Mommy Break

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Categories Behavior, Discipline, Mommy Issues, School-AgeTags , 4 Comments

When it comes to children and pets, I can be extremely patient, and I confess to being rather proud of this trait. A lot of people tire of my daughter M’s 5+ minute monologues, but I can stay tuned in. J and M’s father has declared the car a quiet zone when he’s driving, but I relished our 45-minute commute discussions when the girls were 3 and 4 years old. I’m glad that my friends consider me to be someone who can step in with their kids when they’re feeling overwhelmed by poor behaviour or neediness.

Still, I have my limits. Yesterday afternoon, after returning from school, M was in rare form. She was frustrated, it seemed, with everything. She whined about having to put her school bag away, about my choice of snack, about the heat of the day, and about our cats choosing to play with a toy other than the one she had selected. She forgot all her basic responsibilities: washing her hands; picking up her dishes after snack; putting her dirty clothes in the laundry hamper; clearing her desk after homework. Every time I reminded her, she had some excuse for not having done what she was supposed, and I was a “meanie mama” for asking her to do it.

She may very well have been mirroring my own general sense of annoyance; the previous evening had brought an extremely unpleasant obligation I had hoped to put off until the weekend. I tried to shield the kids from my mood, but they’re observant souls.

J loves to dance, so it’s not unusual to find her twirling around the living room. Today, though, M decided that J was no longer allowed to dance, simply because she found it irritating. When I reminded M of our mantra, “Not your body, not your business,” she turned on me, screaming that she just didn’t want J to dance. That earned M a time out, which she spent kicking the door to my bedroom. Once she was done with time out, I told M to take a rag and clean her shoe marks off the door.

It was when M insisted that she had not kicked the door and that the very visible shoe marks didn’t exist that I felt my face get hot and heart beat harder. I knew that anger was seconds away, so I placed the girls’ dinner on the dining table and told them I was taking a time out “to calm my body down.”

It’s been so long since I took a mommy time out that J and M were thoroughly confused. Why did they need to go to time out? I explained, quickly, that I was feeling very angry, so I was going to take some quiet time to calm down. I was going to lie down, drink some water, and take deep breaths, just as I’d taught them to do.

Fortunately, my daughters, at 6, are old enough to be left alone in the dining room at dinner time. When they were little, when the screaming and whining got to be too much, I would place them in their cribs and make myself a cup of peppermint tea, telling them that mommy needed a time out. When they were 4, I once asked a neighbour to sit with the girls while I went for a walk, because I knew I had reached the end of my rope, and my husband wasn’t expected back from Afghanistan for several months more.

I love my kids. We generally have a fantastic time together, and are usually excellent at negotiating solutions to high-stress problems. Still, there are moments where I need to be human for a moment before I return to being mommy. I’d much rather step away from the situation than give in to the urge to yell. I yelled at M once earlier in the week after she ignored repeated requests to pick her dirty panties off the floor, and I’ve felt horrible ever since. It was just one sentence: “I said, put your panties in the laundry!” There are, however, better ways to engage the children’s attention.

What do you do to keep your cool when your kids are acting up? Are you a yeller?

Sadia’s identical twin daughters, M and J, turned 6 years old just last week.

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Discipline and Love

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Categories Behavior, Difference, Discipline, Parenting Twins, School-Age, WorkingTags , , , , , , 6 Comments

“Why are you acting like you love J and not me?” my 5-year-old M asked me this morning, her voice full of tears.

That was quite the knife through the heart. Within minutes of learning that there were two little people growing in my womb, I had promised myself two things: I would never play favourites, and I would treat our children as individuals.

I wasn’t playing favourites today, of course. M would be allowed to snuggle up against me with her blankie too, once she’d served her well-earned 5 minutes in time out.

Here’s what led up to this moment:

We had a small quantity of chocolate milk in the fridge, a spring break treat. I had split it evenly between two cups, and offered them to the girls to tide them over while I prepared breakfast. J took a cup from me and downed the milk in one swallow, while M tensed every muscle in her body before wailing, “But I wanted that cup!”

