This week's dadlosophy is a bit different. Rather than sitting at my own kitchen table, in my office, or at the local coffee shop, I'm sitting in a room full of fellow bloggers at Atlanta's WXIA television studio. No, I haven't been called here to be interviewed on live television (hard to believe they would miss such an opportunity, I know). Nope, I've been invited to participate in a blog off.
What is a blog off? Well, it basically involves a bunch of mommy and daddy bloggers sitting around and blogging about our parental lives. After an hour and a half, judges will come around, read our blogs, and judge us. What happens if our blog falls flat? Personally, I think the losers should have to take the winners' kids for a week. Now that's a blog off!
We've been given several topics we can choose from. Topic one, My Scariest Moment as a parent. That's kind of like blogging about my goofiest moment as a teenager. Too many to choose from--next topic.
Next, How My Child Surprised Me. Again, hard to narrow down. Throw in the fact that many of those "surprising moments" nearly resulted in my needing therapy, caused me to have a life-threatening rise in blood pressure, or cost me enough money to bring tears to my eyes, and I'm pretty certain that I don't care to relive any of them again for fear that it may lead to the need for some really expensive medications. Pass.
The topic I've chosen is HOW I FIRST REALIZED MY PARENTING STYLE. Hmmm... interesting question. First of all, what is a parenting style? I'm not totally sure. Haven't really thought about it before. I would describe what I have as more of a parenting philosophy. I realized pretty early on that it is important to be my kids' dad, not their buddy. Don't get me wrong, I love hanging out with my kids and having fun together. I get a kick out of playing games, wrestling on the living room floor, throwing the ball in the backyard, and doing silly dances with my daughter to whatever is playing on the kitchen radio. But, at the end of the day, what my kids need most from me is leadership, not another pal.
I can't necessarily think of one moment at which I came face-to-face with this realization. Rather, it's more like a series of moments that continue to occur. Take, for instance, the other night. The kids and I had just finished dinner and were engaged in one of our fairly common post-meal wrestling smack downs. They were winning, but they also cheat. They call for Mommy every time Daddy starts to win. Anyway, they were laughing and thoroughly enjoying themselves when my supervisor (a.k.a., Mommy) walked in and announced, "Okay everyone, time for bed." Noticing that the kids didn't seem to notice, Meredith gave it another go. "Did you guys hear me? I said the wrestling match is over, time for baths and bed." This time, my kiddos jumped up and proceeded running around the house, thinking that it would be funny to tease mommy.
It's at moments like these that a parent has to ask him or herself a question: What do my kids need me to be right now? The answer (as I see it)is AUTHORITY FIGURE. Not that my wife wasn't more than capable of corralling this rowdy herd of little Howards, but since I was the one who'd gotten them so wound up, I felt that I needed to be the one to reel 'em back in. I stood up and, in a calm but firm voice, called my kids. Realizing Dad meant business, Emerson, William, and Carson, stopped their running and, still smiling, made their way into the living room. Were they scared of me? No. Did they know Daddy was serious? Yes. They could tell that Daddy had just flipped the switch. I had transitioned out of "let's have fun" mode into "Authoritative Leader" mode. After apologizing to Mommy, my kids went upstairs.
That's a good illustration of my parenting style/philosophy. In a word, it's leadership. More specifically, CONFIDENT LEADERSHIP. I believe kids need parents to be comfortable in their role as an authority figure. Sadly, many parents today don't feel confident. They feel that they are doing something wrong or destructive by being in charge. But kids need direction. They need firmness. They need discipline (which entails a lot more than punishment). And, yes, they need Mom and Dad to decide for them what is best--at least when they're as young as my kids.
Be confident leaders Moms and Dads. Be comfortable being in charge. Believe it or not, your kids want you to clearly define the boundaries. They don't need an adult buddy, and you shouldn't over concern yourself with whether or not your kids always like you. Nope, in fact, being a good parent often means loving your kids enough to let them NOT like you for a while. The coolest part is that, if you do fulfill your authoritative role, you'll probably find that your kids are so secure and happy that you're all having more than enough fun to go around. And that's a pretty good prize too, even if some blogger won't take your kids for a week.