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    October 25, 2012

    You can tell Phillip's been away

    I'm really angry at my kids tonight. That probably means I shouldn't be writing here. OH WELL!

    When I was little, just a look from my parents could make me cry. I don't really know what I was like when I was Jack and Molly's age, but what I do remember from the times I was in trouble is a Hyper Awareness of my parents' moods - if they were upset with us, which one of us they were upset with, and what I could do to make it better. 

    It is really weird to me - and BEYOND frustrating - that Jack and Molly seem wholly unaffected by my anger. 

    Oh, they'll stop and look at me, they'll calm down, Molly's chin might even wobble. But even if I've just shrieked my fool head off, which I HAVE been known to do, the minute I turn my back it's playtime again. They might not be doing anything to get them in trouble, but they're giggling or diving right back into a game and being silly and I'm all, "WTF CHILDREN. I JUST YELLED AT YOU. ACT LIKE IT!"

    So I wonder, you know? Do they just not KNOW how to behave when they're "cruising for a bruising"? Is that something I have to teach them? I try. I tell them what appropriate behaviors are when they're in trouble and need to get back into my good graces. Cleaning up quickly and quietly, not laughing and dancing around and making an even bigger mess. Because sometimes I can tell Molly to do something ten times, in the most direct language I can think of, straight to her face, in any tone of voice, and she will either continue stand there looking blank, or do something ELSE. I'll be furious about a huge paper and markers mess that they're taking forever to pick up, and Jack will ask me for a snack while there's still garbage all over the floor. Maybe they really don't GET IT. 

    I've also wondered if I'm just not mad ENOUGH. This seems crazy to me, because I get plenty mad. I have lost my voice from shrieking at them, hand to God. I'm not proud of it, but I swear, sometimes I don't know how else to get across the very basic fact that I AM MAD! And it STILL doesn't seem to matter. It's like they're just waiting for me to get it out of my system. 

    I am oh so slowly starting to think: what's the point? This isn't working. It just makes me angrier and more tired and voiceless. What works (when I am on top of things, when I'm not exhausted, when I'm in control) is an instant and matter-of-fact anvil coming down on whatever/whoever the issue is. Immediate card taken away, immediate removal, immediate loss of whichever treat or privilege is in contention. And I don't have to get mad about it. I just have to be quick enough and solid enough and that's it. Done. Boom. No iPad for you. No dessert. No story before bed. No Netflix. THE END. 

    But I'm just like... SERIOUSLY? Do you not SEE that you're in trouble? Did you REALLY just ask me for that? Did you REALLY just talk back to me AGAIN? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? 

    What is wrong with ME?

    I can't figure it out. 

    Is it baffling because I'm tired and lazy and I would much rather discipline with an Angry Stare than a behavior chart and thinking up things to take away and verbally shutting Jack down every time he opens his mouth (WHICH IS A LOT)? Or because I was the sort of kid instantly cowed by my dad's angry voice? Am I not scary enough? I can't BE more scary! OMG I AM SO TIRED.

    My kids are SUPER GOOD at school- polite, kind, cheerful, obedient. They're both rule followers. They both respect adults and are very aware of the kids who don't. I am not at all worried about their behavior anywhere besides my own home. I'm not even WORRIED about it, I'm just TIRED. I feel utterly ineffective and STYMIED. If someone got in MY face the way I occasionally get in JACK'S face I'd be a sobbing mess in the corner. 

    Jack? Toooootally different kind of kid. I am not equipped for this kind. 

    This is the sort of blog post that I publish and think, "Well, everyone who reads THAT is going to think [UNFLATTERING DESCRIPTION OF MY PARENTING SKILLS]" but... I don't know. I don't really care tonight. I just feel like writing out the frustration, no matter how it sounds. I know we're fine and I know things will be fine and I'm a good mom and my kids are decent little humans, but MAN, there are days when I CANNOT figure it out. 

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    Comments

    It's because you are a 3! I was the saw way with my parents. They just had to say they were disappointed in me and I would be crushed. Got my name on the board once in fifth grade and am still upset about it. Kids like us are easy in the discipline area. Our kids- not 3s. Totally with you on this discipline frustration. My kids and I have not had a good week. Hugs!

    This morning, I screamed at the boys to, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, get out of the bedroom. I also swatted Beastie's bottom for trying to climb Mike's gigantic dresser like a rock wall. (I had visions of the thing toppling over and crushing him.) When I yelled, Rhys, who has two extra years of listening to me and is generally a compliant kid, removed himself immediately and looked a little shamefaced/pouty. Beastie, on the other hand, had to be herded from the room. I think some kids just have a contradictory, fiercely independent streak.

    Oh, this is so familiar. Haley is a lot like me (and I'm a lot like you), but Noah will be the death of me. Doesn't care if I'm mad or yelling, just waiting until I'm finished so he can move on to the next pain-in-the-ass thing. Blargh!

    Were you in my house over the past couple of days? Or years, for that matter? Because that is my exact life with my child, and my exact life when I was a child. I never wanted to be in trouble and feel the wrath of my parents, and usually that was pretty good motivation to behave, or at the very least, reason to go into my room and cry. I can unleash the fury and my kid just doesn't get it. I will yell, I will take away privileges (and cards--I copied your discipline chart thing), I will even *gasp* dole out a spanking when it's really bad, and still, he will ignore me completely or, at best, he might sit there crying but still not listen to what I've asked him to do countless times. I don't get it. And I can almost give him a pass for the past couple days because he's got a cold and coughing hasn't let him sleep soundly, but still...it shouldn't take me asking a dozen times to get into the bathroom and get ready, when we do it EVERY. SINGLE. MORNING. Seriously.

