Updated on January 26, 2006
Married with Children
[disclaimer]Before I go any further, I should note here that I love my wife more than anything in the world. Most of what I’m about to say will be in jest. I would do anything for Emily, anything at all. If she asked me to change the rotation of the earth, I would die trying. Never in my life have I been happier, than since I met her. If anyone should ever doubt that, the fact that I can’t keep my hands off her should be proof enough. [end of disclaimer]
Life is hard enough being married, but add the challenge that children present and it’s no wonder that men die first. I have three kids ages 8 1/2, almost 7, and 3. Two girls and a boy, the boy being the middle child. My kids all have their own quirks about them. Anissa has a lot of pride and willpower. We try very hard to promote that in her, while ensuring that she understands when pride should be swallowed. We try to get her to do things our way without breaking her will. It’s very important when disciplining kids that you know that fine line between getting them to see things your way and breaking their will. That’s what drill sergeants do, not parents.
Chris is very sensitive boy. He gets upset easily and flies off the handle. It’s very difficult punishing him because he takes it very personally when he screws up. He’s the first one to admit when he’s done something wrong. If you catch him before he catches himself he takes it very hard. So, with him, you have to discipline him while strengthening his morale. It’s also important when disciplining children to make sure that they know you still love them even when you’re upset with their actions. I try to tell him as much as possible that he’s not bad, but his actions are. But, when he gets upset about something, he get upset. He’ll kick the floor, slam the door, and like a lion will roar. When he gets upset, the car alarms throughout the neighborhood go off and air sirens signal imminent doom.
Hannah is a little hellion. We call her Hurricane Hannah for short. She’s not afraid of anything or anyone. I see her telling me to go to my room before she’s 12…and I’ll probably have to listen. She’s very smart for a 3 year old and knows to get her other siblings into trouble with minimal effort. She’s very independent. Thanks to her older brother, she’s learning how to scream and throw fits.
Let me say that I have no problem with spanking my kids. This crap about facing prosecution for disciplining my kids in public doesn’t scare me. Granted, if I was beating the heck out of them I could understand, but I don’t need to worry about that. When I spank my kids (on the rare occassion that I do), I only swat once or twice at the most. That usually gets the point across. Usually when I spank, I’ve also given them plenty of warnings about their behavior. The methods I like to use in discipline not only correct behavior or attitude, but strengthen their mind and body.
My favorite is sentences. I learned many lessons growing up and having to write sentences. When I was about 11 or 12 years old I stole over $100 from my father’s wallet. As punishment, my dad wrote up a paragraph about how stealing is bad and the consequences of stealing. The paragraph was about 5 sentences long. I had to write it 1000 times. I was grounded until I finished it. Needless to say, after I finished it a few days later, I never stole money again. The same goes for other wrongs I committed that required sentence writing. So now, when the kids are teasing each other or one is teasing the other, they write sentences. When they argue with mom (they know better than to argue with me) they write sentences. When they say no or outright ignore one of us, they write sentences. It’s like a death sentence. They’d rather be grounded for years than write sentences. This usually makes them think about what they’ve done and improves their writing and vocabulary skills. If the sentences are too sloppy, I make them do it again. If they complain while writing sentences, they get to write more. This method works really well for Chris.
Another method I use is inspired by my time in the military. When I was coming up in the military, one thing made me really understand the impact of my actions more than anything elses: PT!! So, instead of spanking, why not discipline my children AND make them healthy at the same time? This works really well for my Anissa. We live in a two floor home with carpeted floors, to include the stairs. So, when she’s not listening and does something she knows is wrong, she runs sets of stairs. The rules are that she has to go up each individual step, no skipping. She has to go all the way to the top and back down. If she skips even one step that set doesn’t count. In our old house, she used to have to run laps around the house. I used to use push-ups as a technique, but their form was atrocious and I couldn’t stand to watch it anymore. These techniques accomplish two goals: it corrects the deficiency and it tires them out so they can’t tease anymore (I guess the third effect is that it gets them in shape). Needless to say, my kids are very athletic. They can run much faster than many of their friends. My daughter can even keep up with me for awhile. My youngest, Hannah – 3, can run an entire lap around a track before stopping.
