Dealing with the Consequence

How do you handle discipline?

Some days I wish I were a stricter parent. That way when I’m handing out a consequence to my child, I wouldn’t feel so uncomfortable about it.

My oldest continues to adjust to middle school. Some days are good, others not so much. He had a bad day this week and decided to direct his displeasure at me. I talked to him calmly (as I always try to do with my kids) and asked him to take a breath, calm down, think about what you’re saying to no avail. I then went into warning mode — “if you can’t calm down and stop this behavior you are going to go straight to bed when we get home,” (mind you it was not much after 5 p.m.). I didn’t want to send him to his room but his behavior needed a consequence. He challenged me. “No you’re not. You’re going to come in my room, talk to me, and then I’m going to get out of my room.” Whoa, I thought, my son is right. I normally do talk to him about his behavior and do back off the consequence — he still has one, but it’s not as extreme as the first. I decided in that moment that I had to stay firm to the consequence I’d handed him. I wasn’t doing him any favors by letting him off the hook. “Not this time. You’re staying in your room and that’s that,” I said. I didn’t get an “I hate you” which surprised me, though I wouldn’t doubt he was thinking it. Instead I got a “this is stupid” which is what he says when he struggles with something or has a different view from someone else. “It’s not stupid. It’s necessary,” I continued, “the point of a consequence is so you learn from it, and hopefully don’t repeat the behavior again.” “Well, I’m going to do this again,” my son claimed. “Well, then I guess you’re going to have to get used to being in your room,” I concluded, “I always hated being in my room, I thought it was really boring, and when my parents handed me that consequence I usually learned from it, and I hope you do too.” He groaned and huffed off.

When we got home he dropped his back and went to his room. He slammed the door for affect. I didn’t go in and talk with him. I just let him sit. After an hour he said, “Okay, I get it, I’m grounded!” I didn’t respond. Just let him sit.

It’s not easy to let my child suffer the consequence of their actions, but its needed. When I don’t enforce the consequence I’m telling him he can get out of things or won’t be held accountable, and I fully expect that out in the world others will hold him accountable.

How do you handle giving your child a consequence when it makes you uncomfortable? How are you keeping your child accountable?

Mom, please!

Have you ever embarrassed your child in public? When did your parent embarrass you as a child? How did it affect you?

My parents are loving people. Growing up they were strict, but loving. Spanking was used to discipline in our house. The threat of a possible spanking typically kept me in line, so thankfully, I cannot remember my parents embarrassing me in a your-going-to-get-a-spanking kind of way in public. Instead, they would let me know a spanking was coming in more private settings (away from others, in the car or house). It was a warning and I had a choice to make—straighten up or get spanked. My decision was easy to make (I would do just about anything to avoid being spanked). I noticed other parents weren’t as considerate and would embarrass their children in front of others. While I hated getting spanked, I was grateful my parents were different. I realized my parents could embarrass me in a different way as I grew older—when they’d brag about me in front of others. I hated it because 1) as a teen I was very self-conscious (aren’t we all?) and I was mortified when attention was put on me, 2) I didn’t feel like the things my parents were sharing were worth bragging about, and 3) I felt utterly unable to stop my parents from what they were doing in fear of embarrassing them (I knew how much I didn’t like it, and assumed they wouldn’t like it either). I definitely didn’t just stand there and take what was happening in these situations. I would attempt to stop my parents mid-sentence. “Mom, please.” “Mom, really. Please stop.” I’d even try the eye roll, and try to make eye contact with my parents friend in an attempt to communicate I’m so sorry, but it never seemed to work.

Now that I have my own children, I’ve been faced with the same challenges my parent went through. We don’t spank in our house, so my boys have never had to fear that as a punishment, however, it makes motivating them to behave that much more challenging. Taking away privileges or a stern talking to works sometimes, but sometimes it doesn’t. I feel very challenged in these moments. There is a part of me that would like to vent my frustration at their resistance to adhere to what I’m asking them to do, and I have to catch myself sometimes from not doing this in public (it’s not easy) when they’re acting out around others. A “get in the car NOW” seems to do the trick, they know I’m unhappy with their behavior and it will be better for them to get into the car than not. Still, it’s a challenge.

