Kids Pushing Boundaries

There comes a time in a child’s life when he needs to find his boundaries. He needs to explore right and wrong, discover good and bad, play mom against dad. When these times come it can be difficult for us parents to stay level headed, keep our patience and figure out how discipline.

That word alone, discipline, isn’t talked about much in parenting circles. It’s never discussed in parenting squares or triangles, either. Similar to a teacher’s classroom, disciplining takes on various roles and forms depending on the child. My favorite example is clapping the erasers together to clean them (back in the olden days of chalkboards). For one kid this was something to look forward to. They’d get to outside, away from their classmates and beat the dust out of the erasers. However, for another student it was a chore.

The same can apply to children at home. For one kid, emptying the dishwasher is a chore, while for the other it’s just something do. So finding the right punishment can be trial and error. Sometimes with more error than trial.

When a child decides to push his boundaries and test his limits, the best thing we can do is stand our ground. We are the parents, after all. Now’s not the time to be the best friend. There will be time enough for that later. When I say “no” I mean no. I don’t mean, “go ask your mother but don’t tell her I said no already”. When I come to pick up at school and tell you that when we get home you need to put your laundry away before you go play outside I don’t mean throw your backpack in the door and take off running to go play.

I don’t care how nice it is outside.
I don’t care if your friends are already outside.
I don’t care that you don’t want to put your laundry away.
I don’t care that you think it’s not fair.

So we need to find a punishment to fit the bill. They will be pissed no matter what we dish out, no matter how light the punishment might seem to us. It will pretty much be the end of the world for them.

To give a real example, that laundry putting away incident happened in our house yesterday. I picked up Crash from school and told him we were going home to put laundry away before we played outside. Of course he didn’t like being told this. Once we were home instead of coming in to put said laundry away (a 5 minute task) he tosses his backpack in the door and goes off to play with friends were already in the backyard. I didn’t fight with him then because, for now, it’s just laundry. It’ll be another story, a different battle, when it’s homework.

Later he asked me if he could play on his tablet. I said no. He liked this even less than me telling him he had to put laundry away. Naturally, he asked why. So I told him had lost his table time (except for Epic) and besides, he never put his laundry away like I asked.

He left in a huff.
He put his laundry away (with his brother’s help).
He then went to mom (instead of coming back to me) and tells her he put his laundry away and that I said he could play on the tablet after he had done that. Playing us. Once he was busted the dragons woke.

He was fussed at. He was talked to. He was questioned. However, no formal punished was handed out other than enforcing his no tablet time except for reading. He’s looking for his boundaries and he’s finding out they’re not as far out there as he was hoping. Like I found out when I was his age, his parents aren’t stupid.

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J is for… #atozchallenge

J

is for so many things. I’m being indecisive. I’ve scoured the J section of the Scrabble Dictionary. 

Jaculate – to throw; I’ll jaculate my kids into the river if they keep fighting, making messes, or leaving the hamster’s cage open.

Jenny – a female donkey; “You son of a Jenny” just doesn’t have the same insult factor as its cousin.

Jealous. I’m jealous of those parents who have their shit together. The ones who can honestly use the #ParentingWin and mean it.

Jackass. Sometimes my kids are mean to each other for no reason other than to be a jackass and piss the other one off.

Journey. I did that one last year. Besides, this journey called parenting is too much like Jacob’s ladder. It has no end. Or if you believe the biblical Jacob’s ladder, it leads to Heaven. Heaven doesn’t want me and Hell’s afraid I’ll take over.

J could be Jake and the Neverland Pirates or Justin Time, two shows Crash and Bang can agree to watch together.

In this thing called parenting some things are done better together. Showering isn’t one of them. Like classic peanut butter and jelly we stick together. Everyone’s awake, everyone’s been fed, everyone’s lunch is made, everyone’s ready to get their day started.

Perhaps our sandwiches are made with chunky peanut. Not everything goes smooth.

We have our bumps and lumps in the every day life. One kid can’t find all the stuff he needs for school which results in a meltdown. One kid has a coat sleeve turned inside out and can’t get his arm in. This, too, results in a meltdown. Perhaps we’re not as ready as we thought we were.

This is a joint effort. When one kid takes 45 minutes to fall asleep we call in the reliever. When the kids are on last nerves, we call for backup. When there’s readying to be done we’re there for the assist. Or the 9th inning 3 run homer for the win.

When there’s playing to be done, we do it right. Dirt diggin’. Tower crashin’. Lego buildin’. Soccer kickin’. Trampoline jumpin’. Igloo buildin’. Playgroundin’. Fun.

