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    Parenting Through the Perfect Storm





    It’s around 4 o’clock on a rainy day. The kids are bored. You are tired. Maybe you have a work deadline, maybe you’re trying to finish a personal project, or just wanting to organize an area of the house before the clutter gets out of control. Or maybe you just want a little break from the hubbub - but there is no break for a couple more hours (and before then, you have to get dinner made, and keep two rambunctious kids happy). You set said children up on an activity, and decide to hop on your computer (or crack open your favorite novel or get started on that organizing project), for what you hope is a few minutes of “adult” time. But then, the bickering starts. This, you can ignore, until the voices get closer, and start including you: “Mom, she said THIS” and “But MOMMMMM, he took THIS”. And then, something crashes in the kitchen. “Moooooommmmmm!!!!!” You feel your blood pressure rising, and you start out calm, but as you come around the corner of the kitchen to see the bowl you’d prepared earlier in the day so dinner prep would go smoothly, smashed and broken all over the kitchen floor, and before you know it, your voice comes out just a bit louder & harsher than you wanted, and instead of helping them start the cleaning effort, you opt for the escalating loud voice and flailing arms: “What’s going ON in HERE? I just wanted to read for FIVE. MINUTES. Can’t you kids GET ALONG? YOU’RE ALWAYS FIGHTING!!!!” Which of course, isn't true, isn't helpful, and results in nothing being accomplished – other than the kids looking at you wide-eyed and warily like they’re not sure what’s going to happen next, and you feeling badly for yelling and acting like a child yourself.  The mess is still on the floor, the kids’ argument wasn’t resolved, and everyone is still in a state of highly charged emotion.

     

    Sound familiar?  I think we’ve all been at a point where we have had enough. And even though we know better, the perfect storm of events happens right under our own noses, and our self control is sucked away, leaving us with the bare bones of discipline techniques that our parents bestowed on us. 

     

    I think responses like this, when they aren’t habitual, are just visceral reactions; and often not even controllable in the moment. Maybe we’re tired or hungry or our patience has been all used up or we’re touched out. But these moments – they don’t define us; or our parenting. We feel awful about them; and I always try to remember that the feeling badly afterwards is a good emotional response. It’s a reminder to do better, try harder, and come up with tools that work more effectively, so our immediate reaction is more in line with what our planned out reaction to aggravation is like (the responses that we’re proud of and feel help us and our children learn how to deal with anger and aggravation in a positive and productive way – we’ve all had those moments too).


    (Artist: Mindaugas Danys  Source: Flickr) 

     

    So what can you do when the perfect storm hits? Well, there’s the lead-up to the storm… and there’s the aftermath. Let’s start with the aftermath:

     

    The first thing I do is apologize. But I don’t just say sorry – I try to explain to my kids why I was feeling how I was feeling, acknowledge their feelings, and I use the opportunity to model what I’d like to hear/see from them. I also use gentle touch – like a hug or a pat on the shoulder, or even just getting down on their level so we see eye to eye.

     

    I’m sorry that I yelled at you in the kitchen; I bet that was scary for you. I was feeling so aggravated at having to get up from my seat and because I was distracted by my aggrivation, I wasn’t paying attention to using my words carefully.

     

    Next thing I do is talk about how I could have changed the outcome, or what I could do, or we could do together to fix the situation.

     

    Next time, I will try to be more patient in my response.  Yelling doesn’t help the situation. What do you think I could have done to help the situation? Is there anything you could have done differently to help the people around you feel more comfortable? I know you didn’t mean to break the bowl; let’s clean it up together.

     

    I have found that children are incredibly forgiving and peace-loving. They strive for harmony and the thought of holding a grudge doesn’t come naturally. Often times I’ll start to talk about why I felt badly or acted in a way I wasn’t thrilled with and they’ve already moved on. In which case, the best thing to do is…

     

    Forgive myself.  When I realize that I may have acted in a way that’s less than ideal, but have apologized and thought about ways to do it differently next time, I also realize that the simple act of awareness is a big step towards making a change. I forgive myself the lapse of peaceful parenting prowess, realize my children have forgiven me, and I forgive myself. And then…

     

    I move on to what I can do to better handle future perfect storms. I get a game plan in place. What tools do I have and what tools do I need to obtain and develop in order to handle a kid storm in a way that is calm, and guiding, not a way that leaves me wishing I’d done things differently? My game plan is a bit like this:

     

