“No Lip” or How much talking back is okay?

I’ve been thinking a lot about behavior lately–namely, whining and back talking.  I’ve recently taken on a no nonsense discipline strategy that been really effective.  There’s a lot of things that I don’t tolerate, and the girls get disciplined immediately for it.  It’s been great in a lot of ways.  It’s helped them understand their limits, and it helps me “parent without screaming.”  But as my 3-year old ages, she is becoming mouthier and more independent by the day.  I’ve been blaming this on her figuring out who she is coupled with early language that she doesn’t fully have a grasp on.  Early language or not, though, it’s time to reign in the mouthiness.

I guess I’ve been waiting on feeling like she is aware of her behavior, capable of being responsible for what she says–not sure if that makes sense, but her language is FAR beyond her understanding of it.  She’ll yell all kinds of things that she doesn’t understand.  Like, “This is NOT MY responsibility!  It is YOUR responsibility!”  She doesn’t know what responsibility means, she only regurgitates… and, she regurgitates so stinking well.  She’s often mistaken for being older than 3 because of how well she speaks and has conversation, but her emotional maturity lags far behind.  So, I’m in this weird place: “Is she old enough to reign in her emotions, or at least reign in her disrespectful behavior toward me?  Is she old enough to learn respect?”

Here’s where it recently hit a head.  Sunday night, cookout.  I took the girls by myself.  Cookout with a whole bunch of people I didn’t know and a small few I did.  When it was time to go, I gave the 5-minute and 1-minute warning and tried to round the kiddos up. Sophia ran away from me, and Abby started screaming with the loss of my immediate presence.  Everybody froze.  Abby’s screams will make the toughest mothers crumble and the less seasoned ones FLIP OUT.  To say she’s a drama queen is a serious understatement.  I nearly had to drag Sophia by the arm, and I had to rescue my screaming Abby from the arms of a well-meaning complete stranger.  I haven’t felt so judged, so “all eyes on the mother who doesn’t have it together” in a long time.  I couldn’t yell my usual countdown to get Sophia to obey… I had no weapons.  I already got stares from merely calling her name in a loud-ish voice.  By the way, countdowns… They used to work…  But, now I only get compliance when I count.  That’s not good.

At this very moment, I realize I need to start small.  I need to pick a behavior, make it plain to her that it will no longer be tolerated, and henceforth make consequences for it.  The question, when it comes to all things “talking back,” what behavior is the worst?  Where should I start?  Obviously, “I hate you.”  “I’m gonna kill you.” “I’m gonna throw you in the trash.”  Those aren’t going to fly.  But, what about, “No!  I won’t do that!”  Or, “I don’t want to!”  Or, “BUT,….”

My mother used to tell me, “No lip.”  What exactly is “lip”?  All things “talked back” when given an order or instruction?  And, how much is too much?

Some would say that any “lip” is too much, but here’s what I wonder: At some point, she may have a legitimate argument or opinion, one that I should be available to listen to.  For example, I see her hit her sister.  I immediately send her to time-out.  According to my mom, any bit of “lip” would be saying anything before going to her room.  “But, Abby bit me!” would be legitimate “lip” in my opinion… I never tolerate hitting, but I do think she deserves to be able to defend herself both physically and verbally.  And, I should know what happened.  (I realize in this situation that asking what happened would be a better place to start, but you get the idea… And, when it comes to parenting in the moment, I’m not perfect.)

I want to create a tone in the house where my girls feel like they can talk to me.  I don’t want to cut them off from their emotions.  I want them to have their feelings.  If they’re angry, they should be allowed to be angry.  If they’re sad, they should be allowed to be sad.  And, we should be able to talk about it if she wants to and it’s appropriate.  In time-outs I always let Sophia scream and moan and say whatever she’s feeling, but what about other times?  And, what about when her anger and sadness come out badly, sinfully…

As I write this, I feel like I’m answering my own questions.  Two things shouldn’t be tolerated: Telling authorities (Mom and Dad, first) “no,” and a nasty tone of voice (yelling and what-not).  She needs to learn respect.  And, she needs to learn that her voice will only be heard if she uses a tone that is appropriate.  That’s not too much to ask, right?  It’s hard to narrow my focus.  I also want to discipline her tendency to be overly bossy and snippy or just altogether disagreeable and no fun…  3 is a hard age.  For daughter and me.  I don’t want to baby her, but I also don’t want to expect too much.

