Gay Dad: You’re Punished!

March 11, 2013 by  
Filed under John Jericiau, Same Sex Parent

By John Jericiau

Little Pony

Now that our two oldest boys are over five years old, they are definitely developing their own personalities and forming strong opinions about what they feel and believe. One of them loves purple and pink, and feels bad for all the other boys who don’t enjoy the fabulousness of those colors. “Some boys love girl things, and some girls love boy things”, he says as he gathers together his ten Barbies and six Ponies (the Little ones) for a bath. The other one declares his love for blue and green and gold, and purple is not bad, but “liking pink means you ARE a girl”, he repeats from his lessons on the playground at school.

The boys lose focus on that heated discussion (since it’s been over 5 minutes, which is the maximum amount of time that their brains will allow them to think about one thing), and they move on to the next important topic: what to watch on television during the precious minutes that they are given access. “Strawberry Shortcake, Sofia the First, or The Backyardigans, please!” begs one. “Avengers, Ben 10, or Superheroes!” pleads the other. Cries soon follow, and Daddy the Referee has to come in to mediate the negotiations.

And so it goes on and on like that, day after day. Different kids want different things. I can only believe that things will start ramping up when our youngest son (only 4 months old now) starts asking for Dora and Diego. But this is all okay with us. Variety is the spice of life. We wouldn’t want them to be the same – never in a million years. But would love it if they could just breathe, understand that differences are okay, and live with each other with the help of the elements of harmony (which are six supernatural artifacts, each of which represent an element of friendship which are used to restore and enforce the balance of peace and order). In other words, stop fighting!

Okay, kids have and always will fight and argue. I get it. But the worst is when they turn their anger and resentment toward me, the parent. Luckily it’s few and far between, but it does happen that their feelings overflow and spill into Daddy-Son territory. And so much of the time, it catches me completely off guard. How can something so trivial, like:
- The head of a toy (that has just been rediscovered under the bed after a one year absence) falls off
- The child is limited to only 12 cookies after lunch
- The tip of a string bean on the dinner plate has come in contact with the pile of delicious chicken nuggets
lead to phrases like this?:
- Do you want me to kick you out of this house?
- I hate you!
- I’m never gonna talk to you again!
- Noooooooooooooooooooooooo !!!!

We did time outs until they weren’t in vogue anymore, so they’re out. Hitting and spanking, as cathartic as they might sound, are definitely a step in the wrong direction. Rationalizing, reasoning, and calmly presenting my side appear to have little effect. This brings me to punishing.
- No SpongeBob for a week.
- No more playing with Twilight Sparkle.
- You can’t go to your basketball game this weekend!
- I’m cancelling your play date!

Now they listen, but Daddy feels terrible. I see the hurt in their eyes and it melts my heart. Please just can’t we all get along? I know that in 15 minutes you won’t even remember how sad you are now or how mad you are now, so can’t we just move on?

Obviously we cannot. Daddy wants you to learn that there are consequences for bad behavior. There are ground rules. There are societal norms. But Daddy loves you, and he always will. If you really behave for the rest of the day, maybe Twilight Sparkle will be waiting for you when you wake up tomorrow?

Now how about you and I go get a big pink ice cream cone?


Monkey See…

March 1, 2013 by  
Filed under Melissa Mensavage

By Melissa Mensavage



…Monkey do.

I am sure if I had the time to open up any parenting book I would see the ‘monkey see, monkey do’ phase in the two-almost-three-year-old section.  That is all Max does these days, sees something someone else is doing and then does it himself.

I know at home when I am sitting with Theo on the floor encouraging him to roll-over or to get up on his hands and knees as if ready to crawl, Max does the same to get my attention.  However, when he comes from home from school, screaming ‘No Way Mama!’ in response to me asking him to pick up his toys or to put his cup in the sink, I want to gauge my eyes out.

When did this response ever get into his head?  Who thinks this response is acceptable?  Why is my sweet boy acting like a spoiled brat?

I know.

I know the kid who acts like this, who has this response in their repertoire and I also know the parents too.

So if I do the math, Max and said kid play together quite a bit at school + the monkey see-monkey-do phase + a parent who has a different discipline and respect policy than I do = ugly child of mine.

