Don’t be the dinosaur your children’s lives

This editorial column written by Maria McCoy previously appeared in a print edition of The GRIP.

My seven-year-old acted out at the sitter’s house the other day. She was angry, and she was screaming at the sitter. When I got home, I addressed the situation with her. I wanted to make sure she understood that this was definitely not okay. She seemed to be listening.

Afterwards, she went and drew a picture. In this picture, a dinosaur was yelling at a small stick figure. The drawing made me incredibly sad because in this picture, my daughter was the dinosaur. Knowing that she sees herself this way was really sad to me because that means she sees me that way when I am hollering.

Sometimes the stress of life and the anxiety I have recently felt makes me have a short temper when it comes to repetitive questions and actions from my kids, but this photo means that my short temper is affecting my children.

Can you imagine your child feeling so upset that in their mind they see you as the “mean dinosaur” towering over the little stick figure? It hurts my heart to know that sometimes that is exactly what my children see.

I have had to reevaluate lately and restructure how I handle my children. Now, they rarely get spanked, but I do tend to yell to get their attention or when they make me upset. I always tell myself, “Well, at least I’m not hitting them!!”

I say this because I was very well disciplined as a child. So much so that I could never imagine doing similar to my children. To put it simply, my dad used a leather belt on us and we would get lash after lash until his arm got tired.

That shaped me. I mean, I don’t blame my dad because that was how he was raised, so that’s what he knew. Secondly, that was also the 80s when discipline of such nature was expected. I turned out pretty awesome, too, but it did shape me because I never wanted my kids to feel that sort of pain.
Instead, I have inadvertently caused similar pain anyway, because more often than not, I tend to yell, and lately, I have been under an enormous amount of stress, so my family has been feeling the bulk of my stress, too.

I took a picture of that photo and I saved it to my phone and every time I get stressed out or I feel like I’m not really doing so hot at this whole parenting thing, I look at it. I remind myself that I don’t want to be a dinosaur. I don’t want that to be what my kids remember about me.

The underlying issue is the stress. I have some personal stress associated with things outside my control, but let’s focus on the things I can control – the way I respond to the expectations of how good parents act.

Guess what? There is no rule book on how you must behave. Sure, we can unequivocally say that abusing your child or neglecting your child is bad parenting. That’s not what I am talking about. I’m talking about the judgy-judgers who tell you that you are a bad parent for other, more subjective things. So, here’s what I think and this is the only rulebook you will ever need if you decide you need one.

I think that it’s okay to feed your kids cereal for dinner or even ice cream sometimes because you forgot to thaw something. Likewise, pizza for breakfast, eh, I’m not turning it down. I think that it’s okay to have a few piles of laundry on your couch. I think it’s okay to spend an entire Saturday watching television and taking naps. I think it’s okay if you let your kids watch television on that Saturday so that you can nap on the couch while pretending to watch it with them. I think it’s okay if you make your children a culinary masterpiece and all they want is to eat Cheetos. I think it’s okay to let them play so long at the park that they crash right into their bed when they come home. And……okay. I think it’s okay to pretend the water park or pool or sprinkler they just played in got them clean enough to skip a bath that night.

You do not have to follow any set of rules made by people who don’t even have to deal with your kids on a daily basis, and once you let the stress of good parent/bad parent go, you will feel a lot less like the dinosaur and maybe a little more like the stick figure. You, dear readers, are amazing parents. How do I know that? Because I said so!!

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Comments

  1. This is perfect. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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