My boys were in a concert at school. They would be singing a few songs with their classmates. My youngest was eager to participate. My oldest was mortified. “I’m not going,” he said, “and you can’t make me.” At first, my husband and I responded, “Oh yes we can. Don’t you tell us what you are or are not going to do.” That just seemed to make my son dig his heels in deeper. “Nope, I’m not going to do it.” My husband tried reasoning with him. “You’re part of your class…a team. You’re going to let your classmates down if you don’t participate, and that’s going to be embarrassing.” My son simply replied, “No it won’t. Half of them aren’t here anyway, no one is going to notice.” He was right, it was a volunteer concert (not mandatory) so many of his classmates weren’t there. Ugh. The show was going to start soon, and we were nearing the end of our attempts to prompt our son to participate. My husband and I felt strongly he couldn’t “opt-out” of participating, because often in life you can’t do that–you’ll lose a job, or a friend, or an opportunity. My mind was spinning, what else could we do?  And then it occurred to me. “You are going to go up and sing with your class. We are only asking you to go up there to try your best. No one expects perfection.” My son was getting ready to say, “No again” when I cut him off. “If you don’t go, I was pull you up there kicking and screaming if I have to, and that will be embarrassing not only for you, but for me. No one is going to forget that.” He gave me a ‘you wouldn’t’ and then a ‘how could you!’ face, then got up and went with his classmates calmly to the stage. I hated that it had resorted to this, but was glad he was motivated to participate. As his class sang, we could see that our son was enjoying it, he even gave us a ‘thumbs up’ from the stage at one point. Afterwards, he came back to us and in a ‘you-were-right-but-I-hate-admitting-it’ tone shared, “I was so nervous, but I think I did pretty good.”  My husband and I smiled, “You did great.” I shared, “I loved that one song, can we sing it now?” My son looked at me and said, “Mom, please!” I didn’t, of course, (though I was tempted to) but it was fun to see the moment come full circle.

How do you prompt your child to action without embarrassing them?

 

 

 

 

Anger Management

Have you experienced your child having an angry outburst? How did you handle it?

Our son had an angry outburst during a Pokemon game at his after school care program. He was playing with one of his classmates who was beating him soundly continuing to use the same card to do “damage” (a Pokemon term that refers to an ability to weaken/damage another character). My son didn’t like it. Another classmate who was observing the game decide to goad my son. “You’re gonna lose. You’re gonna lose.” Well, my son lost it. He took his opponents’s card and attempted to destroy it, and slapped his classmate who was goading him on. It all happened very fast. He reached his boiling point and lashed out. Caregivers descended to attend to each child and my son was lead to the office to cool down and later apologize.  When he got home, my husband and I talked with him about what happened. It was clear he understood he did something he shouldn’t have, and there would be consequences (we made him write apology notes to both boys). What he was struggling with was figuring out how he could better control his anger to avoid situations like this in the future.

My husband and I worked with our son, both on the letters (prompting him to think through what he’d done, how the other boys might feel and what he would like to hear/know from a classmate if they did something similar to him), and how we needed to continue to work with him on developing his thinking brain. His feeling brain currently had way too much power and control over his actions that were leading to the situation he was presently in.

We went back to school the next morning and I spoke to his teachers about what my husband and I had asked him to do (e.g. write the letters to the boys). I shared he was struggling with the task, and might need some help or guidance. If my son was angry at his classmates he played Pokemon with, he was doubly angry with my husband and I. After talking to his teachers, I went to my son. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “I hate you!” In that moment, I knew that he meant it to his core. And I can relate to the feeling, I felt it myself many times with my own parents–you don’t like the consequence you are getting, you don’t think it’s fair or just, and you don’t like or appreciate the lesson you are being taught. I told him, “Your feeling brain is in control and your thinking brain is taking a time-out in a chair off to the side observing what’s going on. We have to work together to build up your thinking brain, so you can make choices that help you get what you want without hurting others, and we can avoid these situations in the future.” I continued, “My job as a parent is to teach you things and keep you safe. This is part of me teaching you. It’s hard. No parent wants to hear that their kid hates them, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay if it helps you learn and grow.” My son didn’t say anything. I knew it was time for me to go. He needed to think about what I had said, and I needed to think about how he was feeling and what he was going through. It wasn’t an easy time for either of us.

The teacher later reached out and said my son cooled off after a while and gotten back to his old self. When I picked him up in the afternoon, he was happier than I’d seen him in days. I didn’t broach the subject right away, but gave us some time to enjoy being happy together. After a while, I asked, “you were pretty unhappy with me this morning, how are you doing now?” He looked at me and replied, “Okay.” Our eyes met and I could tell he no longer was carrying that I-hate-you inside him towards me. I hugged him and commented that growing up can be tough sometimes, and left it at that. We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening enjoying each other’s company.