    Firstly, and probably most importantly, I stay aware of my inner balance.  If I’m feeling out of balance – if I start to realize that the kids noise level is sounding consistently to loud to me, when I know it’s really not too loud, or if I’m finding myself annoyed by things that shouldn’t be that annoying, I take stock of what’s going on in my body and mind at the moment, and fix whatever I can fix.  If I’m hungry or thirsty, I get a snack or drink. If I’m tired, I set up a quiet activity and I lie down with them while they play and rest for a few minutes or alternatively, I choose an activity that requires some action to get my blood flowing – running up and down the stairs a few times, or doing yoga with the kids or getting outside and walking around (I know it’s hard in the winter, but there's something about fresh air and nature that rejuvinates, energizes, and balances).  If I’m overwhelmed, I either ask for help – if it’s available – or I figure out what can be cut from my current “to do’s” and I decide not to feel bad about cutting it. If it just happens that I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, and can’t come up with a good reason for my mood, I’ll acknowledge that – maybe I’ll mention it to my kids, “Guys, I’m in kind of a crummy mood, so let’s all try to be extra kind to each other today”, then, I’ll have a piece of chocolate, a cup of coffee, and forgive myself for not having an ideal day, and talk myself into grinning and bearing it.  Sometimes all it takes is a few minutes of alone time (and “alone time” really can be your computer and a cup of coffee while your little ones play quietly at your feet – and you’re browsing through blogs or looking at magazines that have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with parenting) to regain my peaceful center. 


    (Artist: Aussiegall  Source: Flickr)

    Secondly, I make sure I have a plan of action in place for what to do when my center has been lost, and I feel the storm coming on. Things like:

     

    - Realizing I don’t have to intervene in every altercation.  In fact, unless they are hurting each other, it’s best to let the kids work out small disagreements themselves.  When they realize they have the tools to resolve issues, they will do so more and more often without calling MOM!!! every time something doesn’t go exactly as planned. That’s a lot of aggravation, avoided.

     

    - Stepping away from the heat of moment instead of lunging straight for it.  Sometimes, if I know I’m feeling irritable, and not likely to have the most measured response, instead of heading for my kids’ argument, I will head for another room. I have said many a time to my children: “I’m taking a time out”. Giving myself space, a few moments to breathe and think, help me clarify the situation and come up with a more level-headed response.

     

    - Deciding to speak slowly and quietly when I feel like yelling. If I encounter the urge to yell, I use it as a signal to speak softly and choose words carefully. Or instead of saying something grumpy, saying something goofy. Realizing in the midst of a kid storm, sometimes the opposite reaction is the best – like laughing instead of arguing.

     

    - Acknowledging that I can’t fix every problem, take on every issue, or respond to every outburst. My kids’ reactions and moods belong to them, and I don’t have to respond in kind. If my children yell at me, I don’t need to yell back. If my children are being grumpy, sometime it’s okay to just let them be grumpy; it’s not my fault they are grumpy, and I don’t have to take it personally. Modeling cool and calm, owning my own feelings & letting them own theirs is always good.

     

    - Remembering that not every interaction needs to be the perfect learning and teaching moment. Sometimes the scissors just need to be taken away when they are being brandished at a sibling as a weapon; I don’t need to wait for them to be passed while explaining and talking over alternatives to the current scissor-wielding behavior.

    And sometimes the television needs to be turned on and the children sat down in front of it so that I can step away and regain my cool. I love what Annie at PhdinParenting said about the TV: “I’m not a fan of using television as a babysitter. But I am a big fan of using television to avoid mistreating my children and damaging our relationship.” (from her post Ready to Snap) What I mean is, sometimes I find myself so wrapped up in how I can best parent through a moment, and get so guilty over what message am I sending and what lesson am I teaching and why can’t I figure this out or get them to figure this out, when the children aren’t responding to my explanations and descriptions, that I end up getting more riled up than if I’d just responded quickly and done what I needed to do in that moment, and worried about fixing the message later (if even necessary).  Not every single moment of parenting needs to be educational.

     

    And finally, when all is said and done, I realize that every day I’m doing the best I can. Some days are awesome, some days are less so, but most of the time, I’m a good mom, I’m kind to my children, I apologize when I’m not, and I forgive myself and try to do better in the future – for them and for me. That’s the best anyone can do.