I offered her the other cup. I offered to pour her milk into the cup J had just emptied. She didn’t want milk at all, she informed me, because J had the cup she wanted. This sort of interaction was par for the course at age 3, but not now. Instead of having the milk go to waste, I offered it to J. That was when M started pummeling me with her fists. Instant orders to time out prompted her accusation of my not seeming to love her.

M has been having some major self control issues all week. It’s been a stressful time for the whole family. J is more in touch with her emotions than the majority of adults I know, including me, so she’s been weathering this period unbelievably well. M, on the other hand, is either unaware of what’s really bothering her or unwilling to talk about it. I sat her down with crayons and paper yesterday, and drawing seemed to help some, but she has a way to go.

While she has a legitimate reason to be generally upset, this doesn’t excuse rudeness or hitting. She’s a month shy of turning 6, and we’ve been working with both girls on a variety of tools to help them maintain their composure and handle their emotions since they were 2. Deep breathing, playing with water in the sink, and taking some alone time with a book or toy are standard ways that both J and M deal with overflowing anger to make their way to a productive solution.

She finally calmed down. I explained to M that it was because I loved her that I took the time to help her behave like a grownup. If I didn’t love her, I wouldn’t care how she behaved. Surprisingly enough, she accepted that response.

A little later, M asked to play a game on my iPad. I told her that I wanted to let her play, but the fact that she wasn’t controlling her body well made me worry that she would break the thing. That cued another tantrum and time out. Once she returned, I told her that if she went 3 hours without a tantrum, I would have enough confidence in her self-control to let her play a game. Classic bribery, I know, but we work with what we have.

She made it 45 minutes until the next tantrum hit. She begged me to lower the bar. A tantrum-free hour should be enough, she thought. I do not negotiate with tantrum-throwers, so I held my ground.

It was afternoon before she asked if it had been 3 hours; I’d been head down in work and hadn’t thought about her request for the iPad game. I realized that she’d been playing nicely with J for 5 hours, blowing bubbles in the yard and inhabiting up an elaborate make-believe world that involved pirates and restaurant owners.

It wasn’t until I sat down to write this post that I noticed how M had worded her pain to me. (I jotted the sentence down immediately for use in this post.) She had asked me why I was acting like I loved J more. She didn’t actually accuse me of not loving them equally. Even in her deepest frustration with me, she was confident in the content and equal partition of my love, even if she didn’t like how I expressed it.

I think M’s going to be all right. We’ll get through this. I just need to take my deep breaths, play in the water, and take some alone time every now and then.

What’s your approach to fairness in parenting? How do you balance the needs of multiple children?

Sadia telecommutes from El Paso, TX to her job in Austin and is thankful that her 5-year-old identical twins can entertain one another 8 hours a day.

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Not Their Friend

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We’ve been having some discipline issues around here recently. The girls have been talking back to me in a way that is not appropriate for 5-year-olds. Both M and J have had emotional outbursts that can be described only as tantrums. Age 4 and the first half of age 5 were nearly tantrum-free, so this flashback to age 3 was unexpected and unpleasant. I’d say something innocuous, and see one child or the other go rigid, rise on her toes, and clench her jaw before letting out a shriek. Despite my efforts not to, I would feel my own muscles tense and my blood pressure rise in response.

During the Reign of Tantrum Terror, also known as the Terrible Threes, I prided myself for being unflappable in the face of the girls’ outbursts, trying to show them how calm thought can work in one’s favour. I used to count slowly to 3, using both my speaking voice and my fingers, refusing the temptation to try to raise my voice over theirs. At 3, off the culprit went to time out, sitting on the floor facing a wall for a minute per year of their age. It didn’t matter if we were home or out in the world. If there wasn’t a wall available, a tree would serve just as well for a time out location.

I’ll confess that I had allowed the thick skin I developed during the Terrible Threes to melt away. At the same time, my children had learned to say, “No.” The first time that one of my daughters said “No,” when ordered to time out, I lost it. I yelled at her to go to time out, and this time she followed my instructions. I immediately knew that throwing a tantrum of my own wasn’t going to help things. All I was doing was validating the effectiveness of their unacceptable behaviour.

My relationships with both M and J became increasingly charged over a couple of months. My husband finally had to step in with some very constructive, but painful, criticism. He pointed out that the girls had learned that they could argue with me, and I was failing to rise above. I needed to remind them that “because Mom said so” carried weight.

