It is OK to be that 'mean' parent.



What is so wrong with structure? What is so wrong saying no to your children? What is so wrong with formal education?

Constantly I am bombarded with the 'How to be a perfect parent" post. How not to get angry with your children, how to disipline the 'right' way, how to let your children educate themselves.

On my social media feeds I see strange posts such as "Oh (insert child's name here)! Why wont you go to bed?" or complaints about discipline issues and using tiredness as an excuse for bad behavior.

Well you know what?? I say poo to that.

YOU are the parent. You are in charge of bed times. Put the bloody kid to bed! Personally we set up a routine for bed time - toilet - teeth - story and leaving the bedside night light on to read herself to sleep. This may not work for you, do what works for you. However - do something, do something that involves making parenting decisions.

Since when does a child know the right thing for itself? Why do parents let the child parent? I believe in giving children choice, but limit the choice to two things or things that are acceptable to you. The child should never be given endless choice as, I swear, they will never choose the 'right' choice.

It is OK, as a Mum/Dad/Parent to have 'you' time once the kid is in bed. It is OK to think that you do not have to co-sleep or be an 'attachment parent' to be a good parent. It is OK not to breast feed till the kid enters high school. It is OK to seek out childcare a little each week for your own personal sanity. It is Ok to be something other than a kids parent 24/7.

Some parents have great births, their kid sleeps all night in their bed and they are happy to have the child on their hip 24/7. I don't judge these parents. It works for them but it doesn't work for me. I feel that I am a Mum but I am also a person that needs routine to sort out how my head works and how I can make being a Mum not turn me into a crazy person. There have been days where I admit to letting my kid have all day movie days, yes... all day! This was the only way I could study when I couldn't afford childcare, not becasue I am a crap parent but because I want to be the best and happiest human I can be... and that involved me educating myself. I feel we don't have to cotton wool our children and it is OK to be that woman in the park on her iPhone. I feel that treating your child as 'princess special' all the time does not give them a sense of reality.

I have seen posts of 'I miss the village' of multiple people raising your children. I also have seen anger at a stranger for saying no to their obviously miss behaving child. Shouldn't a village be able to guide your child to the right choice in your absence? Shouldn't the village include extended family, childcare and educational institutions? Recently in the mid-wives clinic I got slapped by a three year old. I was too gobsmacked to say anything to the child especially when all I heard was the child being slightly disciplined for smacking only his Mum before he had slapped me. Seriously, my kid would have been on the naughty step for a week if they ever hit a stranger let alone me.

When did it become not OK to say NO to your child? Yes bad behavior happens, often in public and induces judging looks from other 'perfect' parents. Yes you will have to take the offending child back to his/her own bed 100 times before they get the hint it is not OK to stay up or keep coming out. It is OK for the child to cry and chuck a tantrum when they don't get their way. It is after all their only method of rebellion right now. But wouldn't you rather rebellion at age 2 than at 12?

Teaching this year I found many kids that are not self motivated or supporting. It is disturbing that parents have let their children have the last say in their house and know that a bad report at school will have little consequence at home. How will these kids cope when they try to find employment and the boss does not let them 'sook' to get their way. How will these kids cope with bad grades if they have never had to work for good ones or been told that they have ever done anything wrong?

I completely reject the idea of 'Unschooling' which is said to let the child self direct their own learning. How does this benefit the child in the real world? Imagine a boss letting an employee 'find their own way' in a job... I don't think so. Formal education can inspire the the child with multiple points of view from the school 'village', gives the child social interaction (positive and negative), lets them attempt many subjects and ultimately they get to major in their subject of choice (sports, arts, whatever). They learn they have to get out of bed and keep to timetables. I believe the social instructions of school are just as important as the educational content.

Recently, I had to run into one of those discount stores to grab something. I told the little girl we were in a hurry and there would be no treats prior to entering. We walked in, we stopped briefly to look at loom bands as that was her current obsession. After 30 seconds I said 'lets go' and she continued walking with me to the place where my item was. A woman looked at me with her mouth agape. She said,"How did you do that?". I didn't understand. I wondered whether I had said something harsh to get the little girl moving and that had been perceived badly in public. I said,"What do you mean?" she said "Get her to do as she was told?". I laughed. It was natural for her to do as she was told. She understood what we were there for and it was a natural occurrence for us to have incident free shopping trips these days. Don't get me wrong, this was not always the case - I have endured my fair share of public tantrums before she realised I don't give in. After a brief conversation I found that the woman would only shop alone these days but she did have FOUR children.... I have one (nearly two) children, it is not the same as shopping with four. I imagine that maintaining consistent discipline for four children was a completely different ball game. I cannot even imagine. However I was proud of this natural discipline my daughter had achieved. I did not even know we had gotten to that point of calm. I was suddenly proud but felt sorry for the poor sad faced woman I left in my wake.

Despite my 'mean' approach I find that my child loves the discipline, the structure and the routine. I always tell my child that I love her even even when I am angry.  She is happy and enjoys going to school. She has the freedom to argue and state her point of view knowing that I will listen but not necessarily say yes.

I love Super Nanny's (Jo Frost) techniques. Consistency is the key. I believe I will never be perfect. I believe I will never be completely right. But I do know that I am doing what is right for my family, for my child and for me personally. I make mistakes, I raise my voice often but I think I am raising a very well rounded young lady that can support her own emotions and will make sensible decisions in the future.

We all need to find our own way as parents. They only thing I know 100% is that every parent makes different choices in their parenting. I can only hope that I can maybe encourage parents to be parents in the family structure and not the child.

With the birth of my second child I hope that I can continue to parent. I fear that I have forgotten all the hard work that got us to this point. I guess we shall see.

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Michelle Walker is a Tasmanian born creative. An Artist for life, Visual Arts Teacher, Graphic Designer, Photographer, Hairdresser by trade and mother to two beautiful children.

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