Setting myself up to lose... and maybe them to win.
I've long said that I don't expect to be my children's friend, but hope to be respected as their daddy. But then I go and make them laugh at me, and am glad of it. Huh.
We moved into this little rent house about 14 months ago, and my (then) 9 and 5 year old daughters had to share a bedroom. They were surprisingly okay with it at first, like if they had gone camping. But after a few months, they both wanted their own rooms again. Not until we buy a new house, they were told. They sulked, and I began a campaign to make them cleave to each other.
It wasn't very subtle. I took them each aside and told them that they had to be best friends. Oh, they could have other best friends, but this was a true BFF, and no one could take the place of their sister. It wasn't very hard with the younger girl, who very much loves her big sister and wants to do stuff with her. The big girl was a harder sell, not least because her other friends like to pick on and put down their little sisters. I explained that this would NOT be acceptable behavior, and told her what I expected. And, surprise, surprise, she's pretty much done what I asked.
We put the little one to bed minutes before the elder one on principle, but in reality, they go to bed within 10 minutes of each other every night. (And the younger girl always gets up first, bright-eyed.) Their bedroom is just off the living room, so I can hear them when they get to talking. I LOVE that they're talking in the dark, with the lights off. You can get very tight with someone that way. Of course, I go to the door, and make a show of yelling though the door in a grumbly voice: "Girls! No talking! Go to sleep! No. Talking." I then stomp away from the door, hearing muted giggles behind me. I know full well that they will continue to giggle and talk for another 15 minutes. I know that my failure to enforce my orders will probably cause a very slight slide in my role as a disciplinarian.
But they're going to remember those chats in the dark forever, and stick together long after they've got their own kids. I hope.
We've recently bought a tired three-bedroom brick house down the road, and are fixing it up to make it fit to live in. It probably will be ready for move-in by Halloween. Each girl will get her own bedroom, after about 15 months together in the same bedroom. I pray they'll love each other.
I use corporal punishment on my kids occasionally. Not a lot, but it happens. I was a child who was spanked, and I will use a spanking when all else fails. My wife was a child who was pinched, and she will pinch when all else fails. I have grown to admire the subtle strength of the pinch, inasmuch as there is no way to accidentally give more or less then you intended, and it frankly looks less horrific on a parking lot when your kid ran out into traffic.
I find that the fact that I do pinch or spank influences my directives to my kids, a lot. Early on, we set the "1, 2, 3" rule. Tell a child to do something, and if they haven't done (or begun to do) it by "3", they get a spanking. Or a pinch. I have almost NEVER had to get to three. Often the kiddo is running to (get in the car, clean up a mess, get ready for school, get ready for bed) to do what she was told with her hands over her rear end, if I get to "2".
Recently, I was intentionally being over the top when roaring at my girls to clean their room. They immediately read me as having put some additional mustard on my hollering, and kept playing with their toys as they slowly, slowly put them away. I blustered again, knowing all too well that they had busted me-- I wasn't really mad at them. Still, I had told them to clean up their room. I quickly told them that if they hadn't begun cleaning in 5 minutes when I returned, a spanking -- er, pinch would be forthcoming.
I'm afraid I misspoke.
4 minutes later, I stomped to their room, asking "Girls? Are you cleaning now, or am I going to have to...?" I could hear giggling from them.
"What? Are you going to "Spinch" us, dad?" asked my 10 year-old. The 6 year-old burst out laughing. I thought back to what I had said, and started laughing, too.
Now, "spinch" is our favorite word. My wife envisions it as a form of punishment that would be applied with the same level of dexterity as patting one's head and rubbing one's belly. My girls laugh at every utterance of the word.
They're laughing at me.
And I don't even mind.