I can't speak for everyone, but when I looked forward to becoming a parent, countless ideas about what my relationship with my kid would look like consumed my brain. Like most first-time parents, those ideas largely consisted of me being an exemplary beacon of compassion, empathy, and respect. I didn't really dwell on how I was going to survive being tough on my kid, because I was going to raise my kid in a collaborative environment wherein he would grow on a foundation of confidence instilled in him by never feeling as though his opinion or his feelings didn't matter as much as anyone else's just because he was a kid.
Five years later, I feel more or less great about how that plan turned out. It all basically holds up, and I'm pretty onboard with the person my kid is turning out to be as a result. I did not, however, consider a few things, namely how raising your kid to feel their voice is valued equally before life has had a chance to knock them on their ass with some soundly humbling lessons can result in them turning into a monstrous know-it-all of almost intolerable proportions.
What I've realized recently is that I failed to see the necessary counterbalance to all my attempts at creating a confidence, self-assured kid: teaching them that their opinions — while valuable! — are often, well, very bad, and that they're feelings — while valid! — don't mean they can throw chicken nuggets at the babysitter.
Lucky for me, being the Bad Cop when a Bad Cop is needed has come easily. I embrace the catharsis and simplicity of it, especially since doing so effectively mitigates all the crushing guilt I feel at the same time. And in the moments when the guilt is winning out over the catharsis, these are the things I tell myself:
"Love Isn't The Only Thing My Kid Needs From Me"
Yes, kids need love from their parents. They also need roughly 47,000 other things, and six minutes of forced meditation after they throw something at you is definitely one of them.
Maybe we'd all be doing ourselves a favor if, instead of cradling our pregnant bellies and declaring how much we're going to love our baby, we'd say things like, "Mommy is going to endure all of your loathing in the course of teaching you how to not be a massive sh*thead."
"I'm Saving Society From Dealing With This"
Because that's exactly what you're doing. No human comes into the world knowing how to conduct their interpersonal relationships. We're wired to act in service to our own needs and wants. The process of learning how to demonstrate even a baseline level of consideration for other people is unavoidably a messy one, especially since it happens when kids are still young enough that their impulse control sucks and they have almost no skills for coping with the very big emotions they're feeling upon learning that they actually are not the center of the universe.
And since you're the lucky person who gets to facilitate this wild perspective shift, all the friction gets thrown onto you. Take it. This is your duty to society. Neglect it and you're subsequently subjecting everyone else in the world to deal with the nightmare of a person you didn't want to parent.
"My Kid Knows I Support Them"
Overwhelming odds say you put more than adequate energy into expressing to your kid how adored and supported they are. They know. Even if they are screaming that you're "not their friend anymore" and that they'll "hate you forever until you die," they still know. And honestly, if they do hate you until they die because you made them brush their teeth or whatever, you kinda have to respect and appreciate that level of commitment.
"I Can Be Nice Later"
As suddenly as a little kid will react with violent emotions to any sort of limit enforcement, they're recovery time is amazing. Like, they'll bounce back from a meltdown so fast that you'll deeply question whether or not they're a legit psycho. Regardless, you'll get to go back to being your nice, loving self when their brief possession subsides and the demon leaves their body again, so don't sweat having to sometimes be not so fun.
"I Don't Deserve To Be Treated This Way"
Often when we find ourselves in a position where we need to be Bad Cop with our kids, it's because the line they've crossed is one of not showing basic respect for another person. Kids are thoughtless or seemingly mean sometimes because it takes a minute for fresh humans to comprehend that anything or anyone other than themselves is real. We aren't born with empathy.
Which is to say, you might be Bad Copping because you were treated unfairly. So think of this parenting moment like you would any other time you stand up and advocate for the level of respect you require other people show you. Would you let anyone else you love treat you so poorly? Absolutely not.
When you teach your kids what kind of treatment you won't tolerate from others, you're teaching them what they should expect from the people they will grow up and love.
"My Kid Literally Has To Learn What's Not OK"
It's essential like learning to read or tie your shoes or pretending to like your significant other's extremely questionable taste in music. You're teaching your kids that sometimes they have to do things they don't want to do, so it would be mighty hypocritical to shirk the very necessary parts of parenting that don't feel awesome to you.
"I Can Have Wine Later"
They have to go to sleep eventually.