    Posted: Jan 17 2011, 17:46 by kelly | Comments (34) RSS comment feed |
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    Comments

    TheFeministBreeder United States said:

    TheFeministBreederToday is awful.  I believe my kids ARE programmed for hateful behavior.  My boys have been at each other's throats for what feels like MONTHS, and I swear to god on my life, they WAKE UP screaming at each other.  And I have NO idea why. They have the BEST life.  They get TONS of attention from me, and both sides of grandparents who are with them every single week showering them with affection.  It doesn't matter.  My 4 yr old is just downright hateful 70% of the time, and I cannot take it anymore.  The very first sounds out of their mouths today were as follows:

    "Julesy, I took your tiger plane"
    "NO NO NO NO GIVE IT BACK JONAS, WAAAAAAAAAAH, WHERE'S DADDY?!"
    "Daddy's at work"
    *SCREAMING BLOODY MURDER*
    *Hitting, slapping each other, until I get in the middle and pull them off one another*

    Then, I go to take a shower, they both insist on coming in with me, only so they can try to kill each other in the bathtub under my feet so that I can trip and fall and die too.

    Then, I wrangle them into clothes and take them to Monkee Business, first filling their bellies with food, and pay $15 to let them play for 2.5 hours until I assume they cannot go on anymore.

    Which leads 4 yr old to tell me he had a "bad day."

    And he's hungry, so I take them into the nearby Whole Foods, put $77 worth of groceries that THEY want into the cart.

    Come home. Feed them heartily and healthily.  Then 4 yr old SPITS ON THE BACK OF MY HEAD as I lean down to change 2 yr old's diaper.

    I do NOT deserve this kind of treatment. I have NO idea how to handle it anymore.  I know for a fact that I never would have acted the way my 4 yr old does because my grandfather would have beaten me with a stick, but since beating is bad, I just have to sit and take it and try to "reason" with someone whose completely unreasonable.

    I feel like a chump.  It makes me want to leave and never, ever come home.

    # January 17 2011, 18:22

    kelly @kellynaturally United States said:

    kelly @kellynaturally@Gina - I can only say that I've been there. Those are the days when I take lots & lots of deep breaths, coffee breaks, twitter check-ins, and watch the clock like a hawk.  You're pregnant too, mama. You need peacefulness and forgiveness times two. ((hugs))

    # January 17 2011, 18:35

    ToughMom United States said:

    ToughMomI'm not big on hitting as a rule or parenting philosophy...however, sometimes small children just really need a good smackdown to show them who's boss. (And make no mistake, mama, you need to be the boss!) Spit on your head? Seriously?! Smack. Down. Maybe you are too nice.

    # January 17 2011, 21:52

    TheFeministBreeder United States said:

    TheFeministBreeder@ToughMom - nobody in the world has ever accused me of being too nice. Most people think I'm a dick.

    # January 17 2011, 21:59

    kelly @kellynaturally United States said:

    kelly @kellynaturally@ToughMom - Thanks for commenting.

    Honestly though, I don't think a small child (or anyone you care about, really) EVER needs a "good smackdown". Far more can be accomplished in life through love and respect than through fear, pain, or intimidation. When children are taught by physically aggressive actions that aggrivation is dealt with through violence, they will learn to take their own anger out with their fists, instead of learning how to communicate and problem solve.  

    Sure, no one likes to be spit on by a 4 year old. But even a crossing the boundaries 4yo who you think ought to know better is still a human worthy of respect, like any other human. He just is a really new one, not wholly familiar with the rules of life, nor empathy yet. It's our jobs as parents to guide our kids on the path that will best serve them in their life going forward, even when it's really, really difficult to do so in our life right now.

    @Gina - you're not a dick; you're just real.

    # January 17 2011, 22:43

    Beth United States said:

    BethI clearly yell more than my kids, my husband, my neighbors or I would like. Guilty as the knee-jerk reaction is charged.

    I have tried peaceful, I have tried forceful.

    The ONLY smacking I have ever done has been a hand, in an effort to deter from danger (about to touch a hot burner on the stove, and it was as much "smacking the hand away" as it was "smacking") but I will confess to having threatened a LOT more than is cool.

    Still, the words "smackdown" and "small children" in the same sentence echoes of developmental violence and trauma. A little "fearful respect" is one thing, but I would never, ever expect my kids to respect me if I did not show them the same.

    # January 17 2011, 23:05

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    # January 17 2011, 23:17

    Marilyn @ A Lot of Loves Canada said:

    Marilyn @ A Lot of LovesThere's a lot of great tips in this post. For me, I really like my own space. This need means I feel that 2pm stress quite keenly. I find above all, that quiet time for all of us really helps us all make it through the day as peacefully as possible.

