I've grown up in a world where no one ever gets parenting right. I've never seen parents actually control their kids. No matter how they do it - they can be strict, permissive, distant, overbearing, understanding or not, but in every case I've seen, the kids either fight endlessly with their parents or grow up to be bad people.
So all that had convinced me that you can't actually get parenting right. I'd come to accept that all you can do is make sure the kid doesn't die and send it on its ungrateful way when it's old enough. Two things have made me reconsider that:
- Everybody tells me that I'd make a good dad. I've been told I treat kids like actual people, that I have a caring nature, that I'm great at dealing with problems and even that I should become a primary school teacher. I try not to believe them, because as soon as I start believing I'd make an awesome dad, I'll probably become less qualified.
- I met my girlfriend Jerida. Jerida comes from a family of four kids and they're something that I only ever expected to see in The Brady Bunch. They're all very successful at school and uni - one of them just got accepted into the defence force academy. They outwardly show affection for each other. They don't play video games or spend all their time on Facebook, rather they'll be outside and play with lacrosse sticks, ride a bike, go for a run etc. They know all of each other's little quirks and how to deal with them. And they're pretty much on the same page with every moral value you can have.
So now that I've started to see that good parenting is possible, I have to figure out - how is it done? By studying Jerida's background and her relationship with her parents, and by picking up a few other things here and there, I feel like I've begun to figure it out. But it's led to a situation and I feel really guilty about it. I need your opinion, because I'm not sure if I'm in the right or wrong.
I have a little god brother that used to act out, talk back and ignore his parents a lot. Whenever he was over at my house, I would clash with him something shocking. He'd be playing with something he shouldn't be and I'd yell at him to put it down, trying to be authoritive. He'd ignore me and suddenly I'd be wrestling with an eight-year-old kid and as soon as I took the item off him, his mother would tell me to just give it back. It took me a while, but I eventually learned the seemingly obvious lesson that you never EVER interfere with somebody else's raising of their kids.
But on the weekend, I was at a family party. There's an adorable two-year-old boy in the family who's just starting to form full sentences. He would get all the attention whenever he was in a room, but it's made him a bit spoiled now. His dad came in and jokingly told us about how his two year old son had told him to get out of his life.He would ignore anything his parents told him to do, or just flat out tell them no. I found myself looking after this boy as he played around that night.
Now, I'd heard someone on a podcast just that day complain about parents who try and negotiate with their kids and that according to him, kids are like dogs - they need an alpha to give them boundaries and direction and that they respond well to that. I'd also heard that getting angry was just like advertising to your child that you're not in control. So as this boy went around grabbing stuff around the room, some of which shouldn't be touched, I would say with a lot of warmth and calm 'Nah, put it down.' I kept repeating it until he listened, which he eventually did. It's lucky - I knew that if he didn't listen, there was nothing I could do about it. I wasn't going to have another situation like my god brother.
But then I left and went back into the room that his mother was in. The boy came out with a recorder he'd found, blowing away on it and blasting sound around the house. I wasn't going to do anything about it, not with his mother there. His mum came in and started saying 'Hey, stop that! There's a baby sleeping over there! Come on, put it down... Put it down...' Before I could stop myself I turned and said 'Hey!' and he stopped blowing for a second, as if to say "Yes, can I help you?" I turned back around with red cheeks, guilty at what I'd done. But his mother turned to me and said 'Yeah Michael, can you get it off of him?'
I was surprised, but I did it. He'd started listening to me now. For the rest of the night, I was basically in charge of the kid. If he wanted to go outside, his parents would hand me his jacket so I could get him to put it on. If they wanted him to eat, I'd be the one making him do it and making sure he'd finished chewing before he went back out to play. On the one hand, I feel very happy with myself that I was able to successfully handle this kid. On the other hand, I feel so guilty that I undermined his parents' authority. Was I doing the right thing?