There is a part of me that just wants to scream at said kid.  There is another part of me that wants to scream at said kid’s parent and then there is a part of me that is exhausted from having to correct the behavior and seriously just wants to give up and be like said parent.

How can a parent be so different on the acceptable behavior spectrum?  They should be teaching respect to their children, right?  Or maybe they are of a generation that respect is optional?  I am not sure because as I get older I cannot relate to those who are significantly younger than I (as in 5+ years) and what they think is acceptable.

I am also hearing a lot of, ‘you are my best friend’, or ‘you are not my best friend’.  Again, same kid says this.  And this time I know for sure it’s the kid’s parent because of my experience with them personally.  They are the ones who have 900 Facebook friends, not one close friend consistently, and are always saying to all the other kids’ parents, ‘kid and your kid are besties’.  Really?  I am told at each teacher-parent conference at this age it’s still parallel play.

So what am I to do?

I wish I could keep Max from being exposed to kids like that nor do I want him to have his feelings hurt because of someone else’s insecurities passed down to their child.  But I won’t say anything because I am not sure I am ready to hear what they have to say about my parenting and my sweet boy.  (Don’t get me wrong, I know my sweet boy has ‘Satan Days’, as I like to call them.  You know the days where Satan has taken over the kid’s body and the only thing you can do is make sure there is liquor in the house for after they go to bed???!!)

I also don’t want to cause any discomfort between me and said parent.  Our once close relationship is already strained (long petty immature story that I just don’t have time for) and I am at terms with it being the way it is, cordial, so if I start accusing them of crazy parenting I am sure that’ll just make the times we do see each other at school uncomfortable and that is the last thing I want for either of my boys.

three musketeers

I know I am not the perfect parent, but I do know I am right when I discipline for being rude, inconsiderate, and mean.  I know I am right when I teach my child to be fair and a friend to everyone, not to have a select group of friends only.  I want my children to have the best childhood possible and if that means dealing with monkey see-monkey do, I just pray this phase passes quickly and painlessly as possible for everyone involved.


Parenting: Good Cop

January 15, 2013 by  
Filed under Family, Parenting, Parenting Coach

By Ann Brown, Parenting Consultant

The topic this month in parenting group was crime. Lying, cheating, stealing, taking bribes, racketeering – you know, stuff your little kids do that make you wonder if instead of contributing to their college funds you really should just toughen them up for prison. Switch out “The Little Mermaid” for “Oz”. The HBO one.

I bet no one told you about this when you first had your baby. Oh, everyone is lining up eager to describe how much labor contractions hurt and how to use a breast pump and what the consistency of healthy infant poop looks like, right? Well-intentioned parents can talk forever about their children’s poops, to the point where you – newly pregnant with your first baby – are backing away as fast as you can to get to your car so you can barf, but do people ever tell you about the really scary stuff? That a four-year-old will smile at you with chocolate-covered teeth and swear he did not eat the candy bar? That your preschooler will steal, and not for noble Robin Hood-give-to-the-poor reasons? That your first grader will tell her teacher that the reason she forgot her homework is that her mother went into the hospital and is in an iron lung due to polio?

Oh wait, that was me.

Yeah, that was one of my best lies. And I think I really had my first grade teacher going for a while. I mean, how can you not believe a little girl who can describe in detail the pain of polio and the sound of the iron lung in which her mother is caged?

Well, unless you take into account that the teacher had seen my mother – healthy and energetic. And mobile – only the day before at a PTA luncheon. Oh, and also if you take into account that polio was eradicated, like, fifteen years before I told the lie.

My point is, kids lie. And if it is 1960 and the kids watched the movie, “The Five Pennies” enough times, they can even lie very well with amazing detail and pathos about polio. Especially if the star of the movie, Danny Kaye, looked so much like their own dad that they worried that they would get polio just like Danny Kaye’s daughter in the movie.

But enough about me.

There are a lot of reasons little kids lie. Most of them are benign and temporary. Still, it’s not enough to just sit back, hit the Cabernet and hope it will pass. Although generally, that is my advice about pretty much everything else in life.

