By Renée Smith | j&R Tutoring Academy of Indiana

When I got married, oh, so many years ago, my husband had custody of his two small children from his prior marriage. Consequently, at the tender age of 23, I became a full time mother! I was also teaching school at the time.

In my innocence I thought I could handle the situation with no problem! I had completed college a year earlier and studied child psychology, education, etc. (I could veer into the at-the-time uncharted territory of full time step-parenting, but that is not what this installment is about!)

My husband, Ed, God rest his soul, carried enormous guilt from the divorce and was determined to be the best dad he could be. In his mind that meant the kids should be perfect. If they were perfect, then that meant he was a good dad.

What I am about to share is rather personal, but Ed won’t mind. Our greatest disagreements over the years were not about money, or jobs, or where to go on vacation. Our greatest disagreements were about discipline!

In his mind a good father raised good children, who were, in turn, always good. As a result his discipline was rigid. As the newcomer to the family, I was hesitant to contradict his methods. However even before we tied the knot, I was having real concerns.

Now I was not raised in a free-for-all environment. My parents were quite strict, but what I was witnessing was not realistic. When I finally built enough courage to speak up and suggested that some of the behaviors he was expecting were beyond what young children could do, he would tell me that they had to learn some time.

Yes, I agreed, but now was not the time! He was literally expecting them, a three and a five year old, to behave like miniature adults. As the about-to-be stepmother, I was in a precarious position trying to tell my future husband how to discipline his children! But I did.

Ironically a few years later, after we had added two more children to the mix, my four-year-old son’s best friend, told me I was the “meanest mother on Mulberry!” I laughed then and still do every time I remember.

Although children need boundaries and discipline, they should be age appropriate. As children grow and learn, their natural curiosity hopefully leads them to try to new things, to challenge the status quo. Parents constantly walk a fine line between encouraging growth and preventing disaster!

Perfection is just not possible and neither too much permissiveness nor too much discipline will achieve it!