Raising kids is challenging. It can be painful when you see your child struggle or lash out at you in anger of frustration. But that’s part of being a parent. Every time my son learns something new, so do I.

How do you handle your own anger? How do you help your child handle their’s?

I’ll be off next week for Memorial Day weekend fun with the family and will return following. Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend.

Corrective Lens and Seeing What’s Right in Front of Us

When I took my son into a doctor’s office, the doctor inquired what brought us there. I proceeded to share my concerns, what I thought was wrong with my son.  My son hadn’t been experiencing symptoms that required immediate medical intervention, but seemed behind in some of his fine motor skills, which concerned me.

Once I was done listing off all of my concerns, the doctor asked, “What does your son do well?” While I had easily listed off all the things I thought he was struggling with, it took me a while (probably a minute—but it felt like several) to answer to her question.

I realize both my children have many wonderful qualities and characteristics, but was reminded that human nature conditions us to look for what is wrong in one another. The doctor’s question forced me to think about what is right.

As I discussed what I’d learned with friends, I was reminded that we experience people differently when we look for what their strengths are, gifts are, or what they are good at vs. what is different about them, lacking or a deficiency. I thought about my children and how I experience them. If I’m being honest, as much as I’m amazed at their capabilities, I am also looking at behavior that needs to be corrected, areas that need to be learned or actions that need to be addressed.  With new eyes, much like corrective lens, I see my children in a new way. Each child has his own gifts, talents, and capabilities. They are a delight and a wonder to experience, some I experience more fully and gives me even more joy when I shed my need to find something within them that needs to be fixed. They are spectacular just the way they are. Why did it take me so long to see what was right in front of me?

I realize I will have to have an awareness of what lens I’m viewing my children with everyday.  My husband and I will need to continue to guide our children in their journey of becoming adults, but I suspect with my new vision there will be far fewer things I identify that need to be fixed and far more things I learn about the many gifts and talents my children possess.

I wish I had gotten these glasses a long time ago.

What does your child do well? How do you experience them everyday?

A Big Thumbs Up!

I received a note from my son’s teacher a little over a week. It read, “You need to talk to your son about what using the middle finger means.” The note startled me. We don’t use “the middle finger” in our family and haven’t talked about it with our children because we haven’t had to to this point. I responded to the teacher’s letter to gain a better understanding of how the middle finger came up. Can you give me some context behind how my son used his middle finger? Was he using it as a gesture? Or was he copying someone else? The teacher replied, “He was pointing at something with his middle finger when one of his classmates said, “that means the “F” word”, to which your son replied, “what’s wrong with the word “finger”?” Oh, the fact that he said “finger” made me smile like I haven’t smiled in a while. I celebrated inside. Yes, I thought, he still doesn’t know what the “F” word is!

Regardless, my husband and I needed to explain what certain hand gestures mean. I wasn’t ready, nor do I anticipate being ready any time soon, to discuss four-letter-words with our kids. I know I can’t avoid this forever, but I want to delay it as long as possible. Instead we talked about the meaning of using different fingers.

Working with our son we determined the following:

  • A thumb(s) up means good job or I agree
  • Pointing your index finger means I’m talking about you (we cautioned that most people do not like to be pointed at) or I want you to look at what I’m pointing at (see what I see)
  • Using your middle finger means I’m really angry with you or I really don’t like what you just did (we cautioned that it is always better to talk to someone if you are upset with them and to avoid using your middle finger to express how you feel at all costs. My experience, you significantly increase your chances of a physical confrontation when you use your middle finger vs. your words)
  • Using your ring finger doesn’t mean anything
  • Using your pinky finger (e.g. holding it out when you drink from a cup) means fancy

My son really liked the idea of using your pinky to communicate fancy. He didn’t seem to be interested in using or talking about his middle finger at all.

I cherish my children’s innocence and appreciate the opportunity my husband and I have been given to help them learn about ways people communicate in nice and not-so-nice ways. I realize their innocence won’t last forever, but will take it for as long as I can.

F is quickly becoming my new favorite letter. What’s not to like – it’s the first letter in fabulous, Friday, fancy, fun and FINGER.

I’ll give that a “thumbs-up” any day!

How have you addressed gestures and curse words with your child?

When Helping Isn’t Helping at All

I recently discovered that my youngest son has been manipulating me. Not just once or twice. This has been ongoing for quite some time. To provide you with a somewhat recent example, he has learned to manipulate my attempts to get him ready and out the door with his sweetest smiles, his best ‘I’m sorry’, sprinkled in with many ‘I love you-s’. Of course, my son doesn’t realize what he is doing is manipulation, nor does he understand what that word means. He does know that when he invokes these strategies they work!

