As a parent, I meet and interact with many other parents and observe their behavior. I like to see how they interact with their kids so that I might learn something new. My observations bring me to one very sad conclusion regarding parenting and parents these days. I call it: “Living an Alternate Reality.”
To better understand the concept, let’s open with a simple example. Let’s say that one day you wake up and feel some slight pain in your left knee. You think nothing of it dismissing it as a minor ache from yesterday’s aerobic class. A day passes, two, a week and the pain is still there. You are worried, but still think to yourself that the pain will go away on its own.
Two weeks later, you notice that not only is the pain still there, but you feel that your knee is throbbing. You continue with your daily routines and two more weeks pass by. Now you start to notice that you are limping. That nagging ache has escalated and is crippling you, affecting almost any movement you make on a daily basis. It is just there all the time — dictating how you walk, feel, work and play. You decide to take action and get rid of the pain by going to a professional to analyze the situation. You are afraid what the next stage might be.
Living with the pain
All along that time, from the very fist time you noticed this inconvenience, you always had two choices: one, treat the pain and second, live with it. At one point of this painful road, you made a conscious decision to end the pain and seek some medical attention. I am quite sure that most, if not all people, reading this article, will raise their eye browse in dismay and say: “What do you mean live with the pain? What is this crazy talk? Of course I am going to take care of my knee. There is no alternative. There is no reality but the one that betters my well being”.
Are you choosing an alternative reality?
You know what? I agree. True words indeed, however, it is here, at this exact moment, when your thoughts are so focused on the reality and actions you decided to choose that I want you to replace the pain in your knee with the pain and agony your kid’s behavior presents to you on a daily basis. Think about it for a minute — did you choose an alternative reality or did you choose the reality in which you just live your life, adjusting to your child’s uncontrollable behavior and accepting that he does not sleep at night, that she does not eat vegetables or that he throws tantrums?
Surprisingly enough, the answer is No. You did not. You tolerated it all and got sucked into a life of misery. You of course, won’t even notice it because you created your own distorted reality in which it is a struggle to put your kids to bad, a lost battle to feed them healthy food, a punishment system that never seems to work and endless nights trying to figure out why they do not want to sleep — but people around you do notice that. From time to time, you get a reminder about your unacceptable reality in the form of a note from school, people staring at you at the street, your relatives hinting at something or watching some great behavior with friends’ kids.
Make your own reality
Unlike with the knee example, where you would undoubtedly go to great length to fix the problem, even at the cost of a painful procedure to make sure that you keep your health, when it comes to raising kids, you flee away from facing the real problems. When it comes to kids we, as parents, are just blind to any other possibility or any other reality that might be out there. A reality in which kids are responsible, like to clean their rooms, do not fight with their siblings and do what is asked from them. Yes, it is possible! I have done it myself with my kids by using some unorthodox techniques, and I know it can work with any other kid as well.
The first step is not to re-train the kids. The first step is to tell yourself that the reality you created around you is a false one and try to break the routine and figure out what does not work and go on to fixing it. This is the really hard part for parents to do – admitting they made mistakes. As soon as you get to that realization, you have made a huge leap towards changing your reality for a happier family.
For tips on disciplining kids:
- How to discipline toddlers, kids, tweens and teens
- Avoiding power struggles: Parenting without bribes or threats
- Positive discipline: Why time-outs don’t work
- When parents disagree on discipline
Barack Levin is the author of The Diaper Chronicles– A stay at home dad’s quest for raising great kids, available through his website at www.baracklevin.com.