as a team...If I provide consistent rewards and consequences...If we lead by example...If we make it clear that certain behaviors will absolutely not be tolerated...
...then your kid still screws up.
...then your kid still gets an "x" on his daily report.
...then your kid still bites his buddy on the shoulder.
So if you don't like your kid, then are you a bad mother?
Or worse, if your kid is misbehaving, then is it your own fault?