The hardest thing to do is to not put your little liar on the hot seat. Picture this: You have just told your preschooler for the gajillionth time that the candy is going up into the very high cupboard because he is having a hard time remembering not to eat it when it is on the kitchen counter. You say this without rancor or threat. Because, you know, you are awesome.

You go to the bathroom.

You come out of the bathroom.

You sense something is wrong. You can’t exactly put your finger on it but the universe has shifted an inch.

You walk by your preschooler’s room. He is very quiet. Too quiet. He jumps up when he sees you. He smiles. Three-quarters of his teeth are covered in chocolate. As are his Leggos. And everything else he has touched in his room.

You say, “Did you eat that candy? The candy I told you not to eat?”

He looks at you as if you have just accused him of murdering kittens.

“NO!” He yells indignantly. “I didn’t eat any candy!”

Okay. Let’s pause here. There are two ways this deal can go down.

Scenario One
You: What do you mean, you didn’t eat the candy? I see it on your teeth. And your toys. Tell me the truth: did you eat that candy?

Perp: I said NO!

You: You are not telling the truth.

Perp: Yes I am.

You: No you aren’t.

Perp: Yes I am!

You: No you aren’t!

Perp: YES I AM!

You: (You can’t say anything more because your head has exploded.)

Now, granted, that scenario allows you the temporary satisfaction of interrogation when you know you are right. But the problem is, you cannot force a confession out of someone who is not gonna give it up. Plus, even if your kid does finally confess, what was the learning moment there? Other than never to let yourself run out of wine again.

So. Scenario Two

You (in a neutral voice, as if reporting a crime scene on local TV news): I see chocolate all over your teeth. And all over your toys.

Perp: I did’t eat it. I didn’t do it.

You: Uh-oh. Those Leggos are going to be ruined. And ants can come into your room. Hold on (and you exit the room).


You return to his room with a towel. Or sponge. Or bowl for the Leggos.

You: I’ll start wiping these Leggos and you collect the dirty trains. Before the ants come (or substitute whatever reasonable thing might happen).

Perp: But I didn’t do it.

You: Mmm….(as you silently wipe down the toys)

Sounds weird, huh? But let me tell you, this way you are OPENING the pathway to communication. In a slightly devious, manipulative way – true – but it’s still better than putting your child on a hard chair, shoving a bright light over his face and demanding a forced confession.

Yes it is better. I see you shaking your head at me.

So, while you and your child are silently collecting the chocolate-covered toys and you are saying casually to him, “Wait, there’s some chocolate near your eye. Let me get it before it gets into your eye”, you do this:


You wait. You let the silence do its work. But silence can only do its work if it is silence without fear or threat in it. So be cool. Be patient. Trust. Do 25 Kegels to pass the time.

Later – maybe five minutes later, maybe five days later – the subject will come up again. Usually it happens during a cuddly moment. Your kid’s in the bath that night, for instance, and he says, apropos of nothing, “I ate the chocolate today when you told me not to.”

And it will be the space you gave him that allowed for his own moment of truth. And that will make it genuine. And meaningful.

And then you can say, “I am so proud of you for realizing that telling the truth was the right thing to do.”

And then you can talk about how hard it is to keep ourselves from eating candy. And how tempting things can be in this world. And how we all struggle with stuff like that. Which will bond you with your child. And model that we need to make a choice in everything we do, that doing the right thing doesn’t always come easily.

And THAT is a lesson well-learned. Honest. I’m not lying.

Ann Brown is available for private parenting consultation. Please contact the office for her schedule and fees


Parenting: I HATE YOU

October 2, 2012 by  
Filed under Adoptive Families, Family, Meika Rouda, Parenting

By: Meika Rouda

Last night, just before bed time, when I refused to read another book or sing a song or let my son watch a show, he yelled at me “I HATE YOU!”

I was stunned. It actually stung me to the core. I had never heard him say the word “hate” before. Lately he has been telling me “you are mean” when he doesn’t get his way, something we are working on but truthfully in his mind, I am being mean when he wants a second ice cream and doesn’t get it. But hate is a new level. Does he know what hate is? Has someone said this to him? Where do I begin to address this? And since we try to follow a philosophy of talking about feelings, expressing how one feels, how do I incorporate hate into his vocabulary in a positive way?