He was right, of course.  I had been so enjoying the recent explosion of both girls’ critical thinking that I had been inviting them to offer their own opinions, and trying to show them, whenever I could, how I reached the conclusions and decisions that I did. In my attempts to encourage them to question the status quo, I had put myself in the position of their friend, not their mother.

I shed a few tears, and slept on it. Once I’d marshalled my thoughts, I sat M and J down at the dining table for a conversation. I told them that I appreciated their ideas, and loved our discussions, but I was the mother. When I asked them to do something, I meant that they should do it immediately. If they had questions about the why of things, they could ask them later, and I would decide whether or not they were open to discussion. I would also be the one to decide when they could be discussed. The girls would go to time out when I told them to, and they would listen to me. Period.

After a week of maintaining my icy calm, and an average of 3 time outs per child per day, we’ve settled back into solid mother-daughter relationships. Much as I hope to be a friend to M and J when they are grown, I am exclusively their mother in the here and now.

Do you find yourself becoming complacent and compromising your parental authority? How do you fix it?

Sadia is a Bangladeshi and British working mother of twins and American army wife living on the Texas-Mexico border. Her thoughts on matters of parenting, twins, and parenting twins can be found at Double the Fun.

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Kids in the Kitchen

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Categories Development, Feeding, Feeding Older Children, Foodie Fridays, Preschoolers, School-Age, Solid Foods, ToddlersTags , , , , , , 1 Comment

Every time that I start to stress about J and M’s eating habits, I remind myself of our parenting goal: Healthy, happy, whole adults.

Of course I want our children to have a healthy diet in the here and now, but it’s far more important to me that they be equipped to make good food choices even when I’m not around. I’ve taken three basic approaches that have worked for us:

  1. Educating our daughters on what makes up a balanced diet, and how different foods contribute to their healthy growth.
  2. Including them in food purchase and preparation decisions and activities.
  3. Demonstrating that listening to their bodies is valuable and taking a non-combative approach to food.

I keep meaning to copy a friend’s brilliant idea of displaying the USDA food guidelines—the old pyramid, or the new plate—on the refrigerator. image of a healthy food breakdown.

Even though we don’t have the picture up, we have always talked about meals in terms of needing a protein, a fruit or veggie, and a starch. We’ve also talked about the need for dairy, but since the girls drink milk morning and night, I haven’t required that they include dairy in every meal. I try to keep my explanations of why food choices are important accurate, but simple. We need protein for strong muscles. Fruits and vegetables help our bodies fight germs, and help us with healthy skin, hair, eyes and nails. We need carbohydrates from energy. Milk products help our bones be strong. Our body needs some fat so that it can get all the goodness out of other foods, but too much can be unhealthy. There’s nothing inherently wrong with sweet or fatty foods, but they are just for flavour, rather than nutrition. I’ve rarely turned down the girls’ requests for sweets, because they ask for very reasonable portions: a cookie or a single piece of chocolate.

Our whole family enjoys food: eating it, preparing and cooking it, even playing with it. If only mine wasn’t the Great Black Thumb, we might enjoy growing it. The kitchen is the heart of our home; I’m old-school like that. It should come as no surprise that our daughters have always been welcome in the kitchen.

My husband may have shortened my life by a year or two by placing our infants in their bouncy seats on the kitchen counter while he cooked. In retrospect, though, I’m glad we’ve always had them with us. Once they could sit, I’d pull the girls’ highchairs into the kitchen, and give them each a plastic bowl and spoon to bang while I made our meals. When I had cleanup time on my hands, they would help me stir. If I needed to get my hands dirty, J and M could splash their hands in the bubble-filled kitchen sink.

As they approached age 2.5, M and J could be trusted not to put everything in their mouths, so their kitchen repertoire broadened significantly. They could help me measure out ingredients, even plan meals. I’d let them choose between fish and chicken, for example, or rice and couscous. Another great option was chef’s salad. I’d chop up lunchmeat and cheese, boil some eggs, grill some croutons, and present a selection of vegetables. As long as they included some of each food group, they were good. It’s easy to do the same with sandwiches, too. We baked cookies and muffins, too, but that was more of a game.

