January 6, 2012

can't we all just get along?

"the way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice"
- peggy o'mara

i saw that quote circulating facebook a few weeks ago. as a long time fan of mothering magazine, i always appreciate peggy o'mara's refreshing truths but this struck me as one of the most profound (and profoundly simple) things i'd ever read.

of course.

people can spend years in therapy and what it often boils down to is their self-concept and their relationships and there's always a little bit of parent-blame mixed in but what are parents if not the two people we're most closely related to. they are our very first and most intense relationship.

i repeated the phrase in my head a lot over the course of the next week and it made me no more aware of how i talk to my kids but more likely to remain calm and respectful.

last week someone else on facebook posted a link to this blog and even though she's referring to how absurd it seems to justify hitting a child if we wouldn't hit an adult i think the concept easily applies to how we speak to children.

how we speak to children is probably my biggest area of concern. i don't believe in hitting as a form of discipline and i read scream-free parenting and i know how ridiculous it is to yell. it's not effective and may be just as damaging as spanking.

but sometimes i still do it.

today i came across this blog, where the concept is applied to how we speak to children and a similar example is given.

i also read dayna martin.

she posted this "rockin' thought" on facebook and it made me think:
Children are not naturally designed to be obedient over their own inner desires and drives. Parents spend years trying to bend the will of their children to meet their needs. It is narcissistic to expect children to put your needs before their own. It goes against nature and human instinct. To expect a toddler to put obedience before exploring and playing is not only cruel, it is unrealistic.

all of this is coming up for me because it's time for me to admit that i yell because i don't have a grasp over my own emotions. sometimes i demand obedience for safety's sake but i am also guilty of demanding obedience simply to exact some control over a situation.

mostly, though, safety is an issue and i have a very strong-willed youngest child.

earlier he starts hitting six year old pea with a stick. i resist the urge to yell "stop it" or "cut it out" or "what the hell is wrong with you?" and instead tell him what he can do because kids are supposed to like and understand that sort of thing better. i say, "you can stop hitting your brother and still play harry potter" but it truly doesn't matter what i say or how i say it because he's going to keep doing what he wants to do and for no apparent reason, he wants to hit his brother.

he says "no" and tries to hit pea again. i tell him i will have to take away the "wand" if he does it again and he throws it on the ground, then himself, and starts crying. this becomes a forty minute ordeal, wherein, at one point i gave him back the wand after he acknowledged that he'd hit his brother and said he wouldn't do it again. it wasn't long before he began hitting the wall and then his brother again. i took it away again and all hell broke loose.

he has a tantrum or three just like this, every.single.day. i know it's temporary and that when he calms down, he is able to process, but it takes him a long time to calm down and in the meantime it's pretty maddening.

sometimes parents must command their children and expect their children comply. perhaps yelling isn't an effective way to get kids to listen but how do you get defiant kids to listen without losing your cool? i know there are tons of books on the topic but i feel like i need some working advice, not those hypothetical flowery suggestions that never tend work in the real world.

it boils down to this, i don't yell as an initial response and it's never been something i'm proud of but i'd like to just not do it. ever. however if an adult was acting like my two year old i'd probably yell at them.

okay, really, i'd walk away, of course. but i can't walk away from a screaming, angry toddler. i put him in his room and shut the door but moments later i'm afraid he'll break it down in an attempt to get out.

waving the white flag of mom-glory here and asking...how do you find the balance between letting your kids act like entitled spoiled brats that always get their way with expecting (and getting) good behavior?

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