Since I was being reactionary I first told him hate is a strong word. That we don’t use that word for people and that it hurts my feelings when he says that. I then tried to explain what hate is. Hate is a a word for things that you strongly dislike. It is an angry word, often said when one doesn’t really mean it. But then I felt like I was arming him with a word he will want to use, he now knows it has a strong meaning, that it does hurt me. Then I told him that I love him no matter what, even if he thinks he hates me.

Later in the kitchen after our son finally went to bed, my husband told me how surprised he was to hear the word hate come from our son. “I never in my life said I hated my parents.” My husband comes from, ironically, a strict yet hippie background where feelings were not expressed and yet children were treated like adults from Day One. He was raised in a mutually respectful home where the word hate was outlawed. I, on the other hand, have yelled at my parents countless times as a child and have even said I hated them when I was an unruly teenager, seeking love and attention. I don’t think my 4-year-old has any idea of what the word hate means. I know this is just the first of other incidents where he will be upset with me and express himself in hurtful ways. And I want him to express himself, it is vital that he tells me how he feels, that he puts a name to his feeling but I have to remind him that when he thinks he hates me, he is actually just frustrated that he isn’t getting another book. Or when I am mean because I am not buying him a toy, he is actually feeling sad or mad or a host of emotions that are difficult to navigate at his young age. And I have to remind myself not to take it personally even when it hurts.


Say No to Sarah Palin and Say No to Spanking

July 27, 2012 by  
Filed under Same Sex Parent, Ted Peterson

By: Ted Peterson

Every once in a while, even the best kid feels the need to be naughty.

I have avoided the subject of discipline, because it is a particularly treacherous subject even within the landmine-strewn subject of childrearing. A few days ago, however, a friend posted on Facebook a video of Bristol Palin, the loathsome daughter of the even more objectionable former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. One might’ve hoped that after 2008, the Palins would have entered the dustbin of political trivia together with other would-be vice-presidential families. But while you won’t find the Ferraros, Kemps, Stockdales, or Liebermans on basic cable, you will find the Palins.

Bristol’s new show features her and her equally vapid little sister Willow bopping around Los Angeles, occasionally with Bristol’s three-year-old son Tripp. Tripp was, you might recall, the subject of a scandal when it was announced shortly after John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his vice president that the family values conservative’s daughter was having a child out of wedlock. Bristol quite rightly bristled at the idea that being an unwed teen mother made her a whore, and then went on to do Dancing With The Stars and this new show to demonstrate what really makes her one.

Tripp is an adorable little moppet, even in the scene from the reality show which is getting the most recent buzz. In it, Bristol, Willow, and Tripp check into a hotel, and they notice that there’s a pool. Tripp immediately wants to go in, but for whatever reason – the late hour, the lack of energy, the logistics of schlepping a full TV crew down to the deck below – Bristol nixes the plan. I can empathize as the father of a three-year-old water baby myself.

“I hate you!” Tripp snarls, thwarted. Mikey’s never said he hated me, but I recognize three-year-old hyperbolic anger when I see it. Bristol and Willow look to the camera and titter. Not a great sound bite for their show, they’re thinking. Bristol meekly suggests that it’s not nice to say, and Willow throws out the idea of a time out as punishment.

“Go away, you faggot!” Tripp screams at Auntie Willow.

There’s little question how Tripp’s three-year-old vocabulary includes such invectives. Auntie Willow Palin herself called a classmate a faggot for posting disparaging remarks about the Palins’ last reality show on Facebook. Monkey see, monkey do.

There’s been a fair amount of discussion about Tripp’s word choice, but a side discussion among some of my friends on Facebook was about Willow’s suggestion of a time out and Bristol’s subsequent confession that she’s not great on discipline. Folks less amused and more angry about Tripp’s behavior, conflating his bombast with homophobia, have fumed that the child is due for a spanking, not a time out.

If it’s not clear from what I’ve written above, I’m no fan of any of the Palins, but neither am I a fan of spanking. Also in my corner on this is every modern, respectable pediatrician and psychologist in the civilized world. The jury is in and has been in on spanking for a long time, folks, and just because you survived it doesn’t mean you need to inflict it on the next generation.

