This past Saturday we went out with a bunch of friends for Mexican food. I ordered a combo platter that included an enchilada, a burrito, a tamale AND a few tacos. (That has absolutely nothing to do with this post but our waitress was impressed so I thought you might be too.) My girlfriend “Tess” and I were comparing notes on our day and gauging our respective exhaustion levels.
I don’t really remember her day because I was way more interested in my combo platter, but I do remember mine, and it was exhausting:
It was a Saturday and it was just me and my little girls (3 and 5 years old). What to do? What to do? We usually go out for lunch on Saturdays, but I had so much food in the house, I decided to eat at home.
My girls were cuckoo. I mean totally bananas. I have no idea why they were so amped up, but they were. I don’t think they would have been so crazy at a restaurant. It was like they made a list of “All The Things That Annoy Mommy” and then during lunch, they went through them one-by-one:
Let’s play with our food. Yeah! Good idea!
Let’s wait until mommy sits down with her lunch and then tell her that we need ranch dressing and peanut butter and cantaloupe and a bunch of other stuff—and then we won’t eat any of it! Yeah! Brilliant!!
Let’s yell from the bathroom, “I’m pooping! It’s a bad one! Come wipe me!” so mommy has to get up AGAIN…and then when she comes in say: “Hi, mommy! No poopie. Just pee pee! Pee pee, pee pee, PEE PEE!!!!!!!!”
After my 5 year old got up from the table for the third time instead of sitting down and eating her lunch, I had had it. I was tired. They were so crazy from the moment we sat down that I needed a “stopper.” A FOR-REAL “stopper.”
And that is when it hit me:
As parents, we have two ways that we can go about dealing with behavior that doesn’t please us. We can roll our eyes and passively say something to our kids as they run by like “Stop It!” —or we can stop them.
If we do the passive “Stop It!” thing, chances are our kids will tune us out and just keep doing what they’re doing (I would), so we won’t get results.
If, on the other hand, we stay ON our kids—in their faces and up their asses—we will likely end up with better results, but we will be exhausted.
It’s a lot of work to be a good parent. I’m not saying that I’m so great, but I really do try. I am all over my kids. I mean I am ON THEM and I am hard on them, almost all the time—about almost everything.
Just today, I took the girls for manicures (they only get “polish changes” but don’t tell them that) and the guy sitting next to me totally called me out:
My 3 year old was yucky and whiney and my 5 year old was antagonizing her by being alive. I know they were excited about getting their nails done, I know it’s hard to be patient—but I needed them to not act the way they were acting, so I laid down the law.
I explained in no uncertain terms that we would be leaving if they didn’t get it together. I also reminded them that if I said it, I meant it…and then I tossed in some other hard ass mommy stuff and that was that.
The guy next to me was all: “I have kids their age and…wow, you don’t let them get away with anything.”
To which I replied: “I know. I’m hard on them. My friends tell me that all the time. But I never listen to my friends and my kids are really good, so you know…” and By the way, you’re getting a manicure—and you have a PENIS— so how about you lock it up there, Shiny Buff?
I got lucky at the manicure place because after our “little talk,” my girls were back on their game. Of course I don’t always get those results, but the more I get to know how they’ll respond, the better I get at choosing my approach.
I have learned over the years that there are several different Parental Approaches that can be used to discipline a kid. The trick is to pick the most effective one for any given situation.
I can’t stand when my 3 year old starts her sentences with “I want…”
“I want chocolate in my milk…”…”I want to wear a dress…”…”I want an oompa loompa!”
UGH…No one cares what you want. Come back when you can vote.
Admittedly, starting a sentence with “I want” is not a huge problem as far as juvenile problems go—but it does bug me, and I am the mommy, and a doctor did have to rip up my stomach to pull her out, so if I want to do something about my kid starting a sentence with “I want,” I believe I can.
Unfortunately, the “Hard Ass/All Business Approach” only works if both kids are included. If I just use it on my younger one, she will fold up and break down. She’s very sensitive. In order to avoid crying, I have to dig deep into my bag of tricks for her.
Sometimes I go with the Negative Reinforcement Parental Approach.
Lovey, you are delicious, but it makes me insane when you start a sentence with “I want…” In fact, it bugs me so much that the next time you do it…and I hate to do this…but the next time you do it, you won’t get dessert tonight…and believe me, sister, we’re having good dessert.
Lovey does not like that punishment.
No dessert??? That’s enough to make anyone think twice before exhibiting annoying behavior because without dessert, what’s the point of dinner?
Threats, as a Parental Approach, can also be very effective—but they are tricky. Proceed with caution when it comes to threats because it’s easy to get screwed.
Here are some of the finer points of a good threat:
1. Threaten with something that hurts them, but also benefits you. The biggest punishment in our house is “Losing the privilege to pick out your own clothes.” It kills my girls when they don’t get to pick out their own clothers and it kills me that there is a bunch of stuff in their closet that never gets worn. When I am looking for a good threat, pulling their privileges to pick out their own clothes is my go-to. They hate when I choose their outfits and I LOVE IT. Winner winner, chicken dinner!
