Sunday 12 February 2012

The Rough Days

When I get something new, I always read the manual first.
That way, I can avoid making costly mistakes by knowing everything I need to know ahead of time.
My children did not arrive with a manual.
Maybe that's why I feel so helpless sometimes.

They are smart.  They are beautiful.  They are cute.  They are funny.  They are priceless.
They're stubborn.  They get ugly.  They get defiant.  They have tantrums.  They break us down.

You are supposed to ensure that a child's needs are met before applying discipline.
I mean discipline as being the routine of teaching children control over their behavior.
They must be fed, rested, loved, satisfied, in order for discipline to be effective.
But, they don't always eat, they don't like to sleep, there's never enough love,
and there is always something that they want.
During those precious moments when a child has been fully satisfied, there is no need for any sort of discipline.
They are perfect angels.
So how do you maintain discipline during the rest of the time?

Today was a power struggle.

Those of you with kids know what I'm talking about.
It's when the little devils think they're going to have a little coup d'etat.

They feel especially empowered when they team up.
I love to see them play together, but when they join forces to take you down, they're fearsome.

Auren never really had any tantrums when he was little, but he has had a couple recently.
Of course, it's only when he is tired or hasn't eaten enough.  I try not to let it affect me, but it's a fiery ball of hateful child that is difficult to ignore.

Fern has a different strategy to get her way.
She just carries on with what she is doing after being told not to.  She smiles sweetly as if to say,
"I'm too cute to say no to!"

It's one thing if they want to eat dessert before dinner.
Or if they are torturing the cat.
Or if they are trying to destroy the house.
Or if they hurt each other.
Or if they are going to hurt themselves.

But, it's different when they get upset and angry because they want more love and attention.
That's not an easy thing to say no to.
Yet we must.  There are times when not everyone can get the affection they want.

I thought that by being home, I could give everyone a lot more attention.
It turns out that they just need more.

Then there is the 'give in' trap.

That is when you say no.  Everything is fine, and then you say no.
The child protests the no.  Several times.
Gently, you repeat the no and add some emphasis.
Here comes the sales pitch.
The whining.  The begging.  The pleading.  The sobbing.  And finally, the breakdown.
At any one of these points you could change your mind and say 'OK then'.
It's a simple way to end the downward spiral into animal behavior.
But if you say yes, they own you.  That means that they can employ the same technique again and be virtually assured of success.  You only need to give in once. Once is enough to give them that window of hope to continue battering down your resolve.  And batter it down they will.

There is the compelling idea that your child is your mirror.  I saw that at Feather + Anchor.
You must look deeply at your child and see your own emotions manifested there.

Chances are, your battle with your child is a battle with yourself.

Family tensions are definitely contagious and may turn routine discipline into a full blown conflict.
It's hard to be cerebral when the fur is flying.
I don't always keep my composure.

There is a silver bullet solution.

There was one day in particular that Auren was getting out of control.  
It happened that I planned to take him fishing that day.  I considered cancelling the outing because of his behavior, but because we don't get fishing much, we went anyways.
During the day, out on the water, he was perfect. Smart, nice, thoughtful, obedient, articulate, funny.
When we got home, he reverted right back into the mean and angry demeanor from the morning.

One on one time is a sure bet for getting through to a distraught child.
The dilemma is that there isn't always the time and opportunity for one on one interaction.  Even for single child families, the parents need their time too.
So, there is the catch.
You can't always give them what they need.
You can't correct their need for love.

I am still working on strategies for dealing with unhappy children.
I feel helpless when they just want my love.
But, the love might be at the expense of another, and so there is no easy way to please everyone at once.
We're fortunate that the really bad days are few and far between.
We're fortunate to both be at home right now.
Though I still pray for patience.

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