There are worst things you can do than to spank your kid, but that doesn’t make it right.

The roar of a toddler can make the steeliest beast back down.

People don’t know what to do with this information. In our foster parenting classes, it was explained that particularly because so many children in the system have been physically abused, any kind of corporal punishment was verboten and grounds for having the child taken away.“But after the adoption,” one fellow asked, “then we can spank?”

What a happy adoption day that family’s child must have had. Welcome to the family officially, kid. And now, drop your trou and get ready for all the whipping we’ve been storing up for months now.

The problem is what to replace spanking with. We’ve been ahead enough of the trend that my parents didn’t spank me, and their parents didn’t spank them. Considering we were good middle-class Midwestern Republicans, our whole rule system was a bit haphazard for the first couple years of my life. One of our family’s stories was in kindergarten, the teacher was talking about class rules. She asked the other kids what rules there were in their families. As they went around the circle, other kids volunteered what they could do, couldn’t do, with all the hows and whys and ins and outs you might expect.

When the teacher got to me, I couldn’t think of any rules in my house. She pushed a little more to have me think of something I knew I was absolutely not allowed to do.

“I am not allowed to … pee in the living room?” I finally suggested.

My mother who was present thought that was a pretty good rule. She was glad I had signed on.

What hurts more than a spanking in the summer? Taking away pool privileges.

Mikey knows that rule and a handful of others, but for the most part, we try to be flexible. When he’s at home, for example, he knows that he has to ask to get down from the table after dinner, and we may add some additional requirements (“Yes, you can get down after two more bites of spinach, and one more bite of chicken”), but when he’s having pizza with his friends at a birthday party and half the kids are already up and playing, we let it slide. The one thing we don’t let slide is when we’re the recipient of the corporal punishment we don’t indulge in ourselves.

It’s happened the last couple of days, usually late in the day, now that Mikey is weaning himself off naps. He’s a little more emotional when he would previously be philosophical about life’s little disappointments and annoyances. Mikey gets angry, and responds quickly with a smack, kick, or spit. We quickly take away whatever privilege he is or is about to enjoy – a cookie, a movie, a swim in the pool, a book. This turns the petulance into a full-blown tantrum, at which point, we walk away. No negotiating. Our only rule is nothing reinstates that privilege once it’s been taken away, even after the tantrum has passed, and apologies have been given and accepted, and we are all laughing again.

Frankly, we have it good. We have a son who is cool and happy so much of the time that when he melts down, it takes us a moment to wipe the grins off our faces and get to our battle stations. Part of the reason I didn’t want to talk about discipline is because I know the pro-spanking crowd will want me over their knee, but most of the reason is that I don’t want to jinx what’s been working well so far. Ever since we took one of her classes for credit towards keeping our foster license, we get Heather Forbes’ email from her Beyond Consequences group aimed at the parents of aggressive, violent kids. The emails always have guilt-inducing subjects like “Ted, Does Your Child Ever Scare You?” “Just Making Sure You Are Safe” and “It Isn’t Supposed To Hurt To Be A Mom.”

I know how lucky we are. But Dr. Forbes doesn’t advocate spanking, even for these most vicious of children. She advocates keeping yourself safe, and listening. Letting your kids know that it’s okay to be mad, but not okay for them to hurt us, or us to hurt them with words or fists.

Sounds like a plan -for you, me, and even Bristol.


Love Bites

March 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Adoptive Families, Family, Meika Rouda

By Meika Rouda

I had something shocking happen yesterday. Asha and I were in music class, happily singing “Jimmy Crack Corn and I Don’t Care”  in a circle with the other moms and toddlers. Asha usually meanders during class, dancing around in the center of the circle, walking over to sit on other moms’ laps, or to hug other children. During the middle of the song, just as we were getting into the crescendo chorus, Asha walks over to a little boy, younger than she, and gives him a big hug.  I felt a surge of joy in my heart watching her love this little boy. Her hug kept going and she started to squeeze tighter. The little boy was no longer enjoying the hug. Our song continued “Jimmy Crack Corn and I Don’t Care…” and by now Asha had wrestled the boy to the ground and he is lying on top of her. She would not let go of him. He was crying now but her hug continued; she was unphased by his discomfort. His mom and I jumped up, attempting to release Asha’s iron grip and just as I was prying her arms off him, she turns her face to his cheek and bites him. Yes BITES HIM. The boy started to cry.  His cheek was bleeding. I was in shock. “Did she just bite him?” I ask the other mom, as the song continues in the background, “Yes” she says matter of factly.

