Disciplining dad

July 3, 2009

Scott Kara’s (rough) guide to being a first-time dad on his New Zealand Herald blog

Most of the time, I’m a big softie. But this week, with Incredible Hulk-like tendencies, I turned into Super Domineering Dad by taking a stand and putting the little one into time out for the first time.

I thought I was looking out for her personal safety with my tough and loving stance. Crikey, she’d pulled herself up onto the cabinet in front of the TV, which is a fair-old fall to the wooden floor boards below, and was slapping the plasma screen with glee. It was the third time – in quick succession – she’d done it so what’s a dad to do?

While that might not sound like dastardly behaviour I couldn’t help but imagine that slab of electronic wizardry falling off the wall and squishing little honey lamb into a shrink-wrapped luncheon sausage.

It turns out, I think time out is a miserable failure and my wife and I don’t believe in it anymore. Not that it didn’t work, I just didn’t give it a chance. In fact, I was the miserable failure because my heart caved in to an uncontrollable longing to pick her up, hug her, and wipe those tears dry after shutting that door in her face.

So what do you do to stamp out wilful toddler tantrums and disobedience? Because, as Mr Ear Clip of Christchurch found out earlier this week, times have changed when it comes to discipline.

Gone are the days when mum cracked the wooden spoon on the bench as a threat – and boy, did my sister and I laugh when it broke on one occasion. Then there was the ultimate I-mean-business threat of dad – a far bigger softie than I am – pretending to take off his belt.

So instead of time out I’m resorting to either asking the little critter nicely to do something; praising her by way of coercion; ignoring her and hoping like hell she stops doing it eventually; or – and this is best of all – distracting her (which requires a ball, a puzzle, or, if I’m desperado, a TV show).

But hang on a minute, I thought I was meant to be a parent? I thought I was the one calling the shots?

Maybe I should harden up, stop being such a sook, and stick to my guns.

Then again, no matter what your approach, disciplining a toddler – and a teenager for that matter – is always going to be torture.

Plunket Barnardos Save the Children Unicef Jigsaw Ririki Parents CentrePaediatric Society Womens Refuge Epoch

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