Thursday, October 01, 2009


This post might be a jumbled mess of thoughts, so my apologies.

Life is always easier said than done. "If I were her mother, I'd set her straight." or "My child would never be such a bully." (I think in bold and italics. Deal with it!) I realize now that parenting is much easier when it's not your child, you're not emotionally involved, and you think a textbook answer is sufficient and would work in every situation. It's easy to think "good parent, good child" or "naughty child, bad parent". But the truth of the matter is that children have their agency and their own minds just like adults! Kids can just come high strung, low key, mellow, angry, helpful, soft spoken, outgoing, introverted, slow to warm up, easy etc. Every child requires something different, and it's really hard to know what "good parenting" is!

I have been struggling with knowing how to respond to Dean's heightened disobedience. He's really into testing our limits and resolve. We currently employ time-outs when he misbehaves, but Matt and I have different ideas of what behavior warrants a time-out. I generally like to reserve an official 2 min. time out (one min. per year of his life) for harmful behavior. That means if he is destroying my house/items or kicking, hitting, biting, etc. people he will be put in a time out after a warning. I tell him why he's going into time out before, and have him tell me why he was in time out when I get him.

Matt thinks a 2 min. time out should be used any time he disobeys. And if it were up to him, he would leave Dean in time out for 15 min. if his behavior was very harmful (though this hasn't happened because I don't think that a 15 min. time out is appropriate for a 2 year old!). He also stresses to Dean that he is being punished because he's being bad. I really don't like the emphasis on punishment, but I understand why he feels it's necessary.

I would love to know how to better teach and positively reinforce in the heat of the moment rather than punish and yell. (Any suggestion on things that help you?) I don't want to be the yelling mom, and I find myself yelling way more than I should. My anger is short lived and I do show lots of love after and admit I am in the wrong when I do, but still...I should not be a victim of my emotions. I control my emotions and am self-deceived if I think otherwise.

I often get angry at having to repeat over and over and over for him to stop doing something. I'll physically remove him from a situation and try to divert his attention to have him dart right back to what he's not supposed to do. And oh does that irk me. I know, I know. This is normal and he is only two. That's hard to remember sometimes in the heat of the moment.

Once when he repeatedly did naughty things to Walt, I roughly picked him up, swatted him on the bum, carried him to his room, and practically threw him in his crib (yelling all the while). As I was yelling at him, I realized that at that very moment I was doing something I knew I shouldn't. I was reacting out of anger rather than acting out of love. I know it's not good or effective parenting tactic. I know it's not sanctified by God. I know it's something that Satan revels in. And yet I was doing it. And I'm an adult!! How can I get so angry at him for disobeying me when I am disobedient myself? I understand that I'm acting inappropriately. He doesn't really.

This morning I thought, "I wonder if God wants to pull his hair out and scream when we're repeatedly disobedient. Or if He ever thinks, 'how many times do I have to tell you [...]'. or 'if you just obeyed me you wouldn't have gotten hurt!'"

I really need to work on obeying God and more consistently act out of love instead of react out of anger.


Writer Mama said...

One highly, highly recommended book you ought to read is Parenting with Love and Logic. It's excellent and helps to teach you to remove your emotions from the situation at hand.

I would highly recommend it. It's a re-read type of book, too. Mr. Dean IS going through a huge adjustment (new little man in the house taking the mom attention he used to get), and I swear kids know when you're tired and at your wits end.

But, that said, get used to repeating yourself eight million times. I don't think THAT ever goes away! :)

Good luck. The book is a lifesaver, promise.


Michemily said...

My sister is amazing at stuff like this. I marveled when I noticed that she never says, "don't." Instead, she says, "James, let's do something instead of that," and she leads him to a new activity. I certainly wouldn't have the patience for that, but she's definitely a good example.

Felicia & Brandon said...

Thanks for the post, Celia. I appreciate your thoughts and how you put it God's perspective. He must get tired of our disobedience as well.

Tom and Audrie said...

Another thought is ask him why he just did (or is doing) something. It might surprise you what he "thinks" he is doing rather than what you think he is doing. We do the time out for however long seems necessary. If they are throwing a fit and won't calm down I tell them they can come out when they are calm, or when they are ready to apologize for whatever they might have done. Good Luck, this a battle the gets easier but doesn't seem to end (at least not yet for me).