Ultimately, I want to teach my girls to be kind, patient, compassionate, loving and respectful.  I also want to foster an environment that is available and ready to hear with compassion and love.

You have any ideas for me?  What back talking and whining and tantrum throwing do you “tolerate” and what do you hammer down on?

 

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Eat this, then that.

Humor me.  I’m rejoicing in a small victory today.  Lunch time woes.  Both of my kids have it.  “Lunch?!  I hate lunch! I want to throw lunch in the trash!”  Interpretation: “I only like to eat sweet, snacky foods–fruits and snack crackers and cookies.”  Today, my patience paid off–for BOTH of my children!

Lunch for the children today was meager: pile of tomatoes, pile of real mozzarella cheese, and 1/2 wheat bread slice.  I would’ve made a grilled cheese with tomatoes, but they wouldn’t eat it all together like that… They each ate the bread.  They each ate the tomatoes… and then, the cheese was left.  They looked at what Mommy and Daddy were eating and started losing it.  “I WANT a SANDWICH!”  (Of course, I know better… We’re eating fancy paninis, complete with pepperoni, cheese and veggies.)

They see the whole grain chips and hummus we’re eating.  My 19-month old: “Chip.  Chip.  Abby chip.”  It started with Sophia hollering and beggine and continued on to Abby.  The easy thing to do would be to just give in–give them each some chips.  After all, they’re whole grain.  Or, I could simply have put chips on their plate in the first place.  However, I had a sneaking suspicion that neither of them would eat this foreign looking cheese.  I was right.

Since Sophia asked for a chip first, I told her that she would need to eat some cheese before she could have any chips.  After flipping out and yelling awful things, she finally asked to leave the table to go play.  5 minutes later, she was back.  She ate a piece of cheese and got a chip.  10 pieces of cheese and 10 chips later and lunch was finished.  Abby didn’t quite understand the concept so well, though we’ve done it many times.  (Either that, or she’s stubborn as a mule.  I think she’s stubborn as a mule.)  After 10 whole minutes of screaming her head off for a chip, she asked to be all done.  Then 10 minutes later, Abby came back to the table and asked for a chip.  This time when I said, “Cheese first, then chip,” she ate the piece of cheese and then ate the chip.  (Sophia helped.)  10 pieces of cheese and 10 chips later, and she was also completely finished with her lunch!  AH!  Victory is mine!

It’s a simple rewards based system that teaches children the importance of eating what’s more healthy first before moving onto the junk.  Some people don’t like to reward with food, but it’s such a simple concept that is effective.  As long as your rewards aren’t crap and as long as what you’re using to teach them to eat is truly healthy food, then I think that it will teach them good eating habits.

Another trick we use with our eldest is dessert rewards.  When she completely finishes her (well-balanced) plate of dinner, she is rewarded with a (reasonable) dessert.  Dessert is usually fruit, sometimes a fruity popsicle, or something sweeter like chocolate or a cookie.  I want to teach my kids to eat EVERYTHING, appreciate foods with different flavors, textures and colors…  I think it’s working, little by little.  The trick is having the patience to be okay with screaming for a few minutes.  My kids sure can throw fits!  I bet yours can, too.  😉

An homage to a long lost friend

Cowboy.  That stinking cute animal has been the thing I love to hate for almost 2 years, now.  Cowboy has been that over-loved, stuffed cotton dog that has been the bane of my existence every day at 1:00 and every night at 6:30–sometimes spending up to 1 hour looking for the blessed thing!  The emotion I have spent being angry with that little stuffed animal!  I have retrieved her from all manner of hiding places, washed her after trips into the potty, cleaned her when her face was green with snot.  And, of course, consoled Sophia countless times for said trips to the washing machine.  “Cowboy needs a bath.  She’ll be back soon.”

I have thanked God for Cowboy every night.  Yes, that’s right.  Sophia would add Cowboy to the list every night when we thanked God for Mommy, Daddy, Abby and Sophia.  (Nighttime talks.)

