To be honest, I don't know if punishing my kids hurts me more than it does them but it does hurt. A lot sometimes. I take little pleasure in punishment. Most of the time it makes my heart break after the initial aftermath is over. Granted, in the midst of the chaos I'm running on adrenaline trying to work through whatever the situation is, trying to keep my head above water. Being a parent makes you think fast on your feet.
There are times I have to access, judge, and dole out punishment in the blink of an eye. My two kids are sweet, little hellions and don't think twice before finger pointing at their sibling. It's always fun to play who's fault was it really. No matter what, the outcome, for me it always feels the same. I'm the mean mommy. I hate it. Hate, hate, hate it! No one told me that being a parent was going to be so hard. Yes, I knew it wasn't going to be easy but it's really a lot like managing your own business and the kids are your hooligan employees. Shhhhh....don't tell them I said that. My children are really great kids but they know how to go from angel to devil in 3 seconds flat when no one but me is looking. Heaven save me from those moments!
I've come to some decisive parenting decisions that I try to rely on when faced with punishment. First, the one that retaliates is more at fault. Yes, this does suck but I'm trying to teach them to resolve conflicts better. Retaliation is not the answer, especially when you get older. Neither is tattling all the time but I'd rather have a tattler than a retaliator. If your sister hits you and you hit back you get extra time in time out (or whatever the punishment may be). You have a choice on how to react, choose wisely.
I do not put up with anything physical. You hit someone game over. There's no coming back. I will not allow that in my house or with my children. I still struggle with matching up the appropriate punishment to fit the crime. I go over board a lot and have to reign myself in. I worry about coming across as a softy that will be walked over. I've gotten better with it (the overboard part that is). Time outs are their ages. If there's an argument over a toy the toy goes in time out for a specified amount of time. It use to be all day because I was so frustrated from having to repeatedly tell them to stop. However, I've learned that sometimes that hinders the learning process because it's been so long they forget why it was taken away. If they do something wrong when we are away from the house I do not wait and dole out punishment when we get home. That's too long. I hand it out then, even if it's something they have to complete once we are home. They need to know the consequences of their actions immediately. I also stand strong in my decisions, if you waive once it will be an ongoing battle in the future. Stick to your guns. Also, it's very important that if you make a mistake in punishment that you admit to it immediately. You expect that from them so you need to do the same. It shows them that everyone makes mistakes.
The one thing I do know, when all is said in done is that I love my children. I'm doing my best to bring them up to be good, law abiding adults that contribute in a positive way to our society. I want them to be honest and let their conscious be their guide. That is why I am hard on them at times. That is why my expectations are high. I love them and I want them to be all they can be. On nights like this when they are up in bed a bit early because of something they fought over just before bedtime I want to cry. I want to be snuggled up there with them, holding them tight, telling them how much I love them. I put them to bed and we're all upset over the situation. I'm frustrated and I remind them again that if they would just listen and work together they wouldn't be where they are now. It's a pet peeve of mine. It's easy....listen to me, do as I ask and we'll all get along perfectly. But this isn't a perfect world and they are kids. Even if I tell them something a million times, they're going to need to hear it another million and one times a million to maybe get it. The learning process is never ending but eventually it clicks and the next lesson starts. I have to remind myself that they're not adults and this is not a business.
I tuck them into their beds, kiss them good night and tell them I love them. I always tell them I love them. From time to time I will point out that I may not like what they did but I will always, always love them. I go downstairs. In the quiet of the night I straighten out my thoughts. I give myself a time out. Ten minutes later I peek into their rooms. I creep in and lay down with each of them. Tonight they are not crying and upset about getting sent to bed early any longer. Now, they are sleepy. They were overtired just as I thought. Silly them fighting over the bathroom and being inconsiderate to one another. 9:00 o'clock was the perfect bedtime this time. I tell them each that I love them and tomorrow will be a good day full of fun. I tell them I'm sorry that I got upset with them. I'm not sorry that I held them accountable for their actions though and I'm clear about that. Appropriate punishment for the "crime".
I think what gets me most is I can clearly remember some of those nights where I lay in bed crying myself to sleep because I felt my parents had been mean and unfair. The thought of my children crying themselves to sleep breaks my heart in two. I will stay strong though. They need boundaries and accountability. I know one day they'll understand and will come to the realization that I cried along with them even if I was in another room.