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Firm parenting and harsh parenting

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Charles Ighele

As a daddy, you can be firm without being harsh. The dictionary defines harsh as “unpleasantly stern, rough.” It defines the word harshly as “in a harsh or unkind manner.” Take note of the words “unpleasantly stern, rough, unkind manner.” Being harsh on your children or wife, therefore, means that you are being unpleasantly stern, you are being rough, and that you are behaving in an unkind manner. Being firm, on the other hand, means being steadfast, determined, unwavering. Daddying in a harsh way is like fathering without love. It is like fathering without caring for your child’s feelings. It’s like fathering in anger. Children are very sensitive. They know when you are correcting them in anger, in a rough manner or in an unkind manner.

They also know when you are fathering or correcting them in love, even if you refuse to bend to their ways. Unfortunately, many daddies are harsh. A twenty-year-old boy once told me that one of his parents did not love him as I was trying to settle a dispute within the family. Upon hearing this, the parent screamed and said words like, “Look at this bad boy. Who told you that I do not love you? If I did not love you, would I have been making all these financial sacrifices for you?” The boy looked at me and said “Didn’t I tell you that I am not loved?

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In another case, another twenty-year-old boy, who wanted to have his way was told by his daddy in a firm, but loving manner words like; “I am your daddy and I love you. But as far as this very matter is concerned, I will never allow you have your way. If I do, you will harm yourself and I will hate to see you suffer.” The son willingly complied. This is an example of a father who is firm and kind. The firm but kind father won the war and the peace, but the harsh father won the war without winning the peace.

No child enjoys being spoken to as an enemy. In an average family, family members have one form of impression or another about each other. It may surprise some parents to know that some children know that what they are doing is bad, but the problem is that their parents do not give them the opportunity to repent. This is so because the parents are always reminding them of how bad they are or the bad things they are doing or have done in the past. For example, when a father keeps saying,

“You always tell lies. You are a liar.” A child will interpret such to mean that even if he or she tells the truth, the parents will never believe him/her. They think their parents will never give them the opportunity to change. This gets some more hardened, while it makes others submit because of fear.  Because children love strong characters, many will respect their parents more, if such parents are firm but not harsh. Be very kind but firm on drawing the line between acceptable and non-acceptable behaviour. Love you.

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