I am constantly questioning my discipling decisions. I want to raise strong men and in doing so, it is important to me they understand the consequences of poor decisions. I want to get it right so I can prepare them to make better choices in the future. Here are five things I have learned to ask myself when deciding whether I made the right choice:
1. Was my decision made in love?
My father passed away this year and at his funeral I told a story about the last whooping he gave me. It began after my sister dared me to stick my head in between the iron bars on a staircase in our childhood home and stupidly, I accepted. To make a long story short, it involved Herculean strength from my father, Country Crock butter, screaming from my mother, lots of crying (mostly from me), and finally, a spanking.
While I remember very little about the pain of the spanking, I remember how scared everyone was around me, including my father. Although my father could have chosen a different approach to disciplining me, the spanking was calculated. He wanted me to understand the severity of my actions and never do it again. He acted out of fear but he also acted out of love. Sometimes we react emotionally to our children’s behavior. That is okay. As long as we take a moment to make sure they understand the action we are taking is also in love.
2. Did I include my co-parent in my decision?
When my eldest son was younger, I would get upset with him for talking to his mother about “man” things. I felt certain conversations were not appropriate for him to have with his mom, and I would tell him as much when we were in private. My wife hated this because she wants our sons to feel like there is nothing they can not speak to her about. By making it seem wrong to talk to their mother about certain subjects, I was limiting their relationship with their mom.
Everyone disagrees at some point while raising kids. However, in most situations, it is safe to assume that both you and your co-parent have the best interests of your children at heart. My wife understood I was doing what I thought was best. However, we had to come to an agreement to ensure our boys grow into emotionally healthy young men. Although it would be unrealistic to discuss every action you take with your spouse, it is paramount you check in regularly to make sure you stay on the same team.
3. Am I taking advantage of teachable moments?
I cringe when I attempt to resolve a frustrating moment with my boys by yelling, “Because I said so!” That phrase doesn’t do anything to help my boys understand the reason why they should do the right thing. My goal as a parent is to raise extraordinary men of good character. I don’t help them get there if I am just asking for rote actions without purpose. That would only last as long as I am in front of them.
In each mistake, there is an opportunity to learn. Although discipline is important, be sure to take the time to explain to your children why they are being punished. Help them understand the mistake they made and why it is important to make a different choice next time.
4. Was the punishment just?
As father of three, I’d like to be fair. However, I have learned that fairness isn’t always guaranteed. As an example, when my children fight. My eldest always faces tougher consequences because as the oldest and largest, he has the potential to really hurt his younger sibling. While my eldest may rail against the fact that I am being harsher with him, the reality is that the circumstances warrant it.
When I discipline my sons, I try to assess the circumstances and react accordingly. Being just as a parent does not mean you have the exact same answer for every situation; it means you make the best choice based on the situation.
5. Knowing what I know now, would I do it again?
My children are incredibly inquisitive. As a result, they are constantly challenging boundaries. It is a gift and a curse. We want our sons to question the world around them. At the same time, it would be much easier on my wife and I if they didn’t question everything. I’ve been guilty of punishing my children out of frustration. However, if I send my son to his room and when he returns, we are both questioning why I sent him, then that was probably not the right move.
As of this writing, I have been a dad for a little over nine years. I have made about 10,043 mistakes. While I am proud of the job I do as dad, I have had moments where I could have been better. I think its crucial to our growth as parents to constantly ask yourself, if faced with the same decision tomorrow, would I take the same action?
About The Author
Rick McCray is a married father of three amazing sons. He is also a proud graduate of Duke University where he holds a BA in History and African/African American History, and Howard University School of Law. He is also a regular commentator on the In The Black podcast. Rick is passionate about our history and helping to educate our community concerning the great contributions of people of color to the world. You can find Rick on Twitter @RealRickMcCray.