Cowboy has been with us in nearly every picture that has been photographed in the last year.  Cowboy has gone with us on nearly every trip the store.  She’s been introduced to every stranger we met along the way.  Cowboy’s been on every camping trip and every hike.  How many times have I said, “Let’s leave Cowboy in the car so we don’t lose her.”

I have listened countless hours about how much Sophia loves her, how she’s her best friend.  I have spent every trip out worrying about that stuffed animal as if it were a 3rd child of mine.  I have said, “Do you have Cowboy?”  or “Where’s Cowboy?” so many times a day that I’ve nearly lost my mind over that animal!  How many times have I snatched up that stuffed animal and hid her in my bag so that Sophia wouldn’t lose her?  I have felt so much anxiety about keeping up with her that now that that anxiety is absent, I feel empty somehow.  Cowboy was my daughter’s best friend.  Ugh.  I’m nearly sick to my stomach about the loss of this… this… lovey.

“Cowboy” now is this word I dare not say aloud.  A word that I used to use and hear, literally, hundreds of times a day!  It’s now a word that brings up heartache at my daughter’s first loss.

If this sounds over-dramatic, then I fear you haven’t been a mother to one who was so attached to a doll…

Thankfully, though… it seems that it has been harder for me….

We lost Sophia’s lovey at a huge shopping mall this weekend.  He got dropped somewhere along the way… and, well,… nobody noticed.  Until it was time to go home, many hours later.  No one is blamed for the disappearance, other than the fact that she got dropped and lost.  (By the way, Cowboy is a girl in case you hadn’t gathered.  This is very important.)  Sophia was so exhausted from the trip that she conked out in the car while Will and I took turns going back into the mall looking for Cowboy and leaving our name and number with all the stores that we went to.  Her falling asleep meant that we didn’t have a huge, dramatic scene, but it meant that the drama would be post-poned… and, we would have to tell her about it after there was nothing we could do.  As we pulled out of the parking lot and drove the hour-long drive home, the reality was looming and settling in and the loss was real.  Will and I both cried as we imagine the devastation that Sophia would feel when we had to tell her, the difficulty it would be for her to soothe herself without Cowboy.  She’s too young to deal with this kind of loss.  It’s too soon!  We mourned that loss for the next hour.

By the time we arrived back in Fort Collins, we stopped and got popcorn and a movie to watch together, hoping to soften the blow.  After we got home, we sat Sophia down and told her what happened.  She cried.  She told us that she missed Cowboy.  But… she seemed to understand… (I fear that I’ve been warning her that this day would come.  She’s kind of aloof sometimes.)  She’s asked about Cowboy only a few times (bedtimes), none of which I have heard.   It’s so strange how this word has disappeared from my every day.

I’ve noticed something different about Sophia, though.  Since the loss of Cowboy (3 days), I haven’t once seen her suck her thumb.  She’s acted more grown-up.  There’s no whining about “where’s Cowboy?”  She’s wanted to cuddle with me more–not something she’s ever been that crazy about.  It’s been very strange.  It’s the complete opposite of what I expected.

Today, I heard this: Sophia walked into her room. “I’m going to get Cow– uh, Piglet.”  Officially, Cowboy has been replaced.  Replaced with a larger stuffed animal that used to be Abby’s before Abby attached to a Pooh Bear…  And, she’s sucking her thumb again… I’m. Left.  Feeling… Well. Strange… I guess, I feel bad for Cowboy getting replaced so quickly, though I’m relieved that she didn’t feel the loss more strongly.  Is it her age?  Is she not old enough to really understand the loss?  Or not old enough to have fully developed attachment as I see it?  I mean, Cowboy has been around longer than Abby!  Abby knows that Sophia and Cowboy go together like french fries and ketchup.  She would constantly take Cowboy to Sophia when Sophia didn’t have her….  And, now what?  Is this it?  Do we now live life as before but with Piglet?  At first I was encouraging a new attachment, but keeping up with Cowboy was getting out of hand.  And Piglet’s at least 3 times the size that Cowboy was, maybe 5…

Well, it was really good for me to look through all those old pictures.  (There are many, many more.  These just happen to be what’s on my MacBook.)  Well, it was good for my grieving… though, I probably won’t show Sophia for a while…  I do feel a lot less angry about Cowboy making it into all those pictures, now… funny, how things change.  Maybe, this will help me let him…er, her go.

