Sunday, March 6, 2016

Disciplinarian Parenting Style? Or Fun Parenting? Which is Better?

Just over 10 years ago when my former wife relocated to the northeast US, I was really distraught that the judge signed off on the move. You see, she was taking our 4 year old daughter with her, much to my dismay. I thought it would have been detrimental to the father / daughter bond that had been developed up to that point. The judge said that my daughter should be with her mom throughout the school year but during breaks from school – summertime, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Spring Break, etc – she would be with me.

In trying to encourage me, my attorney said, “Think of it this way – you’ll get to be the fun parent!” I started thinking about that. When my daughter’s with me, I could do all the fun things like take her shopping or to Chuck E. Cheese’s  or to places like Disney World. Doing the fun things and creating more wonderful childhood memories. Meanwhile my former wife would have to deal with the hard tasks of getting her to school daily and picking her up. Then she’d have to go to teachers’ conferences and do all the things required to help our little one to be successful in school – homework, especially. Then came the music lessons and Girl Scouts meetings and sports practices. That level of parenting isn’t always fun – it can be real exhausting.

But then I reflected on the situation and began thinking – do I really want to be a fun parent? Or do I want to be a parent who deals with every aspect of the parenting experience – the good, the bad and the ugly? I recall, during my childhood, that both my mom and dad had their hands full with my 3 siblings and me. We had our fair share of fun but it certainly wasn’t all fun and games. They taught us valuable life lessons that still guide us to this day. And these lessons often came disguised in the form of discipline.

After a while I began to realize that I didn’t want to be the fun parent. As glamorous as it might be to be the dad to create such fond memories with my daughter, the fact is that parenting, just like real life, has the glamour as well as the grime. I believe that the ultimate responsibility of parenthood is to lovingly train children in such a way that they grow up to be productive members of society. And that training doesn’t always come with fun and games; sometimes it might entail dealing with things our kids don’t like but which are in their best interest.

Whenever my daughter came to me, we certainly did do the fun things but I also tried to share with her lessons that she may not have wanted to hear. And I made a concerted effort not to just give her the things she wanted all the time. In other words, I was determined to do for her, not just what she wanted but also what she needed.

After a few years of having my daughter with me in relatively short spurts, just about 6 years ago, she came to live with me primarily – with her mom still living up north. Now my parenting style was to be put to the ultimate test. A single dad living on his own with his daughter coming to visit for the summer is one thing; it’s another thing to be a fulltime single dad dealing with school, homework, chores and everything that it takes to care for a child. This was a whole different ballgame.

Before long I began to realize that I’d been missing out on much of her development. Her learning style is the classroom environment is one of the first things that I noticed. I had always done my part from a distance, checking in with her teachers but seeing it up close gave me additional insight. I thought of some of my own challenges as I was growing up and how I overcame them. I was determined to help her strengthen the areas in which she was already strong and improve the areas of weakness.  I learned of things I could do to help her learn and achieve better grades. Before long I got her a tutor and that was quite helpful. This was the beginning of a new phase for me. Being a fun parent is easy; doing some of the things that your child might not like too much is a bit harder.

Four years ago, I got remarried. My wife and I now have 2 sons – a 2 ½ year old and a 3 month old. And my daughter is an integral part of our household. We couldn’t be happier because our home is built on love and mutual respect for each family member. Fortunately, both my wife and I realize that the responsibility of raising 3 young persons with unique and distinct personalities is an awesome one. We have loads of fun with them but we also know that if we are to be successful, discipline is required on our part.

Rodrick's teenage daughter
My daughter is now 14 years old and a high school freshman. As most parents of teenagers will tell you, inevitably there will be conflict. Teens love to push their boundaries to see what they can get away with. Sometimes she speaks as if she and I are the same age and she can do as she pleases. But overall, she’s well mannered and quite respectable and I’m quite proud of her. She’s on the honor roll at an extremely competitive high school. Now we have conversations about what career she would like to pursue. I get to challenge her in ways that, though not comfortable at times, cause her to think of the vast possibilities that may be accomplished as she seeks to make her mark on the world.

For our 2 young sons, we sure have our share of fun with them. But we have the right perspective – fun is great but for them to develop as they ought to, we have to be well-rounded parents who discipline and guide them while enjoying their growth and development.

I hope that this post has been helpful to you. Parenting entails having fun and playing games but it also entails doing the hard things that sometimes might not feel so good but are quite necessary. We all desire for our kids to grow up and become mannerly, well-adjusted, goal-oriented persons who make a positive contribution to society. Let’s keep the entire process of parenting in perspective. With the right mindset, we can enjoy them while preparing them to become all that we desire for them to be.

Enjoy your day.

The Upbeat Dad

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