2. When you’re about to throw down a threat, it’s instinct to take away something that they love—just make sure that you don’t love it too. One year, on Halloween, when Sweet Pea was three years old, she told us that she couldn’t get to the bathroom in enough time to pee—but she could. Trust me. The bathroom was really close. Cody, my husband, said to her,”I swear, if you pee on this floor, you’re not going trick-or-treating.”
And then everything went into slow motion.
But he did, and she peed.
It was Halloween, the best day EVER, but we couldn’t go back. We had to follow through. The threat had been made and now it was just hanging there, taunting us.
It sucked. But it was a learning experience, for all of us. We learned a lot about parenting and Sweet Pea learned a lot about us. When we say something, we mean it. Even if that means no fun size Baby Ruths or Snickers for them! (Or me.)
3. While threatening, don’t cut off your nose to spite your face. Pull something that they like, but not something that you need. Like TV. Everyone takes away TV. It’s a no-brainer. Who doesn’t love TV? TV rules. (I wish I was watching TV right now.) But I’d have to be an idiot to take it away from my kids because sometimes I need it for them. I don’t need it a lot—I don’t even need it every day—but I do need it sometimes so I can get something done or just get a little peace and quiet so, over time, I have taught myself not to land on TV as a threat or punishment.
Which leads me to my last, and favorite, pointer about launching a good threat:
4. Make stuff up. I do this a lot. It works with everything from ice cream to events. Here’s an example:
During the summer, my family lives in Northern Michigan at an overnight camp for kids. At night, after dinner, there is always an Evening Program. My girls love Evening Program. And what’s not to love? It’s a bunch of campers and counselors on stage dancing or singing or doing something entertaining. My kids are young so they don’t get to go to Evening Program every night (they need to go to sleep) but on some nights–special nights–they get to go. Since they don’t always know when we are going to let them go, Evening Program was the perfect “Fake Threat.” Here’s how I do it: OK, you know what? I have had it. I have asked you guys THREE times to do what I say but you’re not, so guess what? No Evening Program for you. Is there anything else you want me to pull? You know I’ll do it.
And they would go nuts.
Of course, after I pulled Evening Program, they would be perfect little angels, begging and pleading to go, but I would stay strong with ease because Hello? They were never going in the first place. HHAHAHAHAHAAA!!!
Good one, right?
Parent Voice. I’m sure you know Parent Voice. It’s is a tried and true Parental Approach. It can be very effective, but there is a time and a place for it. You can only use Parent Voice when you’re sure you will be heard because it’s a very low, very even, very deliberate vocal tone coupled with warning verbage that usually goes something like this:
Parent Voice is a very popular technique for a very good reason: It usually works.
But sometimes it doesn’t, and then I have to yell.
Yelling, to me, is a big deal. I try not to yell a lot. I don’t like yelling, especially in my house. If you want someone, GO GET THEM. Don’t yell across the house. Yelling makes me anxious
I really only pull out the Yelling when A) My girls have pushed me to a point where I’m about to lose my freakin’ mind and B) I think I have a shot of it working.
I feel like kids who get yelled at a lot eventually become immune to it, and then it loses all of its power. BUT, if you don’t yell a lot, and every once in a while you bust some out, it will scare the crap out of your kids and they will know you’re not messing around.
Finally, sometimes I fall on the Flat-Out Defeated approach:
This is where I go when my only other alternative is a valium. I don’t like to over-utilize the Flat-Out Defeated approach because I don’t want my kids to perceive me as weak or vulnerable. Sometimes though, I am, and because I don’t use this particular approach a lot, it has never failed me.
If you want to try it, this is what you do:
Put your hand to your forehead, sigh audibly and shut your eyes. Shake your head from side to side (very slowly) like you are going to start crying (and maybe you do a little bit—because honestly, being a parent is tiring)—and then you say to your kids: “You guys, I can’t…I just can’t take it anymore. I am begging you to be good. You are killing me and I think my head is going to spin off of my body. So, please…FOR THE LOVE OF THE LORD, will you please just…STOP?”
And then my kids will be all: Look at Mommy, she’s a wreck. We’re sorry, Mommy! We love you Mommy!! It was HER fault but we love you Mommy! We will be good for you.
And then I walk away smiling because I know that for at least 3-5 minutes, they will.
Thanks for being here!
Facebook : DimSumandDoughnuts
Wow! I love it! You are so cute. And I am so happy to know you stood up for yourself at the nail salon. I tend to be hard too, but usually feel guilty when someone brings it up. I do need to learn how to relax a bit more with them. They are supposed to be acting like a 2 & 4 year old- because they are! 🙂 That is what I need to remind myself sometimes.
