I still catch myself in these ways of thinking. I still catch myself thinking old thoughts with my kids.
“If I get playful right now, he’s going to learn to be ‘difficult’ whenever he wants me to play with him.”
“If I don’t make her regret doing that, then she’s going to end up doing it again.”
It doesn’t make me a bad parent to have those thoughts, and I know enough to try not to act on them. I tell myself what I know: that children learn through play, that connection builds the relationship that supports literally everything else, that I see a hundred times a day how a connected and loving and silly and fun relationship with my children supports their participation (sometimes) in what I need them to do, and their resilience (sometimes) in when I have to make them do something that they don’t want to do.
And I get to keep watching them grow and learn every day. And I never have to hurt them to make it happen.