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Friday, November 1, 2013

A mind of her own, and obstinate

It appears that my 3 year old daughter needs to learn the boundaries of how to speak and act. Over the last few weeks it has gotten drastically worse. After all, she did just turn three! There is no doubt that we have a very strong-willed child on our hands. If you say go, she'll say stop. If you say yes, she'll say no. If you suggest anything, she will trump you and demand something different. If you ask "would you like something" or "would you like to do" if it wasn't her idea first she will kill it without hesitation. It doesn't matter how kind you are. She is not impressed. It has to be her way, her idea and always in her time. If you dare to go against this, there is hell to pay; with flailing about, screaming, hitting, you name it. We call this; Gremlin Girl (not to her of course). Obstinance in full-fold.

Well, that's not going to sit well in this household sister. Sorry. You don't get to treat me or anyone disrespectfully with that kind of detest or obstinance. I love you too much to let you act like this. So! Homebound we are for a few days (maybe weeks) as we make it very clear that this kind of behavior is not acceptable.

Why homebound? I have always been apprehensive of giving children a "1- 2 -3" until they shape up. I think a parent should be taken seriously the second they speak. Three kids later, I've done a pretty good job keeping consistent, remaining calm and stern (usually), but three kids later: it has become a struggle! My girl is keeping me on my toes! Every second she is awake there is an issue we have to work through. "Mom!! I DON'T want that spoon!"/ "I said I wanted too much!!!" (her way in saying 'more') / "I will NOT do that" / "You come here right NOW!" (yes, speaking to me) / "I will NOT eat this!" (sliding the bowl across the table, then crossing her arms in disgust). Yeah, that's what I'm dealing with. I've lost it several times, and about lost it many times more. I have felt hopeless & anxious dealing with one scenario after another. The fight never stops.

Because I don't want to draw too much attention to the negative I've been ignoring (or trying to) some of the bad behavior so not to flip a lid - for her sake and for mine. But it's kind of hard to ignore. And ignoring. . .really!? Like I don't see how you're acting? Am I just going to ignore it and let you get away with destructive behavior and a nasty attitude? I don't think so.

Lately my husband and I have been questioning our parenting techniques (if you call it that). We have become reactive parents and in our insecurity have been at odds with each other when dealing with our kids. What it came down to is, neither one of us knew what to do. Thankfully we came together. Because of this, there is a higher level of respect and appreciation from our kids.

A consequence in our house is a wooden spoon to the butt. But not always. It is used to correct direct defiance or unruly behavior. Ideally with a calm, stern approach followed by "I'm so sorry you made that choice, it makes me sad to have to give you a spanking." One stinging swat. Same strength. Followed by a hug. "I hope you make a better choice next time." With our strong-willed girl, this happens about every 5 minutes. But it is happening less and less as she's realizing "Mama" and "Dada" are serious and consistent. Hence, being homebound for a few days. This sort of discipline doesn't set well with the world today. Though, I do bring the spoon with us every where we go because I don't want her to think she is off the hook. She understands that until we see better behavior from her, she doesn't get to go on playdates, enjoy library time, shopping, etc. This is a big deal to our independent girl.

Let me explain why we use the wooden spoon. I once read that hands are for blessing. I love that and want to keep it that way. I don't want loose hands when it comes to disciplining my kids. It is far too easy to let anger get the best of me. A spanking done in anger can do far worse damage than what is intended. When I have to fetch the spoon, it keeps my temper in check. I am less likely to be caught in an emotional uproar when I have a few extra seconds to think before I act.

My dad just pointed out the other day that we have adopted the 1-2-3 theory without realizing it, only using different words. "Adelle, please don't do that again or there will be a consequence." We follow through with the consequence after giving her a warning, and then remind her of the warning, instead of giving her the opportunity to take us seriously the second we speak.

For the last few days we have been parenting in the way that we used to - which means more work. With a strong-willed child that means a lot more work. But there is no easy way around parenting so we might as well nip bad behavior in the butt, and stay consistent. Day three, and we are already seeing progress. It has not been without a major fight on her end, but we have remained calm, and reminded her that the choice is hers. The consequence will either be good or bad.

We are all different parents, and with very different kids, so I am not saying that we should all spank (nor do I presume that my opinion matters to you). My husband and I have been back and forth with time-outs, consequences, rewards, etc., and nothing gets her attention more promptly than a spanking. With any consequence there has to be a "sting" so that they think twice before doing it again. Rewards are also good. But seriously, I can't give the girl a candy bar every time she does something right. And sometimes the reward of making good choices is simply the joy in the moment of choosing well! That should be good enough. It is so easy to spoil our children in today's society.

It is said that the best kind of parenting is Authoritative Parenting. I agree with this. Children are individuals. Their actions will get a response. The response will either be positive or negative. We need to equip them with the right tools to be successful. If they make negative choices, they will get negative results. If they choose right, they will get positive results. The choice is theirs! We have to be careful not to withhold discipline for fear that we draw too much attention to the negative.

Some key points to practicing good discipline:
  • Your child should understand why they are being punished.
  • Follow through consistently without an emotional rise
  • Keep a strong commitment to establishing & communicating boundaries 
  • Give children the power to choose right from wrong (both have consequences)
  • Keep your temper in check
  • You are going to make mistakes. It's ok! Acknowledge when you are wrong, and continue with the plan of discipline. "I'm sorry," is best learned when modeled yourself.
  • Get on the same page with your spouse. You equally need support, accountability & affirmation. Being a part of a team is far better than being alone.
Sometimes all the difference in the world is the way we view parenting. Is it an inconvenience when our children act out, or do we see this as an opportunity to teach? Our view could change the way we parent. 

I am in the thick of dealing with a defiant child. I have made many mistakes, will continue to do so, but the mistakes will be few and far in between staying consistent and keeping strong. 

Hope this helps someone out there. It has really helped me. And it's a good reminder for those of us who have multiple kids. Life can be so crazy and out of control at times.

#nurturecalls


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