Now, at 5, J and M often help me plan our weekly grocery list. M recently observed that lasagne is a balanced meal in itself. J refused dessert at lunch yesterday because she was full. She knew there would be another ice cream opportunity soon enough. The girls came home from daycare recently telling me that they had been given soda at school. (Let me tell you that we’re not going back to that center.) They were as horrified as I was, but confessed that the cola was “sweet and yummy.” I told them that soda was a sweet treat, and they could have some when I did, a couple of times a month. There was no argument.

When the girls are full, we let them leave the table. If they’re not hungry, they don’t have to eat. They know that they won’t get anything until the next snack or meal. My husband and I both fight the urge to nag at them to eat more or clear their plates. I think it’s a natural parental impulse. We just have to keep reminding ourself that we want our daughters to stay as healthy, happy and whole as they are now.

How do you include your children in the kitchen?

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Categories Development, Infants, Parenting TwinsTags , , , 4 Comments

“It’s just a stage.”

How many times have you heard this, or said it to another parent, as children scream, bite or hit their way through their parents’ patience and creativity? Nighttime feedings are a stage, as are teething, the terribles twos (or threes) and potty-training. So too are the transitions from crawling to walking, from babbles to speech, and learning to dress oneself.

I have three sets of mommy-friends with kids the same age as mine: (former) neighbours, parents with kids’ in our daughters’ (former)  daycare class, and (both current and former) blogger friends. Having had these friends since our children were in infancy, some even when we were simultaneously pregnant, is an amazing gift. When J and M suddenly make a 180-degree turn in behaviour, these are the folks I turn to for grounding. Just a couple of weeks ago, I sent out feelers to my buddies to find out if M and J’s sudden return to disobedience and near-tantrums, along with a sudden discovery of rudeness, was a developmental stage or a result in being uprooted from home. Apparently it was the former.

I think back over the past five years, and the years seem to fall into clear categories.

Year One was about survival and making sure the babies felt safe. We were all figuring it all out. While the babies figured out the use of their bodies, my husband and I were feeling our way through parenting and co-parenting, trying to muddle through life on four or fewer hours of sleep per night. There were moments of intense joy,  intense exhaustion, and intense emotion all around. Our basic focuses were making it through the day, and ensuring that the babies knew that they were loved.

Age One was about exploration. I was far more confident as a mother, and the girls wanted to know about everything. I started doing more with the girls. Playdates were no longer merely opportunities for cooperative diaper-changing. We went to parks, museums, pumpkin patches, but J and M were equally fascinated by the grocery store shelves.

Age Two was about testing boundaries, but respecting them once they were set.

Year Three was the year of the tantrum. I’d heard of the Terrible Twos, but we went through the Terrible Threes. My friend April has an explanation for this that I whole-heartedly believe. She argues that the “terribles” show up when a child begins to feel powerless and has unmet desires. Our generation of parents tends to listen to our children from day one. We understand what their different cries mean. We tend to believe that you cannot spoil an infant. We interact with them constantly, and talk to them even though we know full well that they are unable to respond. We let them push the boundaries enough to keep them from feeling cloistered, but come age three, they want more. The exceptions that prove the rule, to my mind, are the “old school” parents, the ones who cannot or choose not to be at the beck and call of their babies. Every parent I know of that sort has dealt with the Terrible Twos, and not the Terrible Threes. The tantrums at our house were back-arching, leg-thrashing, ear-piercing affairs. Fortunately, M and J took turns with their outbursts, but I couldn’t have been happier when Age Four arrived.

Age Four was the age of logic. The girls’ assumptions were wonky beyond belief, but everything was intensely logical. They wanted to know the “why” of everything, but they accepted any rule, any request, any argument that had a logical explanation. I could have stayed a mommy of four-year-olds for a decade without tiring of it.

Age Five feels a lot what I expected Age Fifteen to be like. M and J have begun questioning our authority, talking back, disobeying, and being rude. Until a couple of weeks ago, they seemed to be under the impression that they knew better than us. We brought back the discipline techniques of the Terrible Threes, the timeouts and the loss of privileges, and their behaviour began to get back into line. Still, they’re not as eager to help around the house as they were a year ago. They love learning, so we don’t have to nag them about homework, but everything else takes multiple reminders. I don’t yet know how I will label this age. Time will tell.