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.

UTAH.

Utah.  It’s hot.  It’s sunny.  It’s dry and desert-y.  It’s stinking gorgeous.  But, I may not want to go back for a while.

I had never been out West.  I had never been much farther west than where we live right now.  Until we took a nearly impromptu family vacation to Moab last weekend.  The conditions weren’t quite right, but we thought we better go soon if we were going to go this summer.  I was itching for a camping trip; it was really still too cool to go here.  And, we’d neer been to Moab and really wanted to visit the national parks there…

We looked at the forecast and planned the trip.  Just as soon as we got everything in order: asking for time off, booking a campsite, etc., Will got some kind of stomach virus (the Monday before we were to leave Friday morning.)  Will, the strong-man that he is, didn’t let on how debilitating this virus was to his body.  He powered through, as he always does.  (Maybe, he can give birth to our next two children?)  So, not knowing how yucking his illness was, we continued on with our planning.

After stress building because of his recent illness (and my unknown onset) and a regretful argument the night before, we were on the road by 7 a.m. on Friday.  Woohoo.  May I count the plentiful reasons to leave so early!  Wowee.  It was the most wonderful car trip we have ever had.  It was perfect, really.  The kids had breakfast in the car, “read” 20 books a piece, had more snacks and sang songs, and all of a sudden we were half-way.  We stopped at a park for a super-early picnic lunch (10:45).  After letting them run their energy off, they sacked out in the car right as we crossed the UT border.  We made it by 2:00!  It’s like 430 miles!  Anyway, great trip over.  We were able to set up tent, get some ice cream and head into the park for a little sight-seeing, all well before dark.

Dark.  That’s where things turned evil.  In the night, Abby kept waking up making these wretching sounds–like dry heaving.  She never cried for me to get her up, but the wretching was awfully disturbing.  She had had diarrhea that evening.  It got me to thinking about my own constitution.  Queezy.  I tried not to think about it.  Only imagining it, right?  By the time morning came, my belly was not in the mood for a 7 a.m., 5-mile desert hike.  In fact, my belly was only in the mood for diarrhea and vomiting for the next 12 hours.

After crapping my guts out in the camp bathroom about 30 different times,  my body ached and my fever got up to 101.4.  Since we were camping and the forecast now told us the highs were around 99 for the next two days, we thought we had better pack it up and head home before things got worse.  At 11 a.m. Will miraculously got the tent packed up, and we headed out.  He was such a trooper that day.  You can imagine that we had to stop a few times on the 430 mile drive back home… It was rough.  I’m not gonna lie.  We all napped, though.  A LOT!  I was basically asleep the whole time.  My girls were so wonderful.  They could tell I was miserable, and the minimal amount of whining and crying can only be attributed to a gracious God.  We made it home, and now have the stories, the memories, and the pictures…

YAY!  Pictures.  Here’s a few fun pictures of what we did get to see during our VERY short trip to Utah.

A Mother’s Wish

I want to make a memory of today, of something I just witnessed.  I want to make such a vivid memory that I can recount every detail to my girls when they’re adults.  My mind is always so foggy, my memory so disjointed and unclear (thyroid symptom?)  I fear I won’t remember.

Today’s been pretty rough day.  It began abruptly at a 5:45 bang on our bedroom door, followed by a 5:46 climb into bed over the top of me.  Yup.  Sophia.  She needs some boundaries. (By the way, I was up past midnight last night; so, I did not welcome this sweet face so early.)

As I groggily came downstairs at about 6:30, I was met with the unmet tasks of yesterday–horribly crusty kitchen with a sink full of dishes, 2 new shrubs to plant out in our front flowerbed, the next week’s grocery shopping, 2 loads of unfolded laundry, and a houseful of tornado-toddlerdom, i.e. every kind of toy everywhere.  (I’ve been taking some time off from housework.  Still recovering from a recent stomach illness.  More on that later.)