    Ugh! I'm sorry, Maggie!

    If I get really angry at Anna ... She kicks her anger up a notch. Totally doesn't work with her. Only thing that works (for now) is threats to take away favorite toys. Every kid is so different.

    A paper came home from my kids preschool about a parenting and discipline method called love and logic. It said something like in the absence of anger the child will focus on the behavior but when the parent is angry the child just focuses on the anger. It also focuses on using logical consequences for actions. You just have to be willing to follow through. If you don't put your coat on, we don't go.

    Also, I dislike your chart because it is punitive. Instead of a chart that you fill up for good behaviors, you're focusing on the negative. Why not challenge yourself to see the good your kids are doing and show them you see it. You know that old saying, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar?

    In my house, it is the same way. When I get angry, it's almost as if i can see the thought bubbles over their heads: "oh, mommy is angry...well, that is her problem not ours!" I, too, was totally cowed by my own parents anger. But I also knew that they would back it up by spanking. Lots of spanking. I was utterly terrified of being spanked, which happened every day for any offense. I don't want to be that kind of parent; therefore, there is nothing to really be afraid of. I have read a book, though, that really works when I am able to control my emotions. Its called, "How to talk so kids will listen, and listen so kids will talk." I like it because it has very specific language to use, and by golly, the first time I tried it out my daughter stopped her tantrum and said, "Okay, mommmy." She was 3. Check it out :)

    Oh yes, I have been Angry with my kids. And it took me a long time to realize this, but nothing fuels their fire more. They LOVE seeing me angry. It's hilarious, apparently (I've had them both laugh out loud at my being angry). And if I thought I was angry BEFORE they laughed...

    But I also discovered the same thing you have: if I can stay calm (imperative) and dole out consequences consistently, the crazy-making behavior stops. Personally, I found this so rewarding that it helps reign in the angry a lot. (Not completely, of course.) I found the book 1-2-3 Magic to be useful in this regard.

    The other thing I eventually realized was that - long-term - I don't WANT them to react to my anger. I was also very sensitive to my parents' anger when growing up, and now I am overly sensitive to other people's moods. Now I don't know that that was anything other than genetics, and I definitely want my kids to be able to recognize other people's moods and respond appropriately, but I don't want them to be as sensitive as I am.

    I sometimes think I should trade kids with each of my girlfriends one day per week. We would all have such pleasant weeks since our own kids behave so much better for someone else! But...wait. What was bad about this idea? I forget.

    I LOVED the idea of Love and Logic when I first read those books. HOWEVER.
    1) It is very draining, on top of the child's already draining behavior, to have to think up choices and natural consequences all day long for a child who is going to refuse to pick one of the choices presented and require those consequences ALL DAY LONG.
    2) You're out of luck if your child doesn't care about ANYTHING: if you go somewhere or not, if you pack up the toys/books/clothes he won't put away, if he loses all TV/computer time/treats, etc.
    3) Sometimes it's hard to apply the natural consequences to only the child who has earned them when your family has to do everything as a group. (For instance, if we're planning to go somewhere, but 1 out of 5 children won't clean up his mess/change out of his pajamas/whatever reasonable thing I'm asking, I can't leave that child home alone, my husband can't stay with that child, and I can't get a babysitter.)

    Motherhood is RELENTLESS! We can only do our best. (hugs)

    I completely agree that love and logic is quite difficult to implement with more than 1 child. I would like to second How to talk so kids will listen by adele farber. One thing I noticed with my most difficult child, is that if i say it once and walk away - totally ignore him - he will do it with out any further requests. If I stand near him or ask him a second time, then it mostly escalates to 15 million times. (only a slight exaggeration.) 123 magic worked with my two oldest but has no impact on the younger 5. I can relate completely your situation. I struggle with implementing all the brilliant techniques I have read. So even tho I know the "right thing to do" I cant seem to draw on it at the right time.

    Yes...I can definitely relate. I have been known to SCREAM at Stephanie and she just stands there and blinks at me. (I am not proud of it either. And I always wonder why the heck can't she just listen the first time? Why do I always need to yell??????????)

    OMG this post.

    If you could hear how my two year old talks to me... she sasses like she's five, and I just. No clue.

    I don't think of myself as a hot-tempered person, but when somebody doesn't do what I ask? (Or worse, when somebody says "Sure" and then doesn't follow through?) I can go from zero to HULKSMASH in about half a second.

    It's good that you're thinking this through and figuring out what works for your particular personality and your particular kids.

    Oh man, when I was a kid I hated getting in trouble, it made me feel AWFUL. I was so freaking OBEDIENT. And my 4 1/2 year old? Not so much. He's extremely defiant, which my MIL has told me in a cheerful voice many times, "Oh, haha, that's exactly how daddy was at his age!" Thanks for the warning. On top of it all, last spring he was diagnosed with a mild case of SPD, so if we yell and scream at him, it makes him feel bad, but he's so emotionally sensitive, it causes a lot more harm than good in the long run. It's exhausting, trying to find a way to make him JUST LISTEN TO ME ALREADY, DAMMIT! and not poke at his sensitivities. P.S. We have all yelled at our kids. Anyone who says they don't is lying. I hope no one has made you feel bad for doing that. They are infuriating little creatures! A little yelling is a natural response.

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