To start, I’ve had five kids that are now 13 to 28 years old and I can’t remember punishing them in the old fashion sense ever.
Did I sing around them? Talk to their friends? Hug them in public?
Did I slug my 9 year old son in the arm (he remembers an upper cut to the face) when he tried to interrupt mother while the Scattergories game clock was ticking?
But did I spank them, humiliate them, ground them for days on end, take away their things?
Well, I did take away things sometimes. But not the way my mother did. My mother told me,”If you can’t keep your room clean you’ll live in a cell”
And at 9 years old she threw away most of my toys, breaking things over her knee in a rage as she did it. She ripped up my favorite “dress-up” dress, which SHE had actually painstakingly created for me out of an old light blue prom dress. She had hemmed each layer of tulle to graze the ground when I walked and she ripped it to shreds in front of me.
Ask me how long it took for me to keep a clean bedroom?
I know there are a lot of parents out there, who like me, are push overs and know they should be harder on their kids. Or parents that are drill sergeants and tiger mothers. But it’s not the kids we have to be harder on, it’s us.
If you take the time to be with your children as they learn there isn’t much punishment necessary.
When they are toddlers you have to be prepared to physically correct their course. If they are going somewhere they shouldn’t, you have to literally go pick them up. You say, “NO” and REDIRECT them to something positive.
It helps to have a kid friendly environment. Don’t put your child in a place that he’s set up to fail in.
I remember babysitting a child before I even had children. He was a 1 year old. He’d scooch around the room and everything he could touch I’d say,”Yes, yes, yes!” and everything he couldn’t touch I said,”No, no, no.”
HE thought it was the best game. No one had ever said yes before!
One of my more practical mothering tips is to make sure you give your child back 90% of what you ask them for.
Ever hear a parent say, “GIVE THAT TO ME!”
If you have taken away everything you ever asked your child for, there may be a time the baby is holding scissors and you say,”Give me that!” and he RUNS away because he REALLY wants them and you NEVER give anything back!
SO, when he’s holding a ball, a stuffed bunny, a book, a spoon you ask politely, “May I see that? Oh, that’s a big ball, a soft bunny, an interesting book. Here you go, you can have it back”
Now you are creating trust. And you are expanding their descriptive language.
When your child is pre-verbal you are in charge of how they might learn to express themselves and how they view the world.
If they fall and are startled, you can calmly say,
“Oh, that must have startled you. It’s ok, see?”
You wouldn’t scream as you jumped from your chair,
“OMG. ARE YOU HURT? ARE YOU BLEEDING?”
Because that’s not what happened. They are reading your emotions. They follow your lead.
Even if they are bleeding you still stay as calm as you can. Luckily with blood flow, first aid calls for you to cover it with pressure immediately. By the time the blood clots most wounds look a lot less life threatening.
Children are SO aware of everything, SO early.
I remember my daughter under three telling me she wanted a gun.
I said, “A gun? You don’t mean that?”
Yes, she did. “I want a gun that hurts the peeples.”
Gah! I had thrown away my cowboy cap gun with the simulated ivory handle with Texas Longhorns on it, because I was going to be a peaceful mother.
And my precious two-year old was asking for one! I had no idea where she saw or heard it. But she did.
They will get to the age when their brain is full of other things and other people but at the start it’s ALL about you.
Remember I said we are the universe to our children?
In Mormon theology, which is what I was practicing as a new mother, I learned that we are here to practice to live with God. We are learning his rules and if we want to be near him we have to follow his rules.
He can visit us wherever we are but he can’t have us coming in screaming profanity and mucking up his streets of gold.
My children learned very early on if they wanted to be with ME, they followed my rules.
No jumping on momma’s bed when she asks you to stop.No whining, no screaming, no biting, no hitting. Use your words. Or go be alone.
If you can’t play nice with other children. Go be alone.
I WAS a big intervener in my children’s fights. Not to pull them away or cast blame on the other, but to facilitate an understanding between them.
They are young. They don’t have all the words. Help them with words.
“Are you feeling left out?”
“Did you want to play another game?”
“Are you cold?”
“Are you hungry?”
My 13 year old told me recently that, “A lot of people feel annoyed and are grumpy at others when really what they are feeling is “pee stress.” Just go the bathroom and you’ll feel better!”