This might not be so bad if I had woken up a bit cheerier… or let’s say, if everyone else had, too…

So, Sophia went to bed after 9 last night, and she woke up before 6.  She is CRANKY today.  She is every bit of 3 years old today. The way she is talking to me sends my head spinning, my eyes rolling, and body shaken.  I tell her to do something, and she yells at me, “NO! I DON’T WANT TO! THIS IS MY KIND OF LIFE AND I CAN DO WHAT I WANT!!!!!”  You can be sure that this kind of behavior is met with time-outs and apology sessions…

How’s Abby today?  She’s getting new words every day.  Just a few days ago she finally started verbalizing “no” and doing it very well.  Now, she yells (in a very sweet 18-month old voice) “NO!” after I tell her to do something.  Then she rolls all over the floor laughing.

WHAT the WHAT?!

Where was I?  Was there a scene I wanted to savor?  It wasn’t them helping dig the holes for the shrubs… or them helping me get new soil mixed in… or even watering them…  though, it sure made me think a lot about how God is working on my patience…

About 20 time-outs later sometime after cleaning up lunch, I hear, “Abby’s hugging me, Mommy!  Abby’s hugging me!”  I look around the corner, and both my girls are on the ground.  Abby has tackled Sophia from the front, arm tight around her neck.  She sitting on her knees, hugging her heart out, laying her head on Sophia’s shoulder.  Sophia’s smiling ear to ear, trying to be patient enough to hug her back, her legs wrapped around behind her.  There is only sheer joy.  “Abby’s hugging me, Mommy!  Abby’s hugging me!”

They’re becoming best friends–following each other around everywhere, wanting to be just like each other.  They’re playing together better all the time and also doing their share of fighting and wrestling.  It’s the most beautiful thing a mother can see.  I want to savor it.  I want to pause and make this memory of this moment last forever.  I want to tell my girls when they’re in the late 20s about this day.  I have a feeling if I remember it, I will tell it through choked back tears.

The Ongoing Fun of Two

Oh!  My kids are SO hilarious right now.  And, by hilarious, I actually mean ornery-as-can-be!  The newest development in the sage of raising two is time-out behavior.  For a while now, when Sophia cries her heart out, yelling “Cooooooow-booooooy,” during a 3-minute time-out, Abby will go on the search for Cowboy and bring the stuffed animal to her.  This morning, after taking Cowboy from Sophia’s hands during a time-out, Abby goes after whatever toy she can find to take to Sophia–over and over and over.  I take it away from Sophia.  Tell Abby, “No.  Sister’s in time-out.”  And, she goes and finds something else to take to her sad big sister.  Here’s the tension: It’s sweet, right?  Abby’s compassionate.  She wants to give Sophia something to make her stop crying.  I want my girls to relate sweetly to each other as sisters.  I want to encourage compassion and empathy–sticking up for each other, etc.  But, it’s a time-out.  When will she be old enough to learn that when you’re in time-out for doing something wrong, you can’t have a toy?  I guess, at this point I need to just pick her up and take her away for 3 minutes.

–I just looked over at Abby, and she has unzipped my wallet.  When did she get old enough to do that?—

We’ve started time-outs with Abby, too… and this is also difficult.  She’s throwing toys and hitting, unacceptable things that Sophia never really did.  She goes to time-out almost excitedly.  You know, it’s “big girl.”  Sophia does it.  Well, yesterday after Sophia and Abby had an altercation, Abby went to time-out at the bottom of the stairs.  I went to Sophia to console her sore head.  I asked her if she wanted me to kiss it.  Immediately Abby jumps up arms stretched out making kissy faces and noises.  It was all I could do not to fall all over the floor laughing.  Straight face.  Discipline.  Follow through.  This is important.  Poor Abby is not getting the same parenting that Sophia got.  I’m coming to grips with that fact.  They’re going to have different stories.  They’re going to be different people based on a lot of facts–internal and external… and birth order is one of the unarguable facts.  They will get parented differently.

–Alright, I just put Sophia in time-out again for getting water from the faucet unattended–AFTER I gave her a vase that I told her she could “pretend” with, “no water.”

She’s whispering to Abby, coaxing her, “Abby, go get Cowboy for me.  Abby, please….  Please Abby, go get my Cowboy.”

Abby takes her a shoe. “Shoe,” Abby says.

“I don’t want a shoe, Abby.  Go get my Cowboy.”

Abby doesn’t get her Cowboy.  She walks off and plays.  HAHAHAHAHA!  —

Okay, I should probably go parent these little monsters.  😉