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home : opinion : columns July 27, 2016

11/23/2012 6:00:00 AM
A perfectly imperfect parent
This is the first installment of a parenting column I'd like to write once a month. I'm not doing this because I think I'm a particularly good parent, I'm doing this because it's been a struggle. I want to share the breakthroughs I've experienced, and it may help someone else become a better parent. I also hope to see my inbox full of suggestions from all you moms and dads out there. Maybe together we can help each other become better parents. Contact me at asherman@kdminer.com.

Ahron Sherman
Miner Staff Reporter

As a young pup, I dreamed of being a dad and giving my kids something I never had - a committed father.

As I feasted on Thanksgiving dinner with my wife and two stepchildren Thursday - six years after we unofficially became a family (we made it official this past June when my wife, Angela, and I tied the knot) - I thought to myself, "This is what it's all about."

We've come so far as a family. But it's never been easy, and I've had to navigate a long, frustrating road to become the parent I am today.

When I committed to raising Nickole and Nathan, who were 6 and 7 when I came into their lives, I knew that I needed to love unconditionally and devote huge chunks of time and money to them.

But that's all I knew. Every other aspect of parenting needed to be learned.

No one ever warned me of the resentment that builds when your children lie to you or how hard it is to control your anger when their behavior fails to match what you've taught them.

It's the anger and resentment - two nasty little demons capable of ruining relationships and lives if they're not controlled - that at one point had me questioning whether or not I was cut out to be a dad.

Early on, I learned how easily a good day goes bad. I'd find myself screaming at them for feeding portions of their dinner to the dog, belittling them for not doing their homework exactly the way I taught them and accusing them of acting up specifically to harm me and their mother.

This wasn't an everyday occurrence, but the simple fact that it happened more times than it should have over the last six years showed me that I really couldn't handle the trials that accompany parenthood.

The homework wars forced me to change.

Although I knew from the start that my anger and resentment were getting the best of me, I was able to decrease the frequency of outbursts by simply trying to control myself. This worked to an extent until Nathan and Nickole entered middle school right when we moved from California to Kingman.

There I was on a nightly basis trying to help them through a tough math problem or teaching them how to write an essay. They were struggling, and instead of having a parent to patiently tutor them they had a parent who was becoming increasingly angry and verbally abusive.

Don't get me wrong. They weren't exactly trying as hard as they could. But who would? The work was hard and they were getting screamed at for not understanding it.

I would teach them how to write a paragraph, send them off to write one and then blow up when it wasn't done exactly how I taught them. Middle school students don't write college-level essays on the first try. What a surprise.

Instead of rethinking my approach, I continued to lose control of the situation and myself. Something needed to change. The screaming wasn't helping and neither were the accusations. They would walk away from homework sessions looking emotionally beat up, and they were becoming more and more withdrawn every day. Like any human who's being screamed at on a regular basis, they simply checked out.

I dove headfirst into depression because of my actions. I felt out of control and as frustrated as I've ever been. I want so much for them, but I struggle with patience. This is a toxic combination.

Then I spoke to David Montes, the youth development coordinator for the Harbor House, which takes in runaway and homeless youth, and I had what alcoholics call a moment of clarity.

He advised me to subtract the emotion, set up clear responsibilities for them and to take away privileges when they act up. He also told me to stop pretending their actions are part of some diabolical plan to harm their mother and me.

"It's simple childhood negligence," he told me.

So I followed his advice. I went home and told the kids what I expect of them each day and warned that failure to meet responsibilities would result in a loss of privileges. I told them that I'm here to help them with their homework but added that it's their responsibility to try.

I realized that as long as they put forth the effort, I had no reason to be mad.

It sounds simple enough, but it's hard to see facts like these when you're blinded by rage.

That's why subtracting the emotion from discipline is so important.

Try it. It's difficult and you're bound to slip up, but it truly works. Even if you need to take a time out to collect yourself, do it. You'll feel better about yourself, become a better parent and your kids will be happier and more productive, too.

The results of me leaving my emotions at the door were immediate. The kids started grasping concepts, and instead of hiding their struggles they started coming to me for help. Things have gotten so good that Nathan made the honor roll for the first time in his life and Nickole brought her grades up to previously unthinkable heights.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, January 4, 2013
Article comment by: Concerned Parent 2

I am a single parent.My daughter is the sweetest,caring,smartest teenager I know.I do not date because,my daughter comes FIRST,in everything I do.I work the night shift at work, so I can be there for my daughter if she needs me.My daughter is just about 18 years old and she has not gotten into trouble anywhere in Kingman. We both work hard to have gotten to this point.I do get lonely,but ,my daughter and my other kids come First in everything I do.This is the way it has to be. I will be glad when she goes to college and gets out of this town.I thank God every day for her friends,all good kids and parents.I choose to live this way because ,I couldn't ask for a better kids.I am proud of myself and I do not need a man to show me the right way to bring up my kids.Thank you.

Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Article comment by: Cassie Dorrion

What a great article and thanks for being so brutally honest. I have two toddlers and sometimes as I lay down at night I think "God I am an awful parent today." Mainly because I'll lose my patience with my very fiesty and sarcastic 3 year old and say mean things that I regret terribly later at the end of the night, but I am glad to know that I am not the only parent in the world who loses their cool. Parenting is never easy and I cannot even imagine the challenges you face as a step father and I applaud you for having the courage to step up to the plate and for loving their mother enough to love her children as well.

Posted: Monday, November 26, 2012
Article comment by: Kelly Tanner

Good for you for seeking out advice! David is a great guy and has many small tidbits of wisdom that truly offer a lot of clarity.
There is a free program for families with youth aged 10-15 in Kingman called Strengthening Families. The goal of the program is provide strategies to parents to guide their children through the tough adolescent years. The program is evidence based and proven to help parents increase good behaviors in their children and increase communication. The new session starts Wednesday, 11-28 at 5:30. Call me to sign up if you are interested. 928-692-5889

Posted: Friday, November 23, 2012
Article comment by: Linda Athens


Life is often very hard for step children. I could tell you horror stories.

You did not mention life from their point of view, only your own. Their birth father appears missing from their lives. Having lived thru that myself, at 69 it still hurts and the hole in my heart will never be filled on this earth.

You are a HUGE adjustment to them too. It appears you may have lived with their Mother for a time without first marrying her. Not a criticism, just a point but NOT GOOD FOR THEM!!

Can you simply look at them and see the real truth. They have been put in a situation they did not ask for nor deserve. A broken home. JUST LIKE YOU WERE. AND WHY YOU ARE STILL MAD. You are plan B for them.

So skip the big words, scoop them up into your arms and thank God you have been chosen to bestow love on these children who need a good Father figure. It's the best thing you can do for their Mother and it will do wonders for you. Love is the sunshine that will cause them to bloom.

Congrats for hanging in there. You're sure headed in the right direction. Don't forget, the family that prays together.....God bless. .

Posted: Friday, November 23, 2012
Article comment by: just a fact

Great article. Keep it up.

Posted: Friday, November 23, 2012
Article comment by: Highly Amused

Being a stepparent is a LOT harder than being a parent. I had three great children as a stepparent. Unfortunately, my temper was like yours. Great days could turn bad when they would act up. Fortunately for me though, their acting up wasn't in accord with what I was doing. It was in accord to what their birth mothers were doing, and being teased constantly in school due to issues that were in place before I came into their lives. It's a constant battle, but at the end of the day - well worth it.

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