Melissa said...'s not just you! I wanted to auction my kids off on ebay from the age of 2-3 1/2! Here is what I have found works well for me:
1. Deep breath (you!)
2. Time out with a calm explanation of why.
3. Hugs and kisses after timeout
4. Start a new activity like coloring, reading books, a favorite movie, etc.
5. Find ways of saying yes or good job! Ask Dean to help you with something and tell him how good he is and how happy you are when he helps you.
6. Give Dean choices between two options that are both okay with you. Kids like to feel control.
7. Trust me that this stage goes by and you forget most of the feelings of frustration. First kids are the hardest. You are a great mom and you'll figure out what works best for you and your family.
Love you!

AmyJane said...

I'm firmly convinced that most kids get a first spanking (at the hands of parents that "don't beleive in spanking": me) over abuse of a new sibling. There's kind of a primal rage when one of your offspring harms the other, especially when #2 is defenseless.

Anyway. I would second the reccomendation for Love and Logic. I also REALLY like 1-2-3 Magic. It's similar in tone and really simpliefies the discipline plan so that both parents can follow it successfully and your child know what to expect from you both. As the parent of a very imperfect almost 4 year old, we've been there. Good luck.

leethie said...

I am pretty thoroughly convinced that the children we are sent are fit to try our individual weaknesses. I

When I read Matt's perspective it made me think of an attitude I used to have: I used to think (when I was angry) "I need to make sure this child remembers that I don't like this so they know not to do it again!!!" Now I know that this is NOT helpful, and unfortunately harmful. I let myself think that my child was the devilish one. I used to feel torn because I thought, "if I distract them with something else, isnt that just telling them that what they did is ok? If I make little of it will they think its ok to do?" I saw the effects on Ruth and read some good books. Will and I both read Love and logic - we had MANY discussions on parenting when our kids were where you're at. Now I firmly believe that focusing on the positive is the only way to go. Give as little attention as possible to the bad and train yourself to comment on the behaviors you do want to see.

When I can remember that my child is blameless in any circumstance no matter how awful their choice is, it helps me respond to them calmly. Also, praying for love.

I cant say that I've figured out how to keep my kids from physically hurting each other, but I do feel more confident in how I respond to it.

I agree that there's something to looking into the child's thoughts, but "why" is a hard question to answer. I try to comment on what I observed their motive was and the child will usually correct me if I'm wrong and we can go from there (talking about what appropriate behavior would be).

I also agree with previous comments about the emotions that come with wanting to protect your newborn and I also recommend the love and logic, though it has helped me to read a variety of books and take from them here and there. Right now I'm reading Siblings Without Rivalry :) Thanks for your post - we may not be able to force our kids to obey, but we can control ourselves to set the example. Remembering (and studying) what type of parent our Heavenly Father is can help us understand how to parent our own children. These are things I always need to remind myself.

Celia Marie (W.) B. said...

Thanks for all the great comments. I am excited to read RwL&L since so many of you recommend it. Sounds exactly like something I need. Any other great parenting book suggestions?

Michemily, I do think redirecting is important, but doesn't always seem practical. Nor does it always work. I do think there's a way and a time to say no and don't without over doing it. I just have to find it.

Felicia, great to see you here! Thanks for your comment.

Audrie, he's definitely not to the age of understanding (or expressing) motives yet. I usually just get a blank stare if I ask him why he did something, but I have found that when I ask him "what happened" he might give me clues to what he thinks he was doing.

Melissa, thanks for the list and vote of confidence. I'm pretty decent at 1-5, but I can employ 6 and 7 more! =)

AmyJane, I will definitely read both those books. Thanks! ANd I definitely agree with the animal instinct thing.

Leethie, Matt almost said verbatim what you wrote today. He feels like redirecting and distracting is avoiding the problem and that Dean won't learn if we don't directly address behaviors. I'm really hoping that by reading that book we'll be able to have some good conversations and come to an agreement on how to discipline our children!! I'm open to all other book suggestions, so throw them at me. Thanks so much!!

Brooke said...

It's comforting to know that others have the same struggles I have. I used to think that ..."yeah, parenting is probably hard--but, I bet if you just teach them from the beginning to be nice, obey, etc. it can't be THAT hard." Uh...that was dumb of me! Ellee has had SUCH a strong personality since the beginning. I feel like she's FINALLY get to an age where we can really discuss concerns and consequences with her and know that she completely understands us. (She turned 3 in June.) She just recently started going to the time-out spot on her own and staying there without it becoming a full-blown struggle of wills every time! I've learned to just try to be very consistent and I'm FINALLY seeing some positive results from that. A book that I enjoyed--I was reading it around the time I had Emelyn--so, I haven't finished it yet...but, it's "Parenting the Ephraim's Child." It looks at things from a gospel perspective of raising strong-willed children in the last days and gives great advice on how to steer those strong wills toward being strong, positive leaders. I've liked what I've read so far! :)

Also--I can't remember who I've told and who I haven't, but I went private with my blog recently and if you'd like an invite--let me know! Just e-mail me

Lindsay said...