With Hannah, the best way to discipline her is simply to put her in the corner. We used to take away her blanket, but that was too traumatic and only exacerbated the situation. It’s very difficult to discipline a three year old. They think running is fun and I will NOT let her do the stairs thing. She can’t write yet, so sentences are out. Luckily, she’s got a diaper on, so a light tap on the butt doesn’t hurt, but she understands we’re serious. So, we resort to the corner and the room. When you send a three year old to the corner or their room, it’s like taking the keys from a teenager. They no longer have the freedom they love. Suddenly, they’re understanding that certain behavior isn’t tolerated.
I refuse to let my kids tell themselves that they’re bad kids. When I discipline them, I make sure that I tell them that they are good kids and that I love them even when I’m upset at them. I teach them that it’s their actions, not them, that are bad. I attempt to explain to them why those actions are wrong when I feel I need to.
My wife and I differ only slightly on how to discipline the kids. I’m lucky that I’ve got such a wonderful woman that I share my life with, that we can sit down and talk about things we don’t agree withd (it’s tough always being right). We always try to see the other’s point of view. But, even she’ll admit that I’m the one the kids listen to the most. It’s not that she’s any more lax in her standards, it’s that I’m more no-nonsense. When I say go to your room, I don’t want any “but, but” stuff. I make a decision and I stick to it without deviation. There is a drawback to this approach that I acknowledge: sometimes I get the wrong person and I won’t listen to their excuse. My reasoning is simple here – I’m never wrong!! But, in those few instances where I’ve misjudged (notice the term misjudged as opposed to wrong) the situation, I make it a point to go and apologize. I don’t have so much pride that I won’t apologize to my kids. That’s important too. Kids need to know that even when you’re upset at them, you love them. They also need to know when we make mistakes. By admitting our mistakes to our kids, we teach them that it’s okay to make mistakes as long as you own up to them and accept the consequences.
The consequences I suffer from my somewhat strict form of discipline lie in the fact that they go to mom more than me for things. They see mom a lot more than they see me. She’s the major part of their lives. When they come home from school, she’s there, I’m not. To counteract that, it’s my responsibility to put them to bed, help them with their prayers, and do the map with them. In each of the kids’ rooms is a map of the world. Each night before bed, I will name 3-5 countries of the world and they have to find them. They know EXACTLY where Iraq and Kuwait are. They can tell you where any of the -stan countries are (Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, etc). They know all the South American countries and can point out Japan (the country Emily and I graduated from, met and got engaged in). By going through these rituals each night, I let them know that I love them and that I too want to spend time with them.
Since this post is more sappy than funny, I’ll just finish by saying that it kills me to be apart from them. I volunteer for a lot of the separations that I’ve gone on. At the time, I never think of how much I hate to be alone. I’ve been married for a little more than 9 years and I can’t stand to be alone anymore. I hate telling the kids I’m going somewhere for any extended period of time, because they always ask if I’m going back to Iraq. They remember how mommy felt during that time and it scares them. It’s difficult convincing them that Colorado is a LONG way from Iraq.
When I was younger, my father was in the Navy. Actually, when I was older he was in the Navy too. Whenever he’d go out to sea he’d always bring something back for us kids from wherever he went. My sister and I looked forward to those moments. I’ve carried on that tradition by making sure that whenever I went somewhere, even for a week, that I brought back something from the place I went. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with the place I went, it just has to be a little something. I hope that when they look at these objects, they remember the joy they felt when I came home. One day, I may not come home. It won’t be voluntary, but it may happen. All they’ll have are those little gifts to remember what it was like when I did…