Can’t tell you how many times lately I’ve told someone, “I’m sorry! I have pee stress! Give me a minute.” I added that because it may take a few probing questions to find the answer.
“Are you scared?”
“Are you homesick?”
“Can I make you feel more at home so we don’t have to wake up your mother at midnight?”
But back to course correction, which is what we should be doing rather than laying out stiff punishments. Think about it. Our children are like defendants with no representation. Some of us mete out punishments harden criminals aren’t receiving.
“NO TALKING TO YOUR FRIENDS FOR A MONTH!”
I think prisoner’s get a daily/weekly phone call or visit. They also get an advocate. In an ideal world that is what two parents are for. Keeps them from getting the hanging judge all the time.When you are at your angriest at your kids, that’s when you,
Go be alone.
Scary monster parent doesn’t live with God either. Call your partner, a friend. Ask them, “Am I crazy to be this mad? Is this my hormones? Am I projecting on them?”
And a good partner will usually tell you, that you aren’t crazy to be that mad, but maybe you are being scary. And they calm you down and back you up, that you are both disappointed. Which is why you were really mad in the first place.
We feel very strongly our children are reflections of us and how well we parent. But they aren’t our reflections. They are fellow travelers who need to know the ropes.
I don’t believe in humiliating my kids. I don’t call them names in front of their friends. I usually don’t even get mad enough to send their friend home. Might as well teach them both a lesson. I’ll call them out. I’ll use peer pressure.
“You allowed to talk to YOUR mother that way, friend of son?”
“Do YOU feel sorry for my son?”
“Please share. You know we have more cookies where that came from.”
I have found if you show your child even by humor how silly what they are doing is, they usually stop.
It works both ways. My oldest son can impersonate me so well that it makes me cringe and laugh out loud because he has captured some weakness I have. We can both laugh and I change MY behavior.
My mother once followed me around my high school track on her hands and knees (really long story) crying in the dark, “I can’t change.”
I vowed then and there not to be that kind of mother. I can change, I have changed and I will continue to change. And so will your child. Grandpa Dr. used to say, “No stage lasts more than 6 months. By the time you are used to it. They have changed.”
I’ve often said if we could grow spiritually as much as a baby grows physically in a year we’d ALL be enlightened by now.
Above all else I believe in mercy.
I allowed my children go to special events even if I had grounded them. Life is very short and many things only happen once. Didn’t want them to miss the good things in life or punish the birthday boy or girl by denying them the company of my entertaining children!
Your children will recall when you were merciful as well as when you weren’t. We’re teaching by example remember.
I guess the biggest weapon I’ve had as a mother is my ability to talk through awkward and uncomfortable moments. I believe that there is little we can’t talk about. It’s been a lie perpetuated that we can’t talk about sex, money or politics in polite society. We need more talking in polite society. Knowledge is power. My next post.
I haven’t been afraid to tell my child the truth about all things as I knew them to be. Not believed them to be, but knew them to be. As for the mysteries I didn’t know, I shared what I thought and what I hoped for. But they knew I didn’t know everything.
One of the most rewarding parts of parenthood is when your children teach you something you didn’t know.
And then you realize how equal as humans you are. You aren’t their God really. You only know a little bit more in the scope of things than your children do. You don’t have all the answers.
And that’s a discussion that comes up around four years old, when your child learns you don’t know everything, life isn’t magic and it’s a one way street. And even though they have wanted to be a big boy or girl since they started on life’s path they now realize there is no going back to being a baby. And that’s a scary thing.
We’ve been encouraging them all along,
“What a big boy you are! Look what you can do.”
“Eat like a big girl. Don’t be a baby.”
But they are babies. So let them act like babies occasionally while they can. Don’t be surprised when your four year old suddenly wants to be held like a baby. Or suck from a bottle “to pretend”. We all feel better in the fetal position sometimes.
Lastly let me opine on the “being a parent not a friend” controversy. We hear a lot of the strictest parents saying, “It’s not my job to be his friend!”Really?
- a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.
- a person who gives assistance; patron; supporter: friends of the Boston Symphony.
- a person who is on good terms with another; a person who is not hostile: Who goes there? Friend or foe?
- a member of the same nation, party, etc
Check, check, check .
I am my children’s first friend, most loyal friend and everlasting friend.
The world punishes us all.
Be ME kind,