I love my children very much and tell them when they exhibit an undesired behavior that while I might not like what they are doing I always love them. Yet here is my child over apologizing and saying, “I love you” upwards of ten times a day to delay having to do something or trying to get out of something altogether. I had to reevaluate what was really going on.

Being the baby in the family, I realized in some ways I have treated my youngest son like one. He can put on his own clothes, make his bed and clean up after himself. He’s been able to do this for a while, yet I still jump in to help him when he takes too long. I know if I just jump in I can get things done more quickly and we can be on our way. What wasn’t clear to me was the unintended message of “I don’t think you can do the task, therefore I’m going to help you,” I was sending him. Not a great confidence builder for my son.

I do have commitments that require my family to be out the door at a certain time each day. It takes all of us working as a family to make that happen. Each of us has tasks we each our responsible for, and all of us need to be done in a certain amount of time.

I invoked some strategies that I hadn’t used in a while and am helping my son move towards doing his share and feeling good about his contribution. Breaking free from the use of “sorry” and “I love you.” I now give him time limits for when things need to do done with reminders when we are nearing the end (e.g. he has 20 minutes to eat breakfast. I give him a five warning and another at two minutes if we still have a lot of food to go). A consequence is communicated up front if he is unable to meet his goal (e.g. you won’t have anything to eat until snack time at school if you don’t eat your breakfast now). It takes work, discipline and patience to implement this. It would be so much easier if I just did it myself, but in the long term, doing this the right way, holding my son accountable and giving him the framework to have success should yield better long term results around his own confidence, sense of accountability and ownership.

I won’t miss all the “sorrys” or “I love yous”.  I’ll treasure the new ones I get, because they’ll come without motivation behind them other than to express how he really feels. And while it will take practice on my part I believe there will be much satisfaction knowing I helped him more by not helping him.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

I’ve been thinking about the word respect lately.

My concentration around this word began following recent statements made by my six-year-old son to my husband and I.

“How dare you speak to me that way?” He responded after not getting something that he wanted (e.g. TV or a sweet)

“What the heck?” He responded after we told him we couldn’t accommodate his request (e.g. TV, play a game, etc)

Besides being momentarily dumbfounded by what he said, I responded each time saying, “We don’t talk that way to each other. We treat each other with respect.” Defining respect for him has been a bit more challenging.

The dictionary defines respect as:

Respect (Noun): A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.

Respect (Verb): Admire (someone or something) deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements.

I was brought up to respect my parents, but I hadn’t put too much thought into why, until my son responded this way. My sisters and I were spanked by our parents. Most of my friends growing up were spanked by their parents. Spanking was an acceptable way to discipline for many families in the ’70s. I’m thankful that is no longer the case.

We do not spank our children. I have never been comfortable with the idea of mixing actions like love and hitting together. It was very confusing to me why loving parents would spank a child.  Instead, we talk to our son and explain the situation about why we have to take an action or inaction to reinforce a desired behavior. I thought it was working until his outbursts occurred.

I’ve always respected my parents, but had to think about why that was as a child.  Was it because I admired them for their parenting abilities or because I was scared that if I didn’t respect them I would get spanked? I’m certain it was a mixture of both. I knew my parents loved me. They showed me that in tangible ways—hugs, kisses, cheers and time. The spanking scared me. It hurt and the pain endured often felt disproportionate to what I was being punished for.  It kept me inline, but at an unquantifiable emotional and physical cost.

I don’t want my children to associate needing to experience physical harm to learn a positive lesson together. Spanking will not ever be part of my parent rearing equation. But how do you teach your child respect?

I talk to my boys about respect and treating each other with kindness. Listening to each other, responding with consideration and care. I will never embarrass them knowingly, shame them or lie to them. I will continue to explain things to them and help them make the connection between the action and the consequence (positive or negative). I have a saying I use with my boys: “If I ask you for something its for one of three reasons. I’m trying to teach you something. I’m trying to keep you safe, or I need your help.”

I’m not sure respect can be taught. I believe it’s earned, and I’m hopeful in time my boys will come to respect my husband and I for raising them the way we are and will.  In the interim, I’m working to stick to what I believe is key: being consistent and practicing patience. I’m hoping to be an expert in patience by the time they are teenagers. I hear we’ll be in for quite a ride by then.

How are you experiencing respect in your life?