The first thing you need to remember about raising children is that nobody in history ever got it right, and neither will you. Yeah, dude, you shoulda kept it in your pants till after you had read this, but now it’s too late. Not to worry, near as I can tell on the nature versus nurture debate, your bad parenting will only be responsible for between thirty and fifty percent of your child’s issues anyway. The rest of it is genetic, and you can blame eighty percent of that part on your spouse if you frame it creatively. So realistically you have to accept you are going to make mistakes parenting. Probably big mistakes. But you will learn, and keep going. Be ok with not getting it right all the time.
Remember that your kid’s brains are still young and much more inventive than yours. In short, your kid is smarter than you are he just doesn’t know much. Parenting isn’t about being smarter. It’s your job, so do it with intent. Your will is the go to in your toolbox.
There is a tendency in these messed up times, where everyone focuses on dredging up faint memories to see how they can blame their own ornery character on someone else, to never allow kids to run into the word “no” or any other deeply scarring negative. The idea is not utterly without merit of course, but there is a security risk that is often overlooked. When your child challenges your authority it is unlikely he is trying to dominate you. He wants and needs you to win. You are what protects him from every monster he can imagine, and if he is stronger than you, he is abysmally screwed and he knows it. Exercise a strong will, and if you don’t have one, fake it till you can find one. Make him feel protected and secure.
So your three-year-old, a bit cranky, decides to take you on in a public place. He has you against the ropes and knows it. You don’t want the scene. Neither does he but he is betting it will bother you more than him. DO NOT ENGAGE. Unless his life is in danger, or some other circumstances apply, wherein you have a valid reason to physically take control of him, just ignore the little brat. But, NEVER let him get away with it. Think up a creative consequence to the embarrassment and wait until he has eaten, and is comfortable in the privacy of home. THAT is when you engage. On your own terms. Calmly and methodically. You won’t feel like doing so but it’s your job. Be honest about the fact that he was embarrassing, and explain what he did wrong in detail. The talk is the real punishment because he wants your affection and favour, but he still needs a token consequence to experience restitution by. Don’t let your kids get away with doing things that make you dislike them.
I recall spankings as a kid, and coming from that bygone age I spanked my kids as a parent. That is a confession, not proud achievement. This article does not endorse spanking. Spanking is lazy, and basically a failure. Spanked children who later become good citizens become good citizens in spite of spankings, not because of them. That said I am not accusing the previous generation of abuse. Theirs was a different time and they created the comfort of our time. We owe them respect and gratitude. The most effective parenting I have seen where spankings were used, involved the methods outlined in the preceding paragraph. I contend that those are the methods that did the real work. Not the spanking. I learned both from my father, and I suspect if he were here, he would agree with my current take on it.
Finally, your flaws are not an excuse to fail your kids. We all have character flaws, weaknesses, and in some cases addictions. Those are your problems. Own them, but don’t allow them to prevent you from maintaining principles of behaviour that will see your child through life. The office of parenting is separate from self. Don’t expect or demand perfection from your kids, but teach them even where you are unable to set an example. In a perfect world, parents could always be a perfect example. I don’t live in that world, and neither do you.