We try to stay on the same page with the disciplining, too. We try to give the kids a bit of consistency. Not that it always works, but we try. Sometimes the severity of punishment will depend upon how frustrated the one delivering the sentence is. No matter, we try to support each other’s decisions.

There’s no I in parent. But there is part. We’re part of a team. Part of our children’s lives. Part of their success. When our children are successful that’s a #ParentingWin.

 

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Good Cop, Bad Cop (or Pissing Off an 8 Year Old)

I snapped, completely lost it. Dad went Bat shit crazy. It very rarely happens, but it happened 2 nights ago.

Let me set the scene for you…

Playing Legos, Bang (the 4 year old) had the wrecking ball from his Lego crane and was playing with it. Crash decided he wanted so he tried to take it. Bang put up a fight and wouldn’t let him have it. I told Crash that it was Bang’s wrecking ball, Bang had it so he would have to wait his turn. I guess he didn’t like my answer because he tried to push and kick Bang. This earned him a time out on the stairs for a while.

Flash forward an hour to bedtime snack and neither one is being a very good listener. They couldn’t get their own yogurt. Bang didn’t want his because it had “chunks”. Crash shoveled his down and I told him to go ahead upstairs and start getting ready for bed. Instead he went to the living room to play with the previously mentioned wrecking ball. Once I got it from him, he started up the stairs but came back down to get a drink of water. A fight ensued over a chair and they were back to fighting.

I snapped, completely lost it. Dad went Bat shit crazy.

Now both kids were crying. One into his yogurt and the other in his room. He shut himself in his room, changed into pajamas and wrote me this note. I found it in the hallway as he slid it under his door.

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(Names changed to protect the guilty) We’re still not sure why he included “Bad mom!” She was just washing dishes.

You can see that I wrote back to him (slid it back under his door, of course). Then he wrote back, again. Fortunately, he agreed with my response.

A few minutes later, while I was helping Bang get ready for bed, this note comes sliding out into the hallway.

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I know what this says. Can you figure it out?

There are only two mistakes in his paragraph. He made a backwards “S” in two different spots. The rest of the “S’s” are right. I attribute this to being left handed. Anyway, I’m was no longer a “bad dad”. I wasn’t even a “good dad”. I was awsome! Not sure why. 10 minutes prior I was raging lunatic.

Which brings me to part two. I had just snapped at them. It wasn’t my greatest parenting technique, but it worked. Now we were upstairs getting ready for bed and DW walks in on me reading a book (The Gruffalo) to Bang. He gets furious, cries, and pushes her back out the door. Huh? I’m the one who snapped and got angry, but it’s her they’re mad at?

Was it how I dealt with them after I snapped? Was it the fact that they’re not used to me being the one who snaps? Was it that they were so caught up with me fuming at them that they assumed their mother was, too? She was an innocent bystander merely washing the dishes when all hell broke loose yet she became a “bad guy”. My only thought is that it was me who went up while DW finished the dishes. It was me who calmed them down and played the “slide notes back and forth under the door to each other” game. Had it been DW, it would been me they stayed angry at. They went to bed and woke up in the morning happy with everyone.


*Crash’s note reads thusly:

Dear Dad you know life is kinda good… But it would be better if the world had literally no electronics… Just books, because I know how much you love books.
love love love love you,
Crash
P.S. Bad Dad
Good Dad
       Awesome Dad!

Why these strategies don’t work for us

I was reading an article the other day about parenting techniques for discipline. For each one, I could think of reasons why their “fixes” would not work for our two. Theoretically, they sounded great. But in practice? They’d flop like a fish outta water.

Their first suggestion was to stop being so negative.

“Don’t hit your sister!” “Stop pulling the dog’s tail!” The number of things you tell your toddler or preschooler not to do is endless.

THE FIX: Ask for the behavior you want to see.

In theory, this sounds great. Redirect your child instead of constantly telling them no, don’t. However, especially with our two boys, this wouldn’t work. They need to know that what they are doing is not allowed. They need to know you can’t dance on the table because it’s not safe for them or the table. They need to know they can’t jump on each other because one of them will get hurt. They can’t jump from 5th stair, stay up late on a school night, or have cookies for breakfast. Without understanding the consequences they’ll do it again.

Their second suggestion was to show them, not tell them.

You’re sitting in church when your toddler shouts. As soon as you shush him, he does it again. Mortifying! Why doesn’t he listen?

THE FIX Play teacher.

