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Diaries of a stay at home dad

July 26, 2012

Instilling discipline is both an art and a science.  There are many suggestions out there ranging from felony assault to “boys will be boys.”  Establishing the correct balance of discipline has clearly been the most difficult part of my new career.  I have tried many approaches across the spectrum of discipline, and I have observed many other approaches applied by strangers, usually to my amusement.  For example, we were at the pool yesterday and a daughter asked her father if she could get an ice cream cone.  He said “no,” she started walking towards the ice cream stand, he said “No” (notice the one capitalized letter, representing a louder tone being used), she didn’t change her course, again he said “NO” and still she continued until he sat up and screamed ‘Katie, NO!!! Get back here, NOW!”

There was no audible record scratch, but I heard one in my head.  Everyone in and around the pool turned towards this “gentleman.”  Not too humiliating.  Did I mention he was sitting down the whole time and did not move until the last  warning shot?  Even better, when we all turned to look, he said “Uh, sorry…”  I filed that approach in my “ineffective” file.

Speaking of ineffective, I have definitely had my own issues.  Before I started staying at home, sometime last year, Brian and I had, lets call it, a disagreement.  I don’t remember what he did but I remember being unhappy.  I decided to pull out the big guns.  [Sarah, if you are reading this, please skip down to the next paragraph].  I spanked Brian.  Now who’s the boss?  Who is in control?  Time to shape up and listen to daddy, right?  Nope.  It must have been close to bed time, as Brian had his pull up on.  More than likely he was doing his nightly routine of not staying in bed, and staying up late.  Boo.  Anyway, I spanked him with the pull up on.  He laughed at me.  Literally.  I got nothing left now.  so, I sat him down and pretended to cry, telling him how much it hurt daddy’s feelings that he would not listen to me.  He laughed at me again.  Ugh.  So, I turned off the lights and closed the door.  Nothing like running from your problems.

Fast forward to last week.  I have been training hard on my Jedi mind tricks, and I think I may have figured this whole thing out.  there are certain subtle tactics that must be used so that you don’t embarrass yourself, your kid, or literally make the situation much worse than it even needed to be.  Case in point:

Me and the boys hit the grocery store last week.  Usually they are better in the morning hours than the afternoon, but this time clearly was different.  Brian and Liam were both bouncing off the walls, aisles, displays, etc.  I stopped the cart and gave them their one and only warning.  “If you don’t control yourself, and act like big boys, you will not get special lunch.”  “Oh, what’s special lunch Dad?” they ask.  I say “You have to be good the rest of the time here, then you will find out.  But, I know you will love it.”

The special lunch was hot dogs wrapped in crescent roll dough, or as it is known in our house a “pig in a blanket.”  Delicious, and a meal my boys absolutely love.

Well, Brian was not able to uphold his end of the bargain.  He was running up and down aisles, knocking food off shelves, being somewhat embarrassing, etc.  Ok, so I don’t want to humiliate him or me in public.  That is counter-intuative.  Kids don’t understand humiliation, and if they do I think it is more damaging than corrective.  So I continue to correct him, and let him know that he is going to miss out on the big “carrot.”  Still, no cooperation.  Metafor: His brake is not working and his accelarator is stuck to the floor.  So I am only left to one option.  I put Brian in the cart.  Now he is subjected to Keagan smacking his head, a la the Chinese water torture.

So we get check out, with still some problems from B.  Ugh.  Keep in mind, I have not told him what the special lunch is, nor that he is not getting it.  We get into the car, and I latch him into his seat.  Now he is under my control.  I announce what’s for lunch, but also that he is not getting it.  He must choose between a peanut butter, or a bologna sandwich.  Can you say meltdown? He is freaking out.  we get home and his legs apparently have no feeling or muscular coordination, as I must drag him out of the car.

Keep your wits about you Phil…this is all part of the challenge.

And yes, it is a challenge.  It was now me versus Brian in a proverbial staring contest.  he is screaming, crying, kicking, blah, blah, blah.  I just keep asking him “peanut butter or bologna” in a very calm voice.  Meanwhile, I am making Keagan and Liam their special lunch.  Brian notices I made three.  He asks why I made three.  Smart kid.  I tell him that I made another in case Liam and Keagan were still hungry.  That made him mad.  This goes on for 45 minutes…I stay calm, he continues to freak.  This is new territory for me.  By this point I usually lose my cool (see my second post for an example).  I  take him upstairs to his room and tell him to settle down and nap if he is not going to have lunch.  He continues on his fit.  I continue to talk to him about why he is in this conundrum.

Then, all of a sudden… “OK!” Brian says

“OK, what?”  I respond.  “OK, I will take bologna for lunch.”

Huh? Wha?  I won!  I won!  Dad has prevailed in this battle.  And that was it.  Brian calmed down almost instantly after that, came down stairs, and we talked over what it will take for him to get a piece of that third piggie.  I told him that I will wrap it up for tomorrow’s lunch, and if he is a good boy, he can have it then.  Talk about incentive.  He was an angel from then on.

If I have not mentioned it, I think Brian is an exact DNA match of me.  I remember acting the same way, and being a silly little goose just like him.  I guess I owe my parents a big apology for what I put them through, based on my two months of experience.  Life has a funny way of teaching you lessons you can never learn in school or even the professional world.

So after reading my blog a week or two ago, Sarah asked me “do you think your stories are too much about Brian’s shenanigans?  Your stories are clearly weighted towards him.”  So true.  Let me tell you why.  Liam is my executive officer.  My right hand man.  My consigliere.  My Robin.  He is always by my side, analyzing situations and giving his professional opinion.  He is a rule follower to the highest degree.  So when I correct him, I don’t have to do much more.  For example, lately when I am cleaning up or organizing or stuff like that, he will come up and ask me “dad what can I do to help?”  How refreshing?  I just need to be careful and not push him too fast.  For example, I was cleaning the toilets this week (pathetic, I know, but it needed to be done).  Liam asked…I so wanted to have him clean the toilets, but I looked at my WWSD bracelet and decided against it.

“what would Sarah do” for those of you who don’t get my poor attempt at a joke above…and for those of you following my blog that don’t know me, Sarah is my beautiful, smart, and wonderful wife…who sometimes is baffled by my parenting decisions.

So speaking of cleaning the toilets…the best part of this “job” is discovering how funny the kids really are.  So I use this bright blue lysol stuff on the toilet bowls and it has to sit for like 15 minutes.  I did it right before the boys started thier bedtime routine.  This routine includes going potty, of course.  So Liam and Brian are brushing their teeth, and they see the toilets are blue.  The look at me and say “So, ah, Dad.  Where the heck are we supposed to put our pee’s now?”

Life is good.  I have lasted two months…shame on you, naysayers!


From → new career

  1. Megan permalink

    Been there. Done that. Your blog is too funny! It seems we are living very similar lives right now. Just had an ‘animals in the zoo’ grocery shopping trip last week. Only I caved and got them the free cookie anyway. I need a WWPD bracelet:).

  2. Shamus permalink

    That doesn’t sound too much different than managing generation Y

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