Now that I have kids of my own, I have come to appreciate the delicate balance of discipline and affection that my father had to maintain in handling us, his own children. Fathers have their special parenting challenges that are different from mothers.
In my home, dad was the disciplinarian while mom was the nurturer. That didn’t mean he couldn’t be funny and affectionate and caring though. He was all that, except when it came to rules, he was steadfastly stubborn. Looking back, I saw the logic of his parenting style, even if I did resent them growing up. Here are the most memorable ones.
Lessons from my father’s parenting:
I get punished for talking back.
Sass talk and eye rolls meant sitting in a corner for an hour or no TV for a week. I could say my piece but a potty mouth and raising my voice merited some form of age-appropriate punishment. My dad’s stern look had me quivering in my shoes.
If life, as portrayed on TV shows, are real, it’s shocking to see kids and teens talk back to their parents like their moms and dads were their peers. But not in my house. Kids should learn to respect their own parents as well as other people. It’s one thing to allow children to express their thoughts. It’s another to tolerate rude retorts and yelling.
I had my share of chores and didn’t get paid or praised for doing them.
At four years old, I was trained to put away my own toys after playing. At seven, I had to wipe the table clean after a family meal. I made my bed upon waking up, swept the backyard on weekends. I didn’t have to be told, nor did I get paid and dad didn’t heap effusive praise on me for doing them. He did acknowledge the effort with a “thank you” and that was enough to make me happy.
Nowadays, especially in primary schools, children are awarded for being “super student of the week” or some such fuzzy accomplishment, making awards a dime a dozen. Kids grow up expecting to be recognized for something that’s a routine task. It’s the start of having a sense of entitlement and becoming self-absorbed.
I wasn’t treated like a baby.
When I was old enough, I had to do things by myself, like tying my shoelaces and getting my things ready for school. At play, my dad allowed me to run or bike, and I sustained cuts and bruises from minor falls. My mom would have made a big deal out of outdoor play, constantly calling out to me to be careful, not run too fast, etc.
Oversolicitousness in a parent encourages a child to become too dependent on them. It also tends to develop narcissism in the kids, oftentimes as a way to cover up feelings of inferiority. Doing things for your children that they are capable of doing themselves breeds a feeling of entitlement since they expected to be served on.
I learned early on that tantrums got me nowhere. If I cried or sulked because I couldn’t have the toy I saw in the mall, dad simply ignored me. When you’re five, there’s no negotiating with dad.
I had to be present for meals.
Especially supper when everyone is home. My father didn’t accept excuses such as not being hungry, playing games, or watching TV to forego the family dinner. As such, mealtimes were our chance for sharing of the day’s events whether good or bad and exchanging thoughts and opinions.
P.S. cell phones weren’t allowed at the table, too.
Time together for families give the parents an opportunity to keep themselves updated on their children’s activities, moods, and problems outside the home.
My father (or mother, for that matter) was not my best friend.
Dad was a disciplinarian and had an authoritative style of parenting, far from what you’d call a best friend. I had BFFs to swap stories with and laugh about stuff together. Best friends are for sharing secrets and going out or sleeping over. You don’t do those things with your dad or mom.
Dad set rules and boundaries. We had to follow them, no questions asked, although there was some amount of flexibility if warranted. He guided us through life so that we would become responsible and kind adults. A best friend he certainly wasn’t, and I wouldn’t have wanted it that way, too.