    # January 18 2011, 00:26

    Yelli Germany said:

    YelliWe have ALL been there. I find when I can remove my self from the situation, it makes all of the difference. Although my 4.5YO doesn't usually watch TV, if I need some time to regain my sanity, a "Diego" DVD can be a life-saver (and I try not to feel guilty knowing what the other alternative might be). Thanks for the other tips! They are very helpful!

    # January 18 2011, 04:43

    Pandora L. MacLean-Hoover United States said:

    Pandora L. MacLean-HooverWow...I feel for all of you, truly.
    While I recognize the complexities and differences that exist you in your own homes and with your respective children, it seems you share one thing in common: the desire to parent well.

    Here's a simple, portable tool. Be confident and learn about your child's age appropriate needs and capabilities.

    I say one thing more often than anything else to stressed parents and grandparents who seek my counseling support. STOP asking your young children questions! It blows their little Black and White Thinking circuit boards.

    As a much healthier version of a "Smack Down," they need you to be consistently "in charge/decisive" for just about everything for quite some time.

    Don't worry about them developing their own sense of self. It will come later and healthier with a good foundation.

    You must be their expert, their all knowing Big Person. You must believe and behave as though you confidently know one thing....even what you don't know exceeds what they do so go with it.

    Quick Story: A very stressed Mom had to bring her active 3 year old in for a session, no babysitter. He played beautifully in my office, while we talked, for about 20 minutes. Then, he threw Mr. Potato Head.

    Mom said, "Do you want to break Mr. Potato Head?" The little guy escalated into a red-faced scream.

    I suggested Mom avoid asking questions.

    Mom listened, nodded and looked at her son, "Do you want a time out?" He threw the rest of his toys.

    "Stop asking him questions," I reminded her.

    She then said, "Do you want me to pick you up?" The child just collapsed into a fit of screaming and thrashing around on the floor.

    Children need their parents to be the experts, to know what they need. Asking the child, quite frankly, conveys a message that you don't know and, therefore, aren't the "all knowing" Big Person they need.

    They simply need someone who is going to provide a fundamental building block (safety and security) for their early development: the world is a safe place because the Big Person makes it that way.

    Asking them for their input, as a way of being nice, at a young age, isn't as efficient and consistent with their developmental needs as being confident and decisive.

    For example, when this woman's son first threw Mr. Potato Head, a better response would have been to attend to his non-verbal need swiftly and with confidence.

    While inconvenient for our attempt at have a 45 minute adult session, perhaps 20 minutes of really nice play was all he had in him.

    Speaking to him in directives as compared to questions would have made a huge difference. I told her to pick him up and be a confident Mom who demonstrated she was in control and knew he was upset and how to soothe him. He responded immediately by listening to her and allowing her to be the expert, relieved she had switched from asking (not knowing) to telling (knowing). Even when he fussed, I encouraged her to tell him she was there, knew what to do and everything was OK.

    Honestly and with empathy, when I hear statements like, "they wouldn't let me take a shower by myself," the power differential has shifted away from confidence. The children sense that the decision is being left to them, because it is, and behave according to their developmental level. Yikes.

    Knowledge of these levels is an enormous benefit to parents and children. Once you know what they need at specific ages, asking (as a way of role modeling what you want them to do) will be something you confidently know must wait until they are much older.

    A good rule of thumb is to think about what level of decision making you would really put to your child at their specific age. What do they really know about the world? Trust me, they want you to be the one in the know.

    A great resource is "How Much is Enough?" by Jean Illsley Clarke, or check out www.Overindulgence.info

    Hope this helps.

    # January 18 2011, 08:33

    Sarah United States said:

    SarahTOOOOTTTAAALLLLYYYYYYY

    # January 18 2011, 16:57

    Heather Canada said:

    HeatherMy youngest doesn't talk yet (or grab stuff) so we haven't had any fighting here.....yet.  I know we aren't far away though!

    # January 19 2011, 00:01

    Lauren @ Hobo Mama United States said:

    Lauren @ Hobo MamaI have so been there. Thanks for the calm and respectful advice for how to navigate through. The respect you show is both for your children and for your own needs, and I really appreciate that balance.

    @Gina: We'll plan whole days around how best to amuse our 3-year-old — and then he goes off on one little thing that he didn't like (yesterday it was that he had orange and vanilla ice cream in the same cone instead of two different cones — can't you hear the tiny violins playing?), and suddenly he tells us that he's had a horrible day and everything we did for him is ruined. My husband and I have come to the conclusion that children are born ungrateful and self-centered — not in the pejorative sense we've given those words, but just that they truly do take and take and feel they deserve to. Since I haven't fully grown out of that myself, I try to let it roll off my back. It's hard, though!

