You can be a strong and reasonable authority figure and still be fun, as well as gentle and affectionate. The first task is to give up on perfection. Go on! Take perfection by the hand, lead it to a tall bridge over deep water, hoist it up the railing, and push it off! You are not a perfect parent. Guess what? You aren't going to be.
Now that we have that out of the way, let's talk about being reasonable. You cannot be perfect, but you can be reasonable. A reasonable parent:
- Tries hard and cares.
- Works hard to model the behavior she'd like to see in her kids.
- Sets her expectations and disciplinary goals for herself, and for her family, at reasonable, realistic levels.
- Defines reasonable limits for her children's behavior.
- Identifies and discusses natural consequences that occur and provides reasonable, logical consequences when things go wrong.
- Is reasonably consistent about it.
- Understands that change takes time, and gives herself and her kids a break.
Words to Parent By
A reasonable parent is an informed and compassionate parent who relies on reason as well as emotion to understand his developing child.
It's a Good Idea!
Did you ever think you were going to grow up and become so reasonable? Kids aren't always reasonable, it's not in their job description. Adults aren't always reasonable, either, but it's something to aim toward. In many ways, a reasonable parent is automatically a good parent.
You, the Gentle Giant
The word discipline often calls up for me the image of a woman with a bullwhip, a man with a belt, a fierce, mean face, and a couple of terrified children, afraid to squeak for fear of “getting it.” Okay, we know that discipline means “teaching,” and we know that teaching works best when kids want to learn. Since kids learn best when they are engaged, active, and having fun, dump the attitude and join the learning! You can be fun, and you can be a disciplinarian. Correction is correction without the screams. You're not being lenient when you're gentle and kind, you're imparting knowledge in the most effective way. And it's a lot easier on your blood pressure.
No matter what style you begin with, you can change and become more gentle, stronger. The first step is becoming aware of how you treat your children when you are angry at them. Try the following:
- Take a deep breath and cool down before you leap into telling your kids why you're mad at their behavior.
- Remind yourself you don't have to look or act angry to get results.
Remember, It's Funny!
Humor is a big part of reasonable parenting, and of positive discipline, for a few reasons:
- Laughter breaks the tension.
- Humor is a good way to deal with stress (it's better to laugh than to scream).
- Teasing and sarcasm don't count as reasonable. Be gentle.
- You don't have to impose your limits and consequences with a heavy hand and a heavy heart. Actually, being too heavy can often work against you (who wants to listen or learn from a mean, grumpy horrible person?).
No sarcasm! Sarcasm is a mean form of humor, designed to slice, rather than soothe. Kids often don't understand sarcasm. Laugh with the child, not at him, and keep that humor gentle!
Just because you're laughing or smiling doesn't mean you're not taking something seriously. Humor is a great way to keep a sense of perspective about things—really now, on a scale of one to 10 of terrible behavior (with 10 resulting in doing time in San Quentin for assault and murder), blowing milk out your nose barely counts at all! Laughing may sometimes be unavoidable—don't worry, you can laugh and still correct your child.