Growing up, I always thought I would make a good parent. I mean, I took care of so many nieces and nephews, not to mention babysat all the time, how could I not be a good parent someday? To me, parenting was as simple as being firm but kind, and teaching your kids to be nice and do what's right, as opposed to what's wrong.Unfortunately, this mentality of "parenting will be simple and easy" stayed with me up until I had children of my own. Obviously, plenty of people without their own kids think the same way, which is why we get so much unsolicited advice from these lovely people. But I digress.
Parenting Starts Early
What you should know about life after birth is that parenting starts a lot sooner than you think. Yes, babies are innocent and sweet and can't be disciplined anyway, but once they turn about a year old, they begin to require a little parenting. Just the basics like "don't bite," "don't eat things off the ground," and "don't stick your fingers in the electrical outlet." Soon enough, they're communicating with you and having opinions and being the little humans that they are, with real attitudes and personalities.
I still remember the pediatrician telling me that giving time-outs was appropriate starting around age 1, with one minute for how many years old they were. I was shocked that he would suggest something so early on, but I soon learned that having a form of discipline was necessary, even at age one!
Something I realized recently while disciplining my toddler (he's barely 2, but has acted like he's 2 for quite a while) was that discipline, and parenting in general, takes work. Like, actual work. It's harder than I thought it was going to be!
Doling Out Punishments Isn't FunFor instance, if we're at a playdate and my son disobeys, I can threaten a variety of punishments, all of which are difficult to carry out when we're away from home. So, the ultimate punishment is "if you do that again, we have to go home." And guess what? Toddlers will call your bluff every time. So he acted out again, and we actually had to leave that playdate early. The sad part was that in punishing my toddler, I got the punishment, too! No more socializing or playing for me--oh no. I got to wrestle my screaming toddler into the car and drive home and drag him inside and deal with the aftermath. The bottom line? When you punish your kids, you kind of get punished, too. You have to make the sacrifices, you also miss out on the fun, and you have to make the effort to carry out the punishment, no matter how many times it takes. Because consistency is what makes good parenting.
Discipline Is Often About SafetyWhether for the safety of your child or the children around them, discipline usually helps to avoid kids getting hurt. Why do I discipline my son every time he runs toward the road? So he doesn't think that's okay and then gets hit by a car! Why do I have to put him in time-out every single time he shoves the TV? Because that TV cost a lot of money, and it could fall on him if he shoved it hard enough! In the end, you can't let a lot of discipline slide, because your child or someone else's child could end up getting hurt. And above all else, we as parents want to keep our kids safe. But boy, do they find ways to get into trouble.
A Job In Itself
Parenting is a 24/7 job. There's no training beforehand, and your children are basically guinea pigs. Luckily, everyone else is also trying to figure it out, and you're free to customize your strategies to your specific child. Good parenting takes work, yes. But you know your child best, and this helps you give them what they need. Will you make mistakes? Yes. And that is okay, as long as you keep trying and doing your best. After all, our parents weren't perfect and we turned out okay.