    # January 19 2011, 16:07

    Toni United States said:

    ToniPandora, you must not have children...

    # January 19 2011, 22:50

    Pandora L. MacLean-Hoover, LICSW United States said:

    Pandora L. MacLean-Hoover, LICSWHi Toni,

    Your comment is understandable. I believe parenting is one of the most difficult jobs.

    None of my three children came with handbooks. My daughter was born 29 years ago. My sons are 27 and 23. It seemed that whatever I learned with one didn't work the same way with another. My daughter's married and I am now the proud grandmother to a four month old grandson.

    I had no family help when my kids were little. I truly remember being sleep deprived and grumpy at times. In fact, when my oldest son was about 1 and my daughter was 3, I realized I hadn't been smiling very often. (He didn't sleep through the night until 10 1/2 months due to medical issues.) I reassessed. I was not having the fun with motherhood I had so wanted. Some things had to change. Creating a bedtime routine and sticking to it changed things dramatically. When we had our third child three years later, the older kids were a terrific help. We had feared "starting the baby stuff all over" but it really wasn't like that.

    I have learned from the many mistakes I've made. I wish I had known more about developmental stages when I was raising my children.

    These blog opportunities are terrific for sharing information and helping one another through the tough times!

    # January 20 2011, 00:14

    ToughMom United States said:

    ToughMomI totally agree with Pandora. I took my 3 YO to a mortgage closing and she sat quietly coloring the whole time (about an hour) because I raised her to be this way. I get that alot from parents of my kid's peers...the questions for the children when they misbehave! When your kid does something unacceptable (throwing a toy) the first thing you do should not be to ask a damn question, it should be to firmly tell them NO! All this about planning "whole days around how best to amuse our 3-year-old" is crazy. Then you wonder why they are brats? Going off on the ice cream flavor/2 cones thing? Unless the kid is autistic or mentally disabled, you've got to shut that shit down. My kid drifted into this the other day when her veggie burger got ketchup on the bun and she was whining about it. I'm like, you eat ketchup, you eat burgers, there's no reason why you can't just eat that part of the bun that has them both on it. I won't tolerate ridiculously idiosyncratic, whiny, picky behavior. I told her, firmly, just that and told her to eat the damn burger and stop being ridiculous. She did. By "smack down" I don't mean beating your kids. However, if a kid spit on my head or otherwise tried to do some physical mischief they knew damn well was wrong while I was trying to accomplish something else (take care of the baby) I don't think one sharp crack on the ass would be wrong. My kid is very well-behaved. I consider myself an AP parent, for the most part, except for my degree of strictness when its needed. I think that the combination of close bonding (cosleep, extended BF, cuddling, letting them be autonomous when you can) with strictness and high expectations for them acting like little empathetic and civilized humans (age appropriate) works best for me. A child who throws a fit when you have tried to give them something nice need to have it explained to them firmly that mom and dad did "A" as a treat and they should be grateful or they won't get any more treats and that THEY ruined the nice family time. I can't believe the way people spoil their kids and then act so bewildered at why the kids are A-class brats.

    # January 21 2011, 08:00

    kelly @kellynaturally United States said:

    kelly @kellynaturally@ToughMom - While I appreciate you clarifying "smack down", I still disagree that a small child ever needs a ..."sharp crack on the a**".  Young children act in all sorts of ways as they are learning to navigate the world which is ALL NEW to them.  Responding with violence or anger only teaches violence and anger.  Yes, it may produce results in the short term which some parents might find desirable, i.e. "well behaved" or "quiet" kids - but it comes at a great risk to their sense of self-worth, their ability to creatively problem solve, their desire to explore and learn about the full range of human emotion and response.  If their idiosyncracies (as befuddling or irritating as they can be at times) are always immediately shut down, they will learn that those opinions - THEIR OWN opinions - are unimportant.  That's a life-long lesson I wouldn't be willing to teach in favor of an <i>always</i> well-behaved kid.  

    I appreciate your desire to participate in the discussion; I welcome differing view points and I understand not everyone is going to see eye-to-eye on child-rearing.

    That being said, it's one thing to describe the way <i>you've</i> parented or things <i>you personally</i> have observed or learned, and quite another to come here and shoot down other commenters by using the unique and personal stories they've shared as a way to bolster your own point in a mean-spirited fashion.  

    This is a place for open dialog; being disrespectful or unkind isn't acceptable, and any further comments which fall into either of those categories will be deleted.

