As a teacher, I was always good at the discipline bit. Partly because I was paranoid that if I let things slip, chaos would rule; partly because (I think) I struck the right balance between nice and nasty. I was firm, but I was fair. And if I made a threat, I followed it through. The minute you say something - even if you regret it (e.g. was that detention a bit harsh?) you HAVE to do it. Equally, I'd try to make lessons enjoyable, and show that if children toed the line, there was fun to be had.
So how come, as a parent, I find discipline so painful? At the moment, Lily is the only one I really have to discipline. The twins - bless them - at 23 months pretty much just need managing and keeping safe. The things they do that are 'wrong' are completely innocent because they haven't yet learned that they're wrong.
Lily is a wonderful mixture of cute and mischievous. Unfortunately, the mischievous side can overstep the mark a little. Plus, she's a bossy boots. So whilst she's playing wonderfully with the boys one minute, if I hear a cry, I pretty much know what led to it. She's also pretty good at pushing her luck: if I kept saying yes, she'd be watching 'In the Night Garden' for the next twenty years or so...
She's by no means badly behaved, but like most girls her age, she has a 'side' to her. Whether it's pushing her brothers around, saying things she shouldn't, or insisting on chocolate buttons for breakfast (which, may I add, she NEVER gets!), she certainly makes her views known - and isn't afraid to enforce them.
The problem is, when it comes to her, I'm a soft touch. Why? Perhaps because I'm so determined that she won't grow up anxious; perhaps because sometimes I worry it would seem to her that she's the only one we ever 'tell off' (which she would be at the moment, more or less), and perhaps because she's my first, longed-for IVF little girl, cute as a button and with a heart firmly in the right place.
Who knows? All I know is, I need to 'man up' or 'mum up' and stick to my own rules a bit more strictly. Discipline doesn't have to make life a misery. It's setting boundaries (which I'm good at), being fair (which I'm good at) and following through on 'threats' (which I'm RUBBISH at).
But I have to get better... I know what limp-wristed parenting produces and it ain't pretty!
On a separate note, I was struck the other day when the following conversation took place:
Me: I love you, Lily. And Evie and Timmy and Joe, and sometimes even daddy!
Lily: And yourself mummy - don't forget to love yourself.
It made me wonder. If, as children, we are born with self-love, without malice, and with hearts that are open to being loved and loving others, what is it that turns us into insecure, bitchy and thoughtless adults? Maybe instead of teaching our children we should allow the tables to turn from time to time.
Because the ability to embrace life, to feel joy and - yes - to love ourselves seem to fade with age. And it's about time we learned these vital skills and faced our lives with optimism...