In the article, the author, Anne Fitzpatrick, seems to be unsure where to draw the line in the disciplinary aspect of parenting and I'm right there with her. While I don't want my kids running amok and so ill-behaved that other people don't want to be around them, I also don't want them to be so regimented that "compliance" is the only goal. Not only do those kids creep me out a bit, I find myself pitying them for having lost their spark or "will" so early in life. If the party line is merely to obey and never to question, what happens to those children as they grow older? Do they just do whatever their friends, spouses, bosses tell them without questioning? Surely that's not good either.
Fitzpatrick, quotes her mother as saying consistency is the key. This is pretty much one of the 10 Commandments of parenting, is it not? I can honestly say I'm consistent in my approach, consistently inconsistent that is. How to be consistent in a way that doesn't crush their spirit while also teaching them what's socially acceptable? It sounds so easy. While I strive to have set rules that are firmly understood and the resolve to follow through with any of my "threats" for time-outs, toy banishments, etc., in practice I find it's not always that easy.
For one, my children rarely seem to act up while I'm unoccupied. Oh no, they wait until I'm changing someone else's poopy diaper and know that I can't abandon the task to deal with their poor behavior. Or, they act up in line at the post office, where I can't give a time-out and there are no toys to confiscate. So, I'm left begging and bribing them for their cooperation. Hardly authoritative and hardly effective.
I have a friend who is a master with discipline. When her daughter starts to act up, she's able to get down at her daughter's level and calmly talk to her, explaining why such behavior is not accepted and her daughter listens. My friend's a former teacher, so I don't know if it's some magic skill they learn while getting their degree, or if her daughter's just more receptive to it. Every time they do it, I watch, mesmerized, studying her tactics like a fighter watching videos of his opponents before a big fight, trying to learn the subtle nuances of her game. However, when I try the same approach with my daughter I get a big "No, I don't want to talk about that," as she tries to squirm away. Then, I start yelling...
For now, I guess, I just have to have faith, creativity, and wine. Faith that I'm trying my best, which will surely account for something at the end of the day. Creativity to continue to devise new ways to bring about the best behavior in my kids in a way that works for our family. And wine, for the days when my best just doesn't cut it and I need to have a little drinkie-poo at the end of a day, where the score reads Kids: 2, Moms: 0.