I wasn’t quite sure what to do. Asha is crying, livid that I have released the boy from her grip. I take her out of the class and into the lobby. The other mom is in the bathroom cleaning the boy’s wound. I tell Asha, NO BITING. She stares at me blankly. She is 16 months old and expressing emotion in any way is a top priority, even if it means biting. I calm her down and check on the little boy. The mom is nice and reassuring “These things happen, I know she was just trying to love him.” I sort of felt better but I was also embarrassed and I had to go back into the class with my daughter, the biter, and finish singing. Yikes.

The other mom returned to the room before me, with kleenex attached to her son’s cheek to stop the bleeding. After a few more minutes I return with Asha. I sit down, away from the little boy, and resume my singing, trying to contain Asha and keep her on my lap. She will not sit still; she needs to wander. She headed right back to the little boy. The mom picks him up to protect him from the biter -aka my child. Asha walks over to another little girl and the mom delicately picks up her daughter. “Shit”, I think to myself. Her reputation is ruined, no one wants their kid near the biter. I continue to sing and act as normal as possible. Whenever Asha wanders off I follow her and pick her up. I spend the rest of class monitoring her every move. After class I apologize again to the mom and boy. She is understanding but I also know she will never let her kid be near mine again. My only comfort is that the class ends in two weeks and I don’t think I will be signing up again. I see the teacher and apologize for the interruption. She assures me biting is a normal process of development and happens all the time. She reminds me that toddlers just don’t know what to do with all the emotions they feel. She also says Asha is a very smart girl and very loving and I shouldn’t worry at all. The bite was not malicious, it was just an emotional surge. I feel slightly better.

Our biggest job as parents is to protect our kids so how do we do that when you feel like they are being maligned? What makes it worse is that Asha can’t talk, she can’t tell me what she is feeling, she can’t directly apologize or acknowledge that what she did was wrong. I hope her biting isn’t a habit, it is hard to watch your amazing child physically hurt someone.  But it wasn’t on purpose and I know in her heart she wants to express her love, she just needs more tools for that. I am not sure what music class will be like next week but I am not going to worry about what the other moms think. If they don’t want Asha near their kid that is fine, I can’t say I blame them but I also think as a group we can do a better job of helping one another teach our kids and act like a village instead of alienating a toddler for acting like a toddler.


From Bowser to Bam-Bam: Adventures of an Addled Potty Trainer

August 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Family, Sheana Ochoa, Urban Dweller

By: Sheana Ochoa

Potty training my toddler —whom my husband and I often refer to as Bam Bam —is no different from training my late dog, Chloe. They hem and haw, have accidents, and require loads of paper towels and consistency. I realized the similarities last weekend when my brother, who is rather fastidious, invited us over for lunch. It was a perfect afternoon with excellent food and a cool breeze on the patio. I went inside to retrieve something and when I returned, I discovered marble-sized turds all over the carpet next to the lunch table. My brother was shocked, “I’ve never seen anything like it.” Needless to say, he isn’t having children; they don’t go with his immaculate home décor. The only difference between training an animal and a person is psychological, which can actually become a chasm of difference if your child is as stubborn as mine.

Once my dog Chloe knew the difference between going potty inside and going potty outside, I wasn’t forgiving of her disobedience. She knew better, but would sometimes deliberately pee or worse, poop, in the house. Once, we were having Christmas dinner at my sister’s house and she pooed inside, so I struck her on the rump. Yes, all you PETA-philes, I hit my dog. My sister exiled Chloe from her home, which made it very difficult every year on the holidays because we had to travel distances to be with the family and I didn’t travel without Chloe. We found solutions for temporary places for her to stay while I ate dinner, even if she had to stay in my car, but I was not happy about it. If you think I’m a horrible person for having hit my dog, it gets worse.