Yes! I totally agree with you. I hope I didn’t come across as a total drill sargeant (I probably did and I probably spelled that wrong) but I’m truly not. Well, I kind of am, but not all the time. We do have lots of fun and my kids definitely act like they’re 3 and 5, but there are times…oh, there are times…
I think you know what I mean.
Thank you so much for your comment. I wonder if I should go back and edit. I don’t want my kids to look back on this one day and think that I was so hard that we didn’t have any fun. That would not be good.
Hazel M. Wheeler says
Ha ha Robyn! Funny stuff, but so true.
I am a hard-ass mom as well. It is difficult to have our faces up their butts, because then… well, you know what ends up on our faces. Still– We raise the bar high. They learn to launch themselves higher. And people in public have less reason to glare at us and our progeny.
I liked your various techniques, and want to encourage you to add the ‘scary whisper’. This is when Mom, dead calm, says in a voice only slightly higher than the beating of their own hearts, “If I see you doing X again, this will not end well for you.” and then, when they ask “What will happen?”, smile slightly with a steely-eyed smile and ask them back:”What do you think?” This way, you can get a cheat sheet of what they really don’t want to happen, and then use this for later. It’s like some overt spy work, collecting this valuable information.
You are awesome and your kids will later be thankful that their mother did not let them run amok, accommodate regressive behavior, or boss her around. (And oh, the Ooopa-Loompa comment had me laughing. I’m reading “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” aloud to Kiddo and Veruca’s by far my favorite character to voice. Didn’t realize I had a whinging little brat British 8 year old inside me, but apparently, I do!)
Ooh…I like scary voice. Sounds a lot like “Parent Voice.” You’re funny.
How crazy is it that you’re reading “Charlie and the Choc Factory????” That is crazy to me that you just happen to be reading it right now. I wonder if that is a sign. Maybe we both need chocolate…??? 🙂
I loved this post! Although I am not yet a parent, I find myself relating to all of your different approaches with my students! In fact, I plan on sharing this post with my coworkers! There are a few “yellers” I know who may benefit from this advice! Great post Robyn, but personally I don’t believe either of your girls are anything but well mannered and well behaved little angels! Hope you are all doing well! xoxo
Oh, Mimi! We miss you so much…and the “other Mimi” too. 🙂 (That still makes me laugh). Can you guys come visit one day soon? Come for dinner or just to hang out for a bit? Please come see us!! I love that you liked the post. That means the world to me, especially coming from you since you have (I’m sure) around 30 kids (or more) to deal with every day. Thank you for weighing in. It means so much to me that you did. Now, come over and see your divas!!
i think this is my favorite….as a former babysitter(and a really good one , if i do say so myself!!!), i have used many of those tricks!YOU are the funniest ever in your descriptions, and you are so right in the reactions of the kids!!I love your blogs, you are hilarious, true to you, and so sweet its awesome!!(OH i was @ Bendels today, it was bad , just bad)(i am a lot poorer now:( )
(oh and i still love you too……xoxoxo)
Why am I not surprised that you were the best babysitter? I’m sure you did nails, played with stickers, MADE stickers, played dress up…etc. etc. In fact, can you come babysit? Wait. Better yet, can you come be our nanny during camp time? And not the nanny for the girls, FOR ME! Do I dare ask what you got at Bendels? I’m scared. I’m excited for my new 2012 snow globe. Don’t tell me what the song is. I like to be surprised on XMAS morning. Don’t tell me…
XOXOXO I always love hearing from you. You are so special to me.
I love this…it’s like you are reading my mind! I can’t wait to use the picking out clothes one! Fantastic! You do not disappoint, my friend!
Oh, I’m so happy. Thank you so much, Patti!!! You will have to let me know how it goes. I know it’s Diva central at your house just like mine! Divas everywhere!! XOXOXO
I loved this post! The other day we left the swimming pool because my daughter wouldn’t listen, and didn’t believe that we would actually leave the pool after only being there for about 10 minutes. Going to the pool is a big deal and kind of expensive where I live. Well, I had to carry her out kicking and screaming, but next time I bet she’ll believe me. However, my friends thought I was being unreasonable.
I’m not a tyrant, but I do expect my kids to behave somewhat! So after reading your post I felt totally validated!! Thanks!
I know what it’s like to be in a situation where you feel bad for being the hard ass. It is not easy, but I’m so proud of you for staying strong. I know it was rough during the “during,” but you know you dodged a bullet in the future. You aren’t going to have that problem again, and if you do, I bet all you’ll have to do is say “…Remember the swimming pool?” and that will be that. You just set your bar, sister. Good for you.
Sidenote: If I was at the pool and I saw you do your thing, I would have been like, “Check her out. That lady knows what she’s doing.” And I would have only thought of you as a good parent. Setting boundaries and ground rules for your kids will only help them become better adults.
At least that’s what I think.
And I’m not really sure if that means much. 🙂