Thursday, June 21, 2012

Know When to Scold 'Em, Know When to Walk Away

I am so angry with JD right now that I had to walk away for fear of doing something regrettable.

He was telling Bunny to put the stick of a flag-shaped noisemaker in her mouth. While not a good game to play, this should not cause me to blow my top.

The best advice, of course, would be to tell Bunny to remove it from her mouth and explain to both of them simply but with a tone of importance the dangers of putting objects in one's mouth. Then ask, "Is this something you put in your mouth?" They respond, No. "What do you put in your mouth?" Food.

A few days ago, though, Bunny came crying to me. JD had stuck a sword in her mouth. Not a real sword. It was actually the plastic shaft of a play golf club that had come unscrewed from the club head. Now, it was a grey, tubular stick about two feet long. There was no damage like bleeding other other visible damage. However, I did not react calmly and demonstrate the situation with a degree of reason.

I scared the shit out of him. First, I yelled about the danger. Then I yelled about whether he would like it if I stuck it in his mouth. Then I held him and held the "sword" and asked him again, as if I was going to stick it in his mouth. Then he got to spend some time in his room.

I was scared that he would hurt Bunny or someone else and wanted to scare the behavior out of him. Clearly, it didn't work.

Again, the lesson is to me, not to the kids. And it's something that I've theorized in the last year or so: hitting, spanking, yelling and other aggressive parenting tactics may curb the behavior in the moment, but such tactics do nothing to change behavior over the long term.

I do believe that there is a time when I have to give them an attitude adjustment. Those times are when their behavior is catastrophically dangerous and must be stopped immediately. I yelled a bit when the kids tried to go into the street after a toy. Or rough-housing near stairs. To me, those are times when the gentle approach isn't good enough or strong enough. A good dressing-down in those situations did not adjust long-term behavior, but it did get them to stop at that time. Once the behavior has been stopped for that instance, my takeaway is that the child needs more instruction about that behavior. Later in the day or the next day, a lesson about staying out of the street and proper street-crossing behavior is imperative. A lesson about falling down the stairs and general stairs safety is a must. When I'm at my very best, I give a quick, attention-getting yell, like, "HEY!" Then I return to calm and have an intelligent, rational discussion.

But expecting their behavior to be permanently altered after screaming or even a spanking is having unrealistic expectations. What is your hobby? Mine is golf. That would mean that I need a coach who, after seeing a flaw in my fundamentals that had been taught to me, screams at me or even smack me and then expect me to hit the ball correctly henceforth.

Call attention to the flaw, help the student come to the correct solution, practice, review periodically.

In this case, I again need to ask JD if things go in people's mouths. Then we should probably go though many different objects. Then we should talk about things that we do put in our mouth and when they go in our mouth. Then some positive reinforcement with a treat.

We are all human with limits in our patience and various reactions when that patience limit is reached and surpassed. One of the most difficult things as a parent is to know when we're getting to that point and find a way to redirect our negative reaction so that we can deal with the situation rationally and intellectually. The challenge is finding that voice inside of you that tells you when your limits are being reached - and then take action. Being strong (taking action) feels good. Being weak (failing to take action) feels bad. And nobody is perfect. Some of us ask God for help. Some of us tell ourselves that we can do it on our own. Whatever method gives you the strength to be your best, use it. Your children will thank you, you will be happier and spend less time regretting your emotionally charged negative outbursts.

And after writing this, I'm not angry and am prepared to deal with JD in a rational, intellectual manner.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hanging art

These are the kinds of the items I find hanging all over the house. Silly JD