Rethinking my parenting style

That last post is actually from a few days ago… I’m finally opening back up the laptop and catching up…  I just hit publish because I thought it might inform where we’ve been and where we’re going (hopefully).

What a week.

I don’t feel like I can keep up.  This week: A 104.3 fever.  A call to poison control after a Tylenol incident.  Bite marks on Abby’s foot.  Keys in an electrical outlet.  Dealing with, “YOU NEVER LET ME DO ANYTHING?!”  Overhearing, “I’m gonna cut your head off, Abby!”  Putting Abby in time-out for hitting me with a book while yelling, “Hit!”

I think I may have plateaued on the hill of how much parenting sucks sometimes.

Hey, it’s good birth control.  Call in that vasectomy.  Stat.

I’m in a fog this morning.  Overwhelmed with where we are (i.e. where I am with these kids).  I mean, how is it that they’re 3 and 1 1/2 and I suddenly feel like I woke up with two crazy wild kids and when did it start getting so difficult.  Let me tell you something, parents-with-kids-less-than-3-years-old: Don’t fear the terrible-twos.  They ain’t nothing!  Nobody told me what 3 was like…  Mouthy, sassy, independent, boundary pushing, button pushing little monsters…

Okay, okay…  that’s enough.  Sophia’s figuring out who she is, how she fits in, what to do with herself.  That’s that.  I need to take control.

We actually started a new plan, yesterday.  I realized that I have sluggishly fallen back into a natural parenting style (post 18-months ago) that is not only lazy and ineffective but also counterproductive and bringing the worst out in my daughter.  Yes, I believe that part of my daughter’s behavior is my problem, too.

She’s probably gonna yell at me if I yell at her.  She’s probably going to swing at me when she’s mad, if I occasionally spank her when I’m angry…  She’s probably going to cower when I say, “I want to talk to you” if I’m always focusing on what she does wrong.  She’s probably going to yell and back-talk if I always answer negatively to her requests…

Yah, I’m being negative.  Coupled with not enough sleep and a touch of illness, our attitudes and behavior have snowballed out of control for both of us.  By the way, I just found this book at the library.  I’ve got it on reserve.  Anybody read it?

After another great conversation with my Mom, Will and I started something new with Sophia, yesterday.  Basically it’s a behavior therapy program.  It’s very similar to the therapy that I did with preschoolers with autism.  Sophia is rewarded for good behavior with stickers and get’s a prize of some sort when she gets so many stickers.  We ignore bad behaviors (for the most part… still working that out.)  So, 5 stickers gets her a treat or a show and 25 gets her something really special like ice cream or a movie night.

It has COMPLETELY turned around her behavior (and mine, honestly).  She hasn’t had a single tantrum since we started (less than 24 hours ago… but, that’s saying something lately.)  She also hasn’t back-talked or hit or been mean or anything.

I tell you what, though, it’s been completely exhausting pre-empting her every move, ready to reward every little positive thing.  It’s so alternative to my nature.  My nature is to focus on the negative, to nit-pick, to expect perfection and judge every detail that doesn’t measure up.  I know this about my sinful nature… It’s not pretty.  It’s been exhausting trying to find ways for her to “help” me so that she can get rewarded.  This is having on my “A-game” every minute, and it is REAL HARD!  But, this is parenting.  And, I’m learning about parenting my 3-year old.  What works and what doesn’t.  What seems to be productive for us to relate to each other and for her to learn.   What I was doing was shutting her down emotionally and sending her into desperate behavior measures…

Now, we’re not going to do this reward system until she’s 15… My hope is that it will remarkably turn around her behavior in just a few days or weeks, and then we can drop it for a more natural verbal system of rewards for good behavior–kind of re-train both of us.  What it’s doing for me is changing my focus.  I’m now focusing on everything that she is doing RIGHT.  Having such a positive attitude is helping her also focus on what she’s doing right and how pleased mommy is with her.  Her attitude is COMPLETELY different.  She keeps telling me how much she loves me, asking what she can do to help me or if I will do things with her, smiling again, and just altogether acting happy.

It’s worth the hard work.  I can change my natural inclination to parent as a perfection expect-er….  

Confessions of an angry mother or How often I want to throw in the towel

I think I may retitle my blog, “Confessions of an angry mother.”

I have never used more self-control in my life.  More than a sugar junkie at a free chocolate festival.  More than a 3-year old and an open bag of marshmallows.  More than a 16 year-old boy alone with a stack of dirty magazines.

Okay, I don’t know about any of those, but I have seriously never used so much self-control… and it be so stinking difficult.

I’ve been having a hellacious time with my 3-year old lately.  Shew.  The terrible twos are NOTHING compared to the tantrum threes (or whatever we’re calling it).  The talking back.  The yelling.  The screaming.  The drama.  Sophia has no idea what to do with her feelings.  She’s so angry.  She’ll take swings, or she’ll draw back to take a swing.  We’re doing a lot better about not getting into power struggles, but every once in a while I find myself in another with her because I’m trying to follow through on a bad idea…

My current thought on parenting:  Discipline bad behavior immediately and concisely (usually via a time-out). Move on as quickly as possible.  Ignore tantrums and other outbursts like hitting.  But, sometimes I have NO IDEA WHAT TO DO!!!!  I just can’t keep my cool and think clearly in the moment.  I need to chant this mantra so I have it at the ready (which would probably be appropriate in most situations): “I don’t like that.  Let’s have a time-out.”  I feel like I need to start meditating or something.  My anger just keeps escalating at inappropriate times.  Sophia knows Mommy’s anger button all too well.

Okay, there’s that pep-talk to myself….  Self-control was what this post was going to be about.

After an enlightening conversation with my wonderfully wise mother, I realized a few things.  One of which is this: Sophia needs more positive attention from me.  She’s been telling me that she wants to learn to read.  This afternoon I decided to give it a try.  After a near mental breakdown trying to figure out how I’m going to find any time to spend one-on-one with her, I let her spend 30 minutes before naptime playing a letters game with me.  She was, literally, a maggot in hot ashes.  She kept saying how much fun she was having, how happy she was, while we were playing this letter game.  All the while, she was literally bouncing off the floor to the coffee table to the couch and back again.  Over and over and over.  She did not, could not, stop moving.  She was doing okay with the letters game, though not as well as I’d hoped.  Eventually, I couldn’t take the bouncing any longer, so we moved to her little table.  The bouncing syndrome was lessened a bit, though she couldn’t at all sit still.  Then she couldn’t remember “G.”  “G.”  We’d only gone over it and over and over it.  And, then she couldn’t remember “J.”  We went back and forth and back and forth.  She was happy as a lark.  I was patient as a saint.  She still couldn’t remember “G.”  She couldn’t remember “J.”  If I had had someone else’s child, I know that the anger wouldn’t have fueled my head like it did.  I spoke softly, and sweetly and graciously, and it took EVERYTHING I had.  I felt hot, burning anger.  What the $%(*# is my problem?  It’s just the motherflipping alphabet.  And, I was trying to get an overtired, overanxious 3-year old to sit still and think.  I think my daughter is part wild-animal.  If I don’t let her out to run wild, or at least walk her, she bounces off the walls, bites my head off, or both…

Sophia loved this time, though.  She was SO happy.  She was enjoying the game.  And, other than being completely unable to sit still, she was being “good,” i.e. she wasn’t being “bad.”  This speaks to how much she longs to spend time with me.

Wouldn’t it be easier to just send them all to playschool and go get a a day job?  Yah, I’m pretty sure it’s in my DNA.

Oh, but I love spending time with the boogers.