    # January 21 2011, 10:15

    ToughMom United States said:

    ToughMomSorry, I just meant to use those as EXAMPLES, freshly cited from the discussion. The parents seem at a loss as to why their kids are unpleasant and the answer is right there before them: they are not teaching the children how NOT to be unpleasant. Kids need to learn that they are NOT the center of the universe. That mom and dad have feelings that matter, too. If you don't want to be physical, I understand and respect that, as I first noted, I don't espouse spankings as ideal, I just don't think they're so bad either. What I am hearing from most of the comments, though, is that the parents do need to be firmer. As far as nurturing personalities and such, I think that parents need to be smart enough to know that there are opinions and idiosyncrasies to respect and allow and then there are times when their kids are being manipulative jerks or are really just being too picky. You have to teach them they can't be so picky and they can't have what they want all the time. The one who observed "born ungrateful and self-centered — not in the pejorative sense we've given those words, but just that they truly do take and take and feel they deserve to..." well, yes...and you have to TEACH them not to be that way...and while I agree that violence and anger should be avoided, I disagree that "responding with violence or anger only teaches violence and anger"...it does also teach that certain unappealing behaviors elicit negative responses they don't like, so don't do those behaviors anymore. Until they can understand nuance, sometimes you just have to shut the bad behavior down.

    # January 21 2011, 13:33

    Lauren @ Hobo Mama United States said:

    Lauren @ Hobo Mama@Tough Mom: I disagree with you, but I don't necessarily want to be pulled into an internet brawl. You're suggesting that my child isn't pleasant because he's a normal three-year-old who sometimes is picky? He's a lovely kid, and everyone who knows him thinks so, despite his occasional age-appropriate meltdowns. I think having a 3-year-old who'll sit quietly through a mortgage closing is an idiosyncrasy, based either on your child's innate personality (I was also a color-workbooks type of child) or the fear you've instilled in her (I reacted very obediently when there was fear of punishment involved). As much as you think it's your perfect parenting, I have a not-so-secret wish that your other child will show you differently. My brothers, for example, gave my parents a run for their money, despite the same strict parenting they practiced on all of us.

    I also don't appreciate the language you use to describe children: "manipulative jerks," "A-class brats." It shows me that you have a large degree of anger and control in regards to children, so I can see that we'll never see eye to eye. I consider children worthy of respect as people in their own right.

    For instance, my son's upset over the ice cream lasted about 20 seconds. I refused to get him a new one, and he ended up happily eating it with me, and our day out ended on a positive note. I don't see that as taking so much additional effort on my part. I could have thrown it away or smacked him or eaten it by myself, and what would that have proven? That I'm bigger and have the power to make him miserable. I don't see that as a happier outcome, for either of us, in the short-term or long-term. Then he'd just grow up with the mindset that his job as an adult is to make children miserable.

    I was trying to commiserate with Gina by sharing a similar story. Sympathy is something I enjoy practicing.

    # January 21 2011, 14:32

    kelly @kellynaturally United States said:

    kelly @kellynaturally@ToughMom - all kids are *sometimes* unpleasant and often that sometimes seems to occur at the least convenient times (for adults). A fact of childhood & of parenting, regardless of how you raise your children is that ALL children act out at times (just like all adults act out at times) - they all start and become embroiled in their own storms - not always because of the way they were or weren't parented - but because they are individuals with their own thoughts and emotions and bodies, operating under their own power. It isn't convenient or easy to guide children calmly through their storms, but things worth doing well, aren't.

    My goal as a parent isn't to wear down my kid until they fall in line with what I want & they stop being too picky for MY taste, nor is it my goal to teach my kid that all "bad" behavior is unacceptable at all times, and they aren't as important as they believe themselves to be.

    It might be tempting to think this is my goal - when I've had a bad day, when I'm tired, when I've "had enough", when I have things I'd rather be doing... but then when I'm in a more peaceful, accepting mood, I realize that less desirable but perfectly age-appropriate kid behaviors are temporary, as are parental "quick fixes
    , and my long range goals and bigger picture parenting techniques are more important: gently and peacefully raising children who are confident, who learn to navigate the challenging waters of human emotion, and who are empathetic and understanding and helpful to those around them who may not act in ways that they approve of.

