Thursday, February 11, 2010

Parenting Anti-Advice

I've decided that now is as good a time as any to fine tune some parenting techniques. I know that there are a few things that could use a little improvement, like my lack of patience (okay, a lot of improvement), and since there seems to be more advice out there than ever before, I thought maybe I'd look into a couple age-appropriate suggestions and give them a try.

Goal #1: Stop yelling at Zoe so much.

To accomplish this goal, I looked into the "positive discipline" philosophy. This approach takes a lot of work, patience and mental strength. It also requires a lot of time, like your-whole-life kind of time. With positive discipline, there is no such thing as "wrong, evil" or "punishment," only "inappropriate" and "teachable moment." And here's the real kicker: negotiation and raising your voice are definite no-no's.

Well, things seemed to be going pretty smoothly and I thought that maybe just reading about positive discipline did the trick. I'll never have to yell again! I did all of that research for nothing! After informing her all afternoon that we would be leaving for Charlie's violin lesson in one hour, half-an-hour, and then fifteen minutes, the moment arrived where I asked her to turn off "Tom & Jerry" because we actually, really did have to leave, which instantly triggered crabbiness and a meltdown. Time to engage Project Positive Discipline!

"No! I don't want to! Maybe in ten minutes." She was sprawled out on the couch and showed no signs of cooperation.

"Zoe, we have to leave in no minutes, not ten. You're acting inappropriately. Please turn the TV off, get a snack, put your shoes on and get in the car." I still hadn't raised my voice, the snack wasn't really a negotiation or bribe since she needed to eat, and I felt like I was still in control.

"But I'm tired. I don't want to go." Now she was crying and doing her best eel impression by sliding off of the couch and into a heap on the floor. Meanwhile, Charlie was standing by the door with his coat on, waiting for us to get in the car and Zach was attempting to get his homework done amidst the drama. "And I'm hunnngreeee!"

"I already said you could get a snack! And you need to get your shoes on now! All you have to do is sit in the car and eat some crackers. The way you're acting is so naughty and wrong." I didn't have time for this and now I was definitely yelling. "Positive discipline" was quickly becoming "project unrealistic."

After a couple more minutes of sobbing and yelling, she finally composed herself enough to get in the car and we were headed to the violin lesson. In a perfect positive discipline world, I would have knelt down, looked my overwhelmed daughter in the eye, and taken a few minutes to explain to her that her behavior was inappropriate, and that I sure did love her lots and understood that she was mad and felt powerless. Then I would have wrapped my arms around her in a reassuring hug, pulled an organic snack out of the pantry, and carried her to the car. But here's the thing: I live in reality, where we have places to be ten minutes ago. Sure, my method resulted in a few more tears and a little bit of yelling, but at least I embraced a "teachable moment." After all, she learned that she should stop acting like a psycho and get her ass in the car already.

Since Goal #1 was such a rip roaring success, I figured I'd take a shot at another goal, since I couldn't possibly do any worse.

Goal #2: Communicate more efficiently with Zach.

According to the teenage communication experts (which, by the way, I'm now convinced do not have teenagers of their own), a parent should find common ground and mutual interests that they share with their teenager. Spend more time together talking about things other than school, don't snoop through their things or spy, and if they tell you or show you something that you find inappropriate or don't necessarily agree with, share your disapproval with them in a non-judgmental way. And when you are having a conversation with them, make sure you have their full attention before you start talking.

Zach gets home from school an hour before Charlie does, so it's a great time for us to catch up on his day and maybe even talk about what is on the schedule for the rest of the week. If he's willing to talk and/or listen, that is.

While he was eating a granola bar, and before I started talking about after-school plans for Thursday, I made sure to make eye contact so that I knew he was listening. As soon as I said "Okay?" though, he said "What about Thursday? You were talking to me?" It's official, I completely suck at this.

After a couple minutes of silence, he said, "Oh hey. Check this out. John got this random text from someone and he forwarded it to me. You gotta see this." I decided to suck it up and not be mad about his lack of listening skills, and instead I was going to be open-minded and non-judgmental. After all, he was voluntarily showing me stuff on his phone, so I wouldn't have to snoop through his texts like I usually do. And then I saw this:

Okay then, very well. So then I guess if anyone needs me, I'll be outside shoveling the driveway. Oh, and I think I also had a Goal #3 for Charlie, but for some reason I seem to have forgotten what it was.


Nancy said...

okay, that was a great ending!

jennie said...

I find there are a lot of teachable moments in Tom & Jerry. I might start some of the "behavior modification" methods featured there.

estomberg said...

Oh, I know that eel impression all too well...apparently, any hopes of it disappearing by age 5 is clearly unrealistic :/

JSH said...

I laughed out loud at the end! Nicely done!

Mama said...

That was a funny story - thanks for sharing. Congratulations on trying out positive discipline. It does take time and patience and the skill at communicating effectively does not happen over night - especially when we've been raised with OTHER ideas about parenting.

I am a child advocate & parent educator and maintain a free web resource for parents interested in non-punitive discipline. It won't always be so hard but you might have been missing a few key ingredients in your guidance above.

Good luck on your journey - and stop by my site if you feel it might benefit you. (or i provide live daily interaction on the FB page)
Happy parenting!

The Mean Mom said...

Thank you Mama, for pointing out that I did, in fact, miss a few key ingredients:

1 1/2 oz. Patron Silver tequila
1/2 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. lime juice

Pour all into a salt-rimmed, ice filled glass, stir, and enjoy!

Mama said...

Indeed, that'll get us through the toughest days!!

Hope you didn't actually take my comments as 'patron'izing. :)

I am just a Mom who didn't get a relationship with my parents because of a lot of traditional parenting - and really passionate about people enjoying their kids.

Take care,