Friday, November 06, 2009

Parenting Issues

Sorry this post is so long and somewhat discombobulated, but I just have to release everything in my head.

Please know, that I’m sharing this post only to encourage other parents going through the same thing. Because I know how much encouragement I need on a regular basis … and recently at our women’s retreat, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I realized that it’s been particularly difficult and rather discouraging raising a child at our older age, because all of our friends/peers currently have TEENAGERS or COLLEGE-AGED kids and are unable to commiserate, as they are in a different stage of life than we are. They are at an established authoritarian place in their relationships with their kids, as well as becoming their friends. I, on the other hand, have a 4 year old that likes to push every boundary. Some might think its cute… but I just wither inside when he misbehaves terribly in public.

On the other hand, all of our friends that DO have a child either the same age or close to Hunter’s age are all in their twenties and early thirties. They have energy. They stay up all hours of the night. They can chase, and chase, and chase their kids, while keeping up with their energy levels. Their minds are not forgetful, and their spirits are not battle-wounded and they are able to come up with fresh and great discipline ideas. Their batteries are fully charged and ready to go.

My batteries are about dead, and sometimes I feel like I’ve been fighting in the front lines with William Wallace (Mel Gibson) on Braveheart.

My husband has been gone this entire week hunting. He’s in Kentucky. Eight hours away. Sob.

My husband does a LOT of stuff around the house to help out… including cooking on weekdays, because I get home too late from work to start a meal from scratch (which is what we prefer – healthier).

I’m tired and want my husband back.

Anyway… it has been very hard trying to get done by myself everything that the two of us normally do! Especially with a particular 4-year old who is going through some tough developmental stages right now (who will remain nameless to protect the “innocent” – HA!)

So, HUNTER (the innocent) has been quite a handful. He is going through an “anger” phase, and is learning how to control and express his emotions. It’s been such a joy. Really. NOT.

Both my husband and I have had incredible parenting breakthroughs over the last couple months, due in part to James Dobson’s “The New Strong-Willed Child” CDs, and in part to (but mostly) just crying out to the Lord for help and clarity. Sometimes, the only thing that has kept us going on the path of sanity is the knowledge and understanding that a strong-willed child raised in a Godly home, with Godly values and principles, by Godly parents, will turn out to be a strong-willed Godly adult.

I don’t know about you, but to me, that is such a comfort, praise God!

Some of the things my husband and I have started doing is NOT disciplining out of anger by counting to 10 (or 1,000); being very consistent (this is so much harder than it sounds); finding creative, but effective disciplining methods for our child’s personality (spankings do NOTHING for Hunter); and disciplining with soft, calm tones in our voices.

Another time, I’ll share with you an example of what I went through this week, but first, I want to explain some of the things we’ve changed.

Hunter is a dramatic child. I have NO IDEA where he gets that from. It certainly doesn’t come from his mother who has a personality of an EXCLAMATION! POINT!

We have found that if we raise our voices and scream at him (which for some reason, I had really taken to doing), he will scream back at us like a crazed lunatic. Now, I have always been a huge proponent of speaking gently and kindly to your child. HUGE. Especially when I didn’t have children of my own. Until I had my own child, and then, out of frustration, threw that silly theory out the window.

Over the past few months, my husband has been encouraging me to tone down my voice and decibel level when I discipline Hunter. Surprisingly, I’ve noticed over the last few weeks that if Hunter does something worthy of discipline, I don’t have to raise my voice. I simply have to walk over to the wooden spoon, pick it up and go to punish him. He knows he’s done something wrong. Believe me. I don’t need to yell or scream. I just spank, and calmly, without emotion explain why I spanked him, and tell him I love him. All this while he proceeds to scream in such a dramatic fashion that I fear the neighbors might contact Child Protective Services thinking I’m torturing the poor child.

Don’t worry. He cries like that when we put him in time out, too.

Another change I made was I stopped repeating myself over and over and over: “Hunter, pick up your toys. Hunter! Pick your toys up! HUNTER – PICK YOUR TOYS UP RIGHT NOW!”

It was totally NOT effective with Hunter.

After analyzing what I had been doing with my husband, and complaining that he never listened or obeyed, we came to the conclusion that I was parenting too much from the chair (side-lines) and expecting Hunter to obey immediately. Again, Hunter is a strong willed child. He is going to buck anything and everything he can, including and especially instructions from a side-line cheer leading parent. He needs a hands-on, in your face parenting style that constantly reminds him he’s doing something. So I had to become far more involved than I had ever thought would be required of a parent. Normally, when a parent says “pick up your toys and put them away” you can expect your child to obey immediately.

With Hunter, I have to keep bringing him back into focus. I will stand next to him while he does his cleanup tasks, sometimes helping, but mostly encouraging him to concentrate on his task and make sure that he doesn’t get easily distracted (which he does and will). He also likes it when I count for him (like timing him) - because he thinks he’s going to beat some kind of world record. Cracks me up.

Other times, I have to go and take him by the hand to his shoes on the floor in the family room, and ask him to pick them up and put them in his shoe bin. I follow him to make sure they actually get put in the bin without ending up on the floor in the dining room because he stopped to pick up a crumb or penny or toy on the floor.

Some people say it might be ADHD. Others say it is typical 4-year old BOY behavior. Regardless, I need to be a “proactive” parent, not a “side-line” parent (which works nicely for some, but not for us).