    # January 21 2011, 15:32

    ToughMom United States said:

    ToughMomOK, well, now you're changing the tune of the "severity" of the meltdowns and you're backtracking. That's fine. I get it, sympathizing, empathizing. Cool. But, be warned, not all "emotions" need to be expressed at full mast at all times. I think there is a balance between being overly expressive at the wrong times and having self-control and kids are done better service by being taught this. And, some things are just wrong. Spitting on your mom is wrong. Period. I totally get the respecting kids thing, and I just think that coddling them is not respecting them. Respecting them is having high expectations. People tend to rise to their expectations. Sorry if I sound cranky, I just experience too many people's ill-behaved children (play dates, public places, etc.) and it's frustrating.

    # January 21 2011, 16:20

    Natasha United States said:

    NatashaI'm with ToughMom. Granted, my child is only 16mo, but I've been a skating coach for over 15yrs and have had ample opportunity to see various parenting styles and the kids those styles produce.

    I co-sleep, still breastfeed, and hug my kid to the point of ridiculousness.

    But "no" is a word he knows.

    We all love our kids, but we also need to be able to admit when those lovely kids are being jerks.

    # January 21 2011, 16:23

    Dionna @ Code Name: Mama United States said:

    Dionna @ Code Name: MamaA very intuitive parent just left a comment on another topic that applies to the comment thread here:

    "It is not good when a parent teaches a child that their good behavior is to keep the adults pacified."

    I am firmly in the middle of the gentle discipline camp, and I can't think of any instance where I (personally) feel it would be appropriate to strike a child.
    Where violence can be used, so too can gentleness, love, and respect - and the gentleness, love and respect will always result in a longer-term benefit for the relationship.

    I'd have to agree with Lauren that sitting quietly at command is not what I think of when I ponder "normal" or "age appropriate" 3 yr old behavior. Three year olds are only just beginning to really understand the vast reaches their emotions can take them, and even moreso, they are learning how to appropriately control them.

    Hitting a child into emotional submission does nothing to teach a child how to handle their own big feelings. In fact, I daresay it will only teach them that big feelings should be met with violence. Or that big feelings are to be feared.

    Finally, we as adults have many moments of meltdown, moments of anger, moments where we feel overwhelmed. Thankfully, most of us have learned how to vent our feelings in socially acceptable ways. And by "socially acceptable," I do not mean that we swallow them and never talk about them or act on them in ways that do not hurt ourselves or others. Feelings are meant to be expressed. Children should not be bullied into repressing their emotions and needs.

    # January 21 2011, 16:28

    Kari Niedermaier United States said:

    Kari NiedermaierI know book recommendations are probably the last thing anyone wants when you're frustrated NOW with the daily grind of parenting young children but I still find a good book a nice release, especially when I'm at my wits end. Currently, I'm enjoying Spiritual Parenting, an older book by Hugh & Gayle Prather. Basically, their premise is that we can't change our children's behaviour until we recognize their inherent individual spiritual nature AND are willing to change with them (see things we didn't see before, change some expectations, etc.). And then two of my favorite "in the trenches" books that I try to re-read every couple of years are Adventures in Gentle Discipline by Hillary Flower and How to Talk so Kids with Listen and Listen so Kids will talk by Adele Faber. Both have lots of hand-on tools and focus on the entire parenting relationship rather than band-aids for specific situations. We used to do a "gentle discipline" parenting group at my house before the twins came... where we'd discuss two chapters in a book we all agreed upon, mostly it was just a good way to reconnect with other parents and be reminded of our parenting intentions. Anyone up for a virtual version?  

    # January 21 2011, 16:46

    Dionna @ Code Name: Mama United States said:

    Dionna @ Code Name: MamaKari - we just did Playful Parenting over at my site, and we're gearing up for Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids - I'd love for you to come over and help get discussions started for our online book club!

    # January 21 2011, 17:14

    ToughMom United States said:

    ToughMomMake no mistake, my 3 YO doesn't sit quietly at all times, but she has been taught well enough (and I am good enough at managing her) so that she can do so when it is required, within reason. I'm not saying I didn't have to acknowledge something she drew during that hour, or give her a refresh on a snack, etc. But, she was not a disturbance and for the most part, yes, sat there and drew/colored quietly. At other times, when it's appropriate, she is exuberant and goes crazy. It's my job to teach her the difference, and at 3, she is smart enough to learn.

