Something has happened to my daughter.

The sweet, yet sassy, little toddler I have loved and adored for the last three years has morphed into a foot stomping, room leaving, “no” using, defiant little pre-teen.

And this was not a gradual progression either. It was as if there was a blood moon or something and the transformation occurred sometime during the night when my wife and I were asleep, blissfully unaware of the change happening mere inches from us.

Now, to be fair, she seemed to have been born with an extra large dose of independence and no amount of verbal delay has hindered her from fully expressing her wants, desires and emotions. But this is something altogether different.

These last few weeks have been full of titanic clashes of wills as she and I battle for household dominance. From hair bows to TV shows, “Let It Go” dancing to dog tormenting…everything must go according to her desire in that very moment.

It’s exhausting.

But, being the hard-core disciplinarian I have learned to be over my 7 years of managing high school classrooms, I was convinced no toddler would be able to outlast my own stubbornness or convince me to give in to the idea of perfection she seems to hold onto in the most inopportune times.

So, the battle was on.

She wanted what she wanted when she wanted it and I was determined to have her do what I wanted when I wanted it done.

As you can probably guess, this was a recipe for disaster. What has ended up happening has been lots of yelling, frustration and tears (by both of us…mine more of the inside, though). But more importantly, as my wife pointed out to me recently, was that we have started to lose our closeness. The magical connection between my daughter and I has been deteriorating due to my focus on raising her to understand the consequences to her disobedience and neglecting to balance the discipline with love, support and encouragement.

In other words, my daughter is starting to pull back because she feels more negative coming from her dad than positive.

That hurts.

Now, I firmly believe it is my job as her father to instruct her and mold her through loving discipline as she grows, but I am learning, after this rough reminder, how important the “loving” part is in the process.

I do love my daughter. This is the reason I discipline and correct her the way I do. But, if I am not willing to recognize or acknowledge when she has begun to see her father as a man focused primarily on a standard of behavior to the expense of expressing and reminding her of the cherished place she holds in my heart, I will fail miserably.

Thankfully, I have a loving and supportive wife who is keenly aware of the ever-changing dynamics in our household and encourages me to take time to pull back from the role of “Father Don’t Do That…Do This” and just spend time playing in a blanket fort.

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