Because I planned my child, I had an entire year to study and prepare for motherhood even before conceiving, but none of the research, talking to experts, interviewing other moms helped me with the real-life decisions I have had to make intuitively. Having said that, I went through my pregnancy as the attachment-parenting poster mom. Corporeal punishment? Absolutely not! I just had to get on the floor to my child’s level and “acknowledge” his frustration, fear, or anger. Yeah, that worked out real well at giving him the vantage point of socking me in the nose or head, banging me in the brow as he flailed about in a tantrum. There was plenty of corporeal punishment his first two years: I was the one getting beaten up.

As Noah began talking, he gained even more confidence defying me. He could tell me what he wanted, and if I didn’t understand his pre-verbal mumbo jumbo, I’d be in trouble. “No!” he’d yell at me and repeat what he wanted which sounded like some sub-Saharan dialect. I’d guess wrong. “No, Mommy!” he’d scream as if I were an imbecile, swatting at me. So, it began with grabbing his hand and firmly saying, “Don’t hit Mommy.” No matter how hard I squeezed, this tactic didn’t work. Month after month he continued hitting me. One day, he hit me so hard, I paused so as not to be angry as the experts say. After a few seconds the sting of his blow passed, and I slapped his hand. He cried incredulously.

Fast-forward to potty training. Setting a timer and asking him every 20 minutes if he had to pee wasn’t working because he was still wearing a diaper. So I made the leap: I purchased a dozen underpants. At first he peed in his underwear, while sitting on his training toilet, but at least he was sitting on the toilet. Then I discovered, since he was a boy (and would be teased in preschool for peeing sitting down, I shouldn’t be training him to sit and pee. Why do they sell those damned training toilets then, especially when cleaning up number two is so impractical?

So I invested in a toilet seat that goes over the real toilet seat so he doesn’t fall in for number two and began training him to stand while peeing. At this juncture, Noah mastered taking off his underwear and although it took a couple weeks to get him to stand, he does so, but it’s uncomfortable. He hunches over, which doesn’t allow a steady flow into the bowl; the urine gets all over the floor. I tell him to stand up straight and when he sees how successful this is in not getting the floor wet, he begins to overcompensate by squeezing his penis as if it will make the stream flow straighter. He is trying his best to get the urine into the toilet – although that last trickle is impossible because the stream has been interrupted.

The other night, Daddy took him to pee and I could hear him saying, “Noah, don’t move around. Noah you’re getting pee everywhere.” And I knew Noah was playing with the stream of pee, moving it out of the bowl because he had tried that business on me a few times and I wasn’t having it. I had sternly told him to pee in the bowl. After I overheard that Noah had gone as far as to pee on my husband during these shenanigans, I waited till they were finished. Then I spanked him. Yes, I put my hand to his flesh and he didn’t even have his underwear on.

“You can’t spank me!” he cried.

I couldn’t believe it. I have raised him to have such an upper hand that he believes I can’t spank him when he intentionally pees on Daddy. That was eye-opening. “Yes I can. I’m in charge, not you,” I told him and something changed, a look in his eye akin to admiration. He wasn’t happy Mommy spanked him, but something shifted and we both knew it. I was in charge to protect him. I wish my son had the temperament of someone that I could discipline with a firm No! and consistency, but he doesn’t.

Allowing him to continue believing that he is in charge would be nothing less than negligent. I know I’ll get plenty of advice from non-corporeal punishment advocates after publishing this blog, but believe me, I have studied it all. I was sold on it myself from the No-Cry-Sleep-Solution to all of Dr. Sears’s books. It didn’t work with my child and there’s no one that knows my child like I do. In fact, it’s all I can do not to take him in my arms the minute those crocodile tears flow after I scold him, but I resist a couple of minutes until it sets in that I’m serious. Afterward, I cuddle him and explain that just because Mommy yelled or swatted his hand doesn’t mean I don’t love him. And his tears dry up even though my heart is still aching and the irrational part of my head is saying, “Please don’t stop loving me, I’m just doing it for your own good.”

But, as I learned during ten years’ of teaching other kids, my job isn’t to be a child’s friend; it is to instruct them so they can become respectful, well-adjusted, informed, compassionate human beings.