    # January 21 2011, 17:46

    Sarah Canada said:

    SarahI have mixed thoughts on this whole issue. I tend to agree with Kelly, but having two boys myself I have seen how things can get TOTALLY out of control in no time. I am not against the occasional spanking, I was spanked plenty, and it was usually merited. My boys have hardly been spanked, but it has happened for things like hitting the baby, climbing out onto the roof (long story) , attempting to run into traffic..the very dangerous stuff. I tend to think yelling and threatening are actually MORE harmful than the occasional spanking. Yelling and threatening on a regualr basis do just as much to undermine a persons self esteem as the occassional spank. I personally think the whole spanking issue is SO SO SO totally overblown. It is like this dividing line where the good mommies swear they will never spank, are more attached etc, and the moms who have spanked feel guilty and say oh well whatever I am not one of "those other good mommies I geuss". I really do believe that children need to know "who the boos is" they need boundaries, consistancy, and for parents to be firm but fair. There is nothing fair about spitting on another person and this little person NEEDS to know it is NOT allowed. I personally would take him, put him in his room for a good long while, and take ALL of the toys out of his room. After the "time out" was done I would have him put all of the toys back and clean up the room. That is fist offence. Second offence would be up to the room and to bed. Third...spanking..yep I said it.
    The key is NEVER spank in anger, never threaten your child physically or emotionally, never do the bare bum spanking. One smak on the rear and into the corner for a time out. It will stop. There I am old school and proud of it, now eat me alive (:

    # January 21 2011, 18:38

    Galit Breen United States said:

    Galit BreenKelly, I thought this was an honest and authentic explanation of: We've so all been there. The heightened mood/tone/reaction. Yes, yes and yes.

    My favorite part of your tips was that even when you were explaining yourself within the apology, you never went to "I was mad because you..." I will admit to having said that before (Don't judge.) and it left the worst taste in my mouth.

    Thank you for the you'renotalone sentiment, for the how-tos and for the "plan.". All are much appreciated.

    # January 23 2011, 17:57

    Pandora L. MacLean-Hoover, LICSW United States said:

    Pandora L. MacLean-Hoover, LICSWMore stories...
    Years ago I facilitated a Parent's Support Group for stressed parents who wanted additional tools for parenting. Some parents were mandated to attend through the Courts and others were motivated voluntarily to learn new ways for parenting.
    One evening a Dad proclaimed, "I'm all for spanking my kids. I got spanked, didn't hurt me a bit, and I turned out ok." I responded with, "Ok, I'll meet you where you are. Tell me what your goal was in spanking your son?" He said, "To get him to stop doing what he was doing wrong...which it did! He stopped." I decided to acknowledge that his goal was to stop his child's unwanted behavior. Then I asked him if he understood that he had also taught his child how to deal with upset. He asked me what I meant. I explained that kids learn more through indirect teaching than when we teach them directly. I suggested to him that he also role modeled when a person becomes sufficiently upset with someone's behavior, they just hit the other person to get them to stop doing what they are doing. He thought for a moment, and to his credit asked, "Is that why he hits his brother and why I have gotten calls from the school saying my kid is hitting other kids?" I agreed that there was a strong likelihood that, yes, it had been learned (unintentionally) through Dad's hitting that this was a perfectly reasonable way to get someone to stop doing what you didn't want them to do. He confessed that this "influence" had not occurred to him. The group then had a lively discussion about alternative ways to correct and redirect children when they misbehave. I was really impressed with the respectful exchanges that took place that evening. People's frustrations were acknowledged and supported as the real and present challenges that come with the territory of parenting. It is NOT and easy job!

    # January 24 2011, 23:32

    ToughMom United States said:

    ToughMomAgain, I don't really espouse spanking as an ideal parenting tool, but I think for "normal" parents, to do it now and then is not really a big, horrible deal. Really, for some children (mine) you only have to do it a handful of times when they're young to get the message across. My siblings and I were all spanked and we didn't go around hitting our PEERS. We understood it was a parental punishment for bad behavior. I think different families and different children have different effective ways of dealing with discipline. The results bear themselves out for me, though. And, my child is no less exuberant, exploratory, inquisitive or whatnot. But, she is not a royal PITA!

    # January 25 2011, 16:04

    ToughMom United States said:

    ToughMomAll that said, I thought the original article/post was really insightful and could be helpful to any parent in their toolbox of ways to relate to their kids...

    # January 25 2011, 21:57

    Jesse United States said:

    JesseGreat insight. I think this is more evidence for us to take care of ourselves as much as possible so we have some reserve energy and emotional balance to handle unexpected crises. Sleep, eat, express emotions and be affectionate.

    # February 13 2011, 14:36

    KellyNaturally.com said:

    trackbackNavigating the Rough Seas of Parenting

    Navigating the Rough Seas of Parenting

    # May 02 2011, 20:43

    KellyNaturally.com said:

    trackbackA Good Childhood

    A Good Childhood

    # February 06 2014, 22:32

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