I’ve told my daughter multiple times, “You aren’t a bad girl, but you made a bad choice.” I always want her to know that choices have repercussions, but that I love her no matter what. It’s a difficult thing to communicate with a toddler. So whenever I reprimand, I make sure to tell her, “You aren’t a bad girl, but you made a bad choice.”
I’m hoping that this concept holds true for parents. Because while I like to think of myself as a good parent, I know that I’ve made some bad choices. Sometimes, they’re made because of convenience. Others, my temper gets away from me. And every once in a while, I make a traditionally bad choice because I honestly believe that its necessary. Whatever the reason, no matter how many parenting books, blogs or articles I read, sometimes I resort to parenting techniques that I know I should stay away from.
If we’re going to talk about bad parenting, lets get the biggest one out of the way. Spanking. There are plenty of studies to tell us that spanking is at the least, not effective, at the worst, detrimental to children. We should know that it’s never the answer and never an effective way to communicate a punishment to our children. Yet in severe situations, when my daughter is doing something that could be dangerous, I’ve spanked. If my daughter runs into a parking lot, when she knows that she must have an adult’s hand, that might be serious enough to constitute a spanking. I resorted to spanking due to my difficulty reasoning with a toddler. No matter how many times I said the word “dangerous” she just didn’t understand. She couldn’t.
Now, I have to admit, I attempted spanking my three year old this weekend when she tried to open the oven. I am apparently so timid and afraid of actually hurting her, my attempt was met with a Stephanie Tanner-style “How Rude” glare. Other than the look, my daughter was unphased. Obviously, my spanking days are done. But even though I knew the consequences, I spanked. I spanked because I didn’t know what else to do. And I’ve never really accepted ignorance as an excuse. This was a bad choice, but does it make me a bad parent?
And spanking isn’t the only thing! Bribing. Bribery is supposed to be bad. It teaches children to only behave well when they get a reward. We get this, but I know that I’m the only one who gave out candy for six months every time my child walked in the bathroom. She didn’t even have to do anything in there!
What about negotiating? Two more minutes is now my daughter’s favorite phrase. I know that I shouldn’t let her push it. It just leads to more and more negotiating. It tells her that I’m not firm or serious in what I say. This is the message that negotiating sends to children. Yet there are so many nights that I just don’t want to argue. Her two minutes really doesn’t hurt anything. So I don’t fight it.
I guess that I could have entitled this post, “Excuses for my Bad Parenting.” That might have been more fair. If I acknowledge all of these are bad choices, because they really are, can I tell myself the same thing that I tell my daughter? I’m not a bad mother, I just made a bad choice.