There are variables to goofing off such as age, actual goof off and each parents opinion of what constitutes a goof off. Is it a toddler, a teen or in between? Regardless, maintaining boundaries shouldn't be an ugly experience.
The graph above can serve two viewpoints; being scored by your kids or scoring yourself. They both end up in the melting pot anyway when it comes to being rated as a good Dad. A typical day might look like this graph, especially if your kids are toddlers. They might get a hug or smile from you (green), they might get a 'don't put your head in the fireplace' and not like you at all (red). When it's time for lights out I hope to have the line green and high. This finish for the day became a target after our home life fell apart with my wife falling to depression. I was out of my depth and had my limits well and truly tested. I didn't always pass and had to dig deep on a daily basis to keep things as usual as possible.
Getting down to the nitty-gritty, epic fails occur. Things that affect our judgment and abilities as Dads and Mums are lack of sleep, lack of money, headaches, colds, big workloads, sick babies, cranky toddlers, horrible teens, lots of constant demands with little or no relief in sight; just to name a few. All these ingredients go into the final serve when you have to deliver some boundaries to your kids. Unfortunately for them, their minor goof can be the straw that broke the camels back. The odd thing is that in most cases parents wouldn't or couldn't treat adults the same way; that is, possibly smacking or yelling in their faces.
For the record, I WAS one of those people who used to say 'that kid needs a good kick in the bum' or a 'good whack on the bum'. I did, over a few years, give the occasional smack on the bum, but ended up admitting to myself it didn't work for me. I'll do a separate post on this later I think. For the moment this is about TALKING to your kids when they are in trouble.
Everyone will have their way of talking to their kids; and that's what it should be, talking (firm, gentle, whatever, just not ugly). It's all about keeping your cool and not yelling at or screaming in their faces. I'm not preaching from a holier than thou position either. I'm guilty of yelling, of losing my cool, of yelling loud enough at my teen son to part hair at two paces, of making little faces crumple in tears; but hopefully not scaring them. That's a real low to hit if they feel scared. Kids shouldn't be scared of Dad or Mum.
Those of us not blessed with consistent cool will know the look in your kids eyes when you have verbally hammered them. You don't want to see fright and I've wondered on more than one occasion had I frightened my kids whether they were toddlers or older. I found a way to see things through their eyes.
I looked in the mirror. I did my best to re-enact a face I would have showed them when losing my cool. It was not a pretty sight, it could be scary when up close and personal. I imagined how it would look and sound if it was recorded on video. It is just a form of common sense I guess, but imagining a video camera (kids eyes and brain) recording my actions is a good check. It might sound a bit dumb but here is some fine detail to consider. Just stick your scary dial within a few inches of the mirror, add some ugly yelling and arrows for eyes, a distorted mouth and maybe even bits of spit if you get that ugly; well, you get the picture. If the situation was reversed and it was yourself on the receiving end; maybe at work or a shopping centre; how would you react or be left feeling. How does scaring a 3yr old for example, affect them? Most of us replay incidents time after time even if we don't want to.
Also consider two other totally reasonable feelings your kids would experience. Firstly, they might think that you are going to hit them, and I don't mean a smack on the bum. After all, most parents are bigger than their kids for a lot of the time. In adult situations and under Australian law, these actions could be considered as assault! A person can be assaulted without actually being touched. Secondly, your kids will probably think you don't love them which puts in motion a whole bunch of uncertainties for them to try and digest.
This 'smile for the camera' didn't and doesn't always stop me from blowing a fuse but it helps me to take a breath or two, and do the Dad stuff a better way more often that not. When the wheels fell off our family wagon, I needed all the help I could get.
It was years ago that I looked in the mirror, the kids are older now, but hassles still happen; just different to what they used to be. Now I think they were easier when younger! The mirror trick still works for me though. If you ever wonder, close the door to the bathroom and try to duplicate the ugly face you show your kids. When you hit the replay button, hopefully it's not scary.