I hear you -- this is tough. And dealing with toddler shenanigans is only that much harder when you're exhausted after caring for your newborn. My patience with Garrett is sadly often running far too thin. I think, though, that I do better with him when I carefully pick which battles I fight with him. He can't be punished for everything -- he's only 2. And honestly, most of the "bad" things he does, he does only because he doesn't know any better. When he's rough with Caleb, it's pretty much only because he hasn't much control over how he shows love. Just yesterday he smacked Caleb on the head. It took me by surprise and I got [justifiably, I think] upset. My mom, though, who witnessed the whole thing, pointed out that, while it wasn't appropriate and he did need to be told to be more gentle, it wasn't done on purpose. At any rate, it is hard to always remember that they are just 2 years old, but I think that remembering that aides in the discipline of them. Good luck!

Him, Her & The Wee One said...

I can relate to so many of your thoughts. And I think Jason can relate to Matt. :) I try to only put Clara in time out if she's hurting me, her, someone or something. One thing I found is helpful to curb the disobedience and fits (if only slightly) is taking away a priveledge Clara really likes. I realized how much Clara loves her books before nap and bedtime. We usually read 2-3 so if she starts acting up, I tell her we are going to take a book away. Once she loses a book, she normally throws a fit and I just say, I'm sorry, maybe next time you'll listen/obey/not throw a fit/etc. "And if you keep acting this way, we won't read any."

Also, there are countless times I've been in the middle of saying, "How many times have I told you" or "Why don't you listen to me" when I wonder how often the Lord asks me these same rhetorical questions.

Anyway, one final thing, I think every kid is so unique and it is a challenge identifying how they respond and what discipline tactics work for them. For Clara, if I can react calmly as opposed to angrily to her misbehaving, it is night and day with how she acts and responds to the discipline. When I'm flustered and angry, it makes her rebel even more and she is much less likely to respond well and much more likely to repeat her behavior.

Good luck.

Juls said...

Sometimes you just have to live life. I did things differently with Sarah than I do with David. I tried to learn with each child. I think what helped me most was prayer. I pray EVERY DAY for the strength I need to help these children. I would find myself spanking and saying we DON"T HIT. Yeah, what is that saying?? I would yell and be angry but for what. I remember a story from GC one year about a man trying to teach a horse. He would pull and pull but the horse would not go it would just fall down. By the end of the day the horse would just fall down when he saw him. He talked about walking beside him not pulling him.

It is hard and with every stage you will find your hard times...good luck!!

Amanda said...

I already e-mailed you some thoughts on this, but I also thought of a few things that worked with my harder children. My hardest was SOOOOOO hard until I learned that he responded really well to charts and rewards. I didn't initially believe in rewards because I thought that children should just learn to work, obey, etc. because it was the right thing to do. After 2 summers of chores turning into power struggles to the Nth degree, I finally got the reward system down and he turned into my very best worker. With the reward system, I think that he felt like we were on the same team (I was helping him earn his prize by encouraging him and helping him with chores), instead of it being me versus him (you're going to do this OR ELSE!!). Anyway, Dean might be too young, but it might be worth thinking about to start a chart where if he touches Walt nicely he gets a star, or he gets a black mark if he touches roughly. If he gets enough stars in a row, maybe he could get a little reward. And then when he touches roughly, you can say, "Ohhh, I'm so sad that you're not going to get _____." Sometimes it works better to lay a foundation with extrinsic rewards and then teach intrinsic rewards afterwards (the potty training theory). Just a long, rambling thought......

Celia Marie (W.) B. said...

Jodi, I've started this a couple times in my head, but sorry it's taken me a long time to put it here.

This 1-2-3 is a behavior modification program that has little to do with internal thought process. The book says it's for kids 2-12, but I really think Love and Logic is a better system because it helps you help your kids become responsible. I decided to use this right now because the 1-2-3 was simple enough for Dean.

The things I count him on usually don't require much explanation because it's pure defiance. I'll ask him to stop something and he'll either continue or throw a tantrum. He knows that both of those things are not ok. If I think he doesn't understand I'll give him a one sentence explanation before I start counting. After that it's a matter of learning he needs to obey. So, yes, I think that my previous long "explanations" and lectures are ineffective and even harmful, but he does need to be told once calmly if he doesn't understand.