Kamikaze Parenting

It was not so many decades ago that our airways were saturated with reports of a new style of warfare. As Americans watched in amazement, Japanese fighter pilots flew to their certain death in a rampaging attempt to destroy the American military; or more generally, the Allied Forces.

With no regard for their life (due to temporary, drug-induced insanity, or perhaps a psychotic form of patriotism), these pilots bludgeoned their way to national failure.

Sure, they were scary. 

Sure, they provided some level of advancement for the Japanese cause.

But ultimately, they lost.

Because when people abandon sense and reason, and dive head first into unrestrained aggression, the end is almost always ugly. And wasteful.

I realize this might be a stretch, but sometimes I feel like survival style parenting is just as effective.

No, we parents don't strap ourselves into a seventeen hundred-pound, machine gun equipped rocket ship and blast ourselves into our children.

There are times when we feel like doing so. Don't lie.

No, we're much more civil.

If parents aren't careful, they can establish an unspoken line between themselves and their children. This line communicates to the children that there are "teams" or "sides" within the family; and this causes warfare; our side against your side.

I hope "World War II" is not how you describe your family gatherings; but I know it's not outside the realm of possibility.

As a parent, I struggle with many of the same problems as other parents. I get mad at my kid(s). They can be offensive, aggressive, irritating, irrational, insensitive, selfish, and even hurtful. They say and do heartless things sometimes. Yes, they're kids, but it can still hurt.

But don't become a kamikaze. Don't go crazy and decide that you'll win no matter what. Don't start treating your kids like the enemy.

There ought not be enemy lines within the family.

How do we keep this from happening?

I don't have all the answers, and I'm not an oracle of parental wisdom. If you expected that, you can stop reading now and find something more useful to do. I've been doing this for a little over three years, so I'm a rookie.

But something has stuck, and I think it's working.

When my 3-year old son drives me (and my wife) nuts, we try to correct the behavior. How you and your spouse do that is your business (between you and God). We try to teach him why his behavior is not acceptable. That has varying degrees of success--sometimes it fails miserably.

But at the end of the day, after the dust has settled, I tell my son something that I want him to remember for the rest of his life.

"I love you no matter what--even when you're naughty."

"I don't like the naughtiness, but I will always love you."

This is not a textbook quote. I'm not trying to be mellow-dramatic. I really say that to him almost every night.

It really encouraged me when he started repeating it back to me. He will sometimes say, "Daddy, you love me no matter what; but you don't like the naughtiness."

That feels like victory.

I don't want to battle my son. I don't want to make him my nemesis.

I will draw lines and lay down the law when necessary, but all the while he needs to know that I'm against the bad behavior--not him.

Image credits:
Yelling dad image from http://www.lessthanperfectparents.com/parenting-anger-what-do-you-do-with-it/
Kid on tricycle image Copyright of Daniel Devine 2014

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