In this case, the reason your toddler shouted was because they heard a sound they’d never heard before: their voice echo in large, open area. They didn’t do it to mortify and embarrass you. Sure you could whisper to them that they need to whisper like you. But whispering is not nearly as much fun as echoing. And I’m sure more than one person turned to see who shouted. When they see it was your adorable one they’ll smile which will, naturally, only encourage more shouting. Like the day I put our two boys in a racquetball room. Once they heard the echo they couldn’t keep quiet. After a minute they were being as loud as they could be simply to hear the echo.

The third suggestion.

When you drop something, you yell. A man cuts you off and you call him a rude name. But then you get mad if your kid reacts the same way when things don’t go her way.

THE FIX Apologize and take a do-over.

In their story, they tell us about a mom, Deena, who used this technique when her 5 year old protested so much about getting dressed that she snapped, “Just shut up and get dressed!” Realizing this was not how she’d want her son to react in a similar situation, she knelt down, apologized, then talked about how important it is to be on time for school. It worked: Owen got ready for school calmly after that. Owen didn’t ready for school because mom apologized. Owen got ready because mom went bat shit crazy. Bat shit crazy is a useful technique to get kids moving. They don’t understand seriousness until some one snaps.

The fourth piece of advice I can agree with.

You hear your children chasing each other around the house and immediately shout.

THE FIX Ignore selectively.

See? This one I sort of agree with. Essentially it’s let kids be kids. Kids are loud. Often times kids are busy. They go go go. Ours like to play rough. Crash outweighs Bang by 30 pounds or so, but that doesn’t stop Bang from trying to wrestle his big brother. I don’t necessarily ignore it, but I do selectively watch it. I’m a bit like the ref. I keep them safe and from hurting each other. It’s when they’re quiet and out of sight that worries me. Scares me, really.

The fifth piece of advice.

“Turn off the TV… I’m serious this time… Really!” Your kids continue bad behavior when warnings are vague for the same reason you run yellow lights — there aren’t consequences.

THE FIX Set limits and follow through.

Well okay. Got me again. I like this piece. I have seen on numerous occasions parents who say “5 more minutes” and a half hour later they’re still saying “5 more minutes”. Or “Don’t do that or we’re going home.” They do it again and again and again and they never went home. Empty threats. If you make an ultimatum, you stick to it otherwise all your child has learned is to not take you seriously.

The sixth suggestion.

When you send your 3-year-old to his room after he hits his brother, he starts banging his head on the floor in rage.

THE FIX Consider a time-in.

I don’t fully agree with this. Though they do say “consider”. Depending on the warranted behavior, this may work. Usually, for us, it only works when they’re tired, cranky, and over stimulated. So instead of sending them chill out alone, I’ll go with them and we’ll read. Sometimes it take two books sometimes it takes eight. However, if they’re arguing, fighting, being defiant, etc… they’ll be sent to chill by themselves. Then they’ll have to listen to me lecture to them. They hate that more being by themselves. Lastly, our two boys aren’t ones to be hugged when they’re cranking about something. Sad, sure. But when they’re hurt or cranky, frustrated or angry they don’t want to be touched. Hell, when teh four year old is happy he often has to be bribed for a hug.

Finally, their last piece of advice is quite contradictory.

The best way to deal with your son’s whining is to get down at eye level and explain how his actions need to change. But your daughter is more aggressive and refuses to listen.

THE FIX Develop a diverse toolbox.

After a thousands words offering advice on how to discipline, they ended by telling you that these strategies will work on every child. In other words, what they have told us, explained to us by professionals, may not be what is best for your child. No one knows your children like you do. Use some sense and do what is right for them and what’s right for you. Their final “fix” of developing a diverse toolbox is key. You will need have various forms of consequences, various strategies to get your children to understand what it is your trying to teach them. I could sit here and talk until I’m blue in the face and my thumbs fall off, but all I’ve told you are the discipline techniques that work for our two boys.

Read the advice, but ultimately, do what you need to do raise happy, healthy, and educated children. Even if you have to invent some of your own.

Sorry for the long read, but thanks for sticking it out. And if you’ve made it this far, know that I’m only a professional, expert dad. I have no degree in parenting. I didn’t even read the book. Like most of us, I’m just making it up as I go along.

Inadaquate Parenting

Have you ever felt like what you were doing just wasn’t enough? Or questioned your own methods? Or faced a dilemma that you weren’t sure of the best possible solution (or felt like there weren’t any at all).  I’m not crying the poor me’s. I’m not fishing for compliments. However, maybe an opinion or two might help. Continue reading