Another discipline tool we use is the toilet. I know some may think what I’m about to say is extreme, but you have to put it in context with the type of child you have. We use the toilet (with the lid down) in the powder room as his spot for time out. Our stairs are in the middle of the family room, and he has access to way to many distractions to focus in on the fact that he is being punished.

The powder room, however, has absolutely NO distractions, and it just breaks his heart that he can not be in the same room with everyone, or watching TV from the steps. My sister and brother-in-law discovered the “power of the toilet seat” when they were temporarily staying in a smaller home with 4 children. They had to get creative on where to put a child in time out without the other kids distracting them, and soon enough, the toilet became the place of choice.

Whether it is the laundry room, the powder room, or a quiet corner, a place without distraction is what works best for Hunter when he’s put in time out.

Consistency, while innocent sounding enough, is the hardest with us. When you threaten a punishment, follow through, and BOTH parents need to be on board. My husband and I have had a tough time on this one point. I’m far softer than he is (as is the case in most homes), but I’ve had to toughen up. For instance, if Hunter does not have a green day at school, but rather a yellow day, he isn’t allowed to watch TV, play with friends, or eat any treats. That’s easy enough… but if he has a RED day, all those apply, plus he gets a spanking. Usually red days are pretty bad, and it’s hard for me to come home with my child after giggling and smiling in the car, and look in his book bag and find out he had a red day and I have to spank him. My heart just drops. He would fight us at first, but now, about a month into this, he just turns to face me, puts his hands and head into my belly, and I give him two strong swats. He usually cries quietly, and holds on to me while I explain that every time he comes home with a red day he gets a spanking. It’s heart breaking for the mom (or dad) but when your child responds the next day with a green day, it confirms that you’ve done the right thing.

The most important thing I’ve learned (thanks to my husband) is to remain calm. Calm, calm, calm. Sometimes, I have to pretend to be a robot, or an alien who can’t speak or react… just to keep me focused on remaining calm and monotone, but it has been one of the most effective changes I’ve made.

Yes, all these changes are and have been great. No, it didn’t happen over night. But praise God, because of these changes, discipline is getting easier in our household.

I have spent many hours crying, and praying that God would help me be a better mom, and while I’m not there yet… I can definitely see Him answering that prayer.


Barbie said...

I can totally relate to the issues you are having with your son. I had my first two children (ages 18 and 15) 6 years before the 2nd set came along. Here I am in my mid-40's raising an adult child, a teen and to grammer aged. No energy. Sometimes I wish I could go back and raise the first two over again. I yelled constantly, among other things and it did no good whatsoever. I have a 6 year old son who likes to push my buttons, and when I yell at him, he cries. I am praying God will give you strategies. One thing that has really helped our family is Danny Silk's parenting skills. He has a website and his techniques are so very practical. I hope things get better for you.

Lovely Rita said...

How did you know it would be a long post? Ah, a lot of examples for your struggles. I did laugh at you being an EXCLAMATION POINT (hard to type holding down shift...maybe you used caps lock?). Thank you for being transparent. I'm sure others will be able to find comfort that they're not alone.

Staying calm is not easy. Sounds like you're making headway in that struggle, though. With Dan gone, I know it can get out of control quickly. I'm feeling it with David being gone now, I just keep saying, "one day at a time."

Tara said...

You're dong a good job, Mom.

I had several things that came to mind when reading your post, but there were too many and I lost them. :) I'm 34, 4 kids (2, 4, 6 and 9). I don't think I have any more energy or brain power than anyone else! :)

I love your idea of the potty naughty spot. I think I'll have to adopt that one because our staircase faces the TV as well.

One more idea for your bag of tricks in getting the unnamed child in your house to help pick up toys. I like to change it up a bit. Sometimes I tell them to pick up a category of toys ("pick up all the stuffed animals") or sometimes I use colors ("pick up everything with blue on it").

The kids' favorite method is sort of a cross between I Spy and a treasure hunt. I look around the room and mentally pick out about five toys. I tell the kids, "I have five things in mind, see if you can figure them out!" They run around picking up various random items trying to guess what my five items are. The kicker is that if they don't pick out the piece I had in mind they still have to put it away and try again! This works really well in the living room where there are usually items from all areas of the house and then their young legs do the running around putting everything away! (Shhhh, sometimes I do change which items I'm thinking of partway through the game so the entire living room gets picked up!) Ahem. :)

Courtney said...

My oldest has quite a temper. I think I've read every parenting book on the market. I've tried a lot of different techniques as well, being as consistent as possible to give it time to work, but abandoning things as I saw they weren't. I'm still looking into things--was very pleased with the message and results in the books How to Really Love Your Child by Ross Campbell as well as How to Really Parent Your Child. Both Christian based books.

God bless you and guide you in your endeavor.

squirrely said...

Ah well, I'm with ya. I just wanna come home and crash. I'm 38, no 39, 38?? oh I can't remember, anyway if you remember my younger 2 are 5 and it's totally an age thing. Boy or girl, doesn't matter. I've had to resort to staying with my kids again as well with their chores. I'm sure as some point I'll get lax again, but it does help being there with them. Although the complaining continues...just letting you know I'm with ya and if you want I can video cam our house for some entertainment. :)