I am naturally a hardass parent. I have been persuaded by books, discussions, and all manner of other communication that smacking kids into line isn't the best way to raise them but I can't seem to change my first reaction, which is to tell them to do as I say and suck it up. It takes a tremendous expenditure of willpower for me to curtail my internal draconian parent and have patience, talk it out, give extra chances, and be calm. It is like taking a difficult exam, doing heavy exercise, or getting a lecture from a boss; it drains me. It really confirms the hypothesis in the book Willpower because forcing myself to do the right thing and suppressing my desires drains me of energy. I guess that is why I found taking care of a baby to be easy and parenting a kid to be really hard - the simple chores of baby care did not sap my willpower but dealing with a small person with her own desires does.
This is all kinds of strange because this week really illustrated how necessary it is to be a hardass some of the time. Elli struggles with rules that aren't completely consistent and we had told her that she had to walk to school, no shoulder rides. On Monday though she was really tired and burnt out so I gave her a ride home from school; at the time I felt like it might be a bad idea but I wanted to do something nice for her. Of course on Tuesday I had to cart her back and forth to school kicking and screaming over my shoulder in a fireman's carry because she absolutely would not go anywhere unless I gave her a shoulder ride the entire way. I cannot relent on this at any point, ever. I must always force her to walk because being nice even once ruins things for days afterwards. I don't want to be *that* much of a hardass!
The Willpower book really makes all this clear and it explains so much about bad parenting. People who are exhausted literally do not have the energy to force themselves to do the right thing. It takes a measureable, physical resource to force yourself to make difficult decisions and delay gratification and our inability to summon up that energy means that kids get plunked in front of the TV instead of played with. I assume it must be easier for some people than it is for me because parenthood gets such glowing reviews but for me intense physical labour would be easier than being a good parent - bad parenting would probably be pretty easy though, in the short term at least.