What has been your favourite and least favourite stages so far? What stage(s) are your children at now?

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The Machine Age

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Categories Development, Mommy Issues, Other people, Parenting Twins, PreschoolersTags , , , 7 Comments

The weather has been lovely here, and the children have had spring break. My boys know how to pump on a swing, but still beg for a “starting push” to provide a bit of momentum. As I pushed my 3-year-old and provided intermittent starting pushes for the boys, I realized this will probably be the summer they master the swing set, once and for all. By fall, I don’t imagine they’ll need my help with this.

It wasn’t long ago that pushing the boys on the swing set was my art form. The slow effort to get into cadence. The satisfaction in eventually gaining momentum, getting them going just right, the three of us in an intricate repetition like a train engine — me the coupling rod between the driving wheels moving in rhythm. But we’ve gotten smaller, my boys and I. We’re no longer the overbearing locomotive with our quad- or double stroller. They skim along on small red bikes with training wheels, which will probably come off this summer as well. And I follow behind, with my one unobtrusive toddler on her undersized plastic trike.

When my kids were babies, I felt like moms of older twin boys were somehow very different from me. It wasn’t only that their children were older, their lives easier — or less immediate. At the time I couldn’t identify what the difference was. But on a quiet afternoon, standing in the warm spot just outside the shadow of the swing set, I quickly understood how they differed from me:

They were harder.

I think I mean that in every sense of the word. They were the kind of moms who intimidated me. Loud, athletic, tough, seemingly self-assured, unafraid.

And now I understand that quite possibly their twin boys made them that way.

It was easy to hide behind my gigantic strollers and live in the immediacy of twin toddlers. But now my boys aren’t adorable mischievous babies. They are gangly 5-year-olds who will use any stick, crayon, or tube of chapstick as a gun or sword, and when they chase each other their laughing sounds like a pack of hooting monkeys. It is hard for me to be still and allow the behavior I have decided to allow, if that makes any sense. I find myself wanting to admonish them to sit down, be quiet, sit still, stop saying that, etc. But at the same time, I love their energy and exuberance, and if they can’t laugh and chase and hoot like wild monkeys when we’re at a park, then what has the world come to?

So, I raise my voice in public. I chase them down if I have to. I pretend none of it bothers me – that in fact my plan for the day included precisely this. 7:15 – Yell for chasing to remain within certain boundaries. 7:24 – Stop mulch fight. 7:27 – Physically restrain two children. 7:30 – Casually pack up following soccer practice and head to the minivan. Yes, all according to plan.

They’ve toughened me up. I’m still uncomfortable with the stares, but I pretend I don’t notice them as I wrangle my kids. It doesn’t feel like a well oiled machine, but I’m hoping we look the part.

Jen is a work-from-home mom of twins + 2. She also blogs at Diagnosis: Urine.

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brotherly love

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P and G, September 2004
P and G, September 2004

When I was pregnant with my twins, I remember reading something that warned parents of multiples against thinking their babies needed them any less because of having been born a multiple. I was bummed when I read that.

We did our best to parent our twins as we had our oldest. I nursed them, they were fed on demand, we co-slept, we tried to hold them when they cried. 

Their first few words were Mama, Dada, ball, and baby. The twin who woke first from a nap tried to rouse his brother, calling, “Bebeh! Bebeh!” They summoned each other this way to examine new toys or things they shouldn’t get into. When G had croup and I took him to the ER, he saw his reflection in a window and thought it was his brother. He got excited and started calling out to him — “BEBEH!!!” They started calling each other by name when their little sister was born.

Sometimes when one gets in trouble, he’ll sit in time out crying for his brother. The other day, I scolded G for being too rough with our kitten. He ran to P, who then came to confront me for “being so mean to Diffin.”

P and G, January 2010
P and G, January 2010

They fight and hurt each other’s feelings sometimes, but the bond between them is more than I ever dreamed it would be. And while there is no substitute for a parent’s love… I’m not always sure my boys would agree. 


P: Diffin, what are you gonna be when you grow up?
G: I am gonna work in your restaurant with you!
P: But you don’t have to do that if you don’t want to.
G: I will, so then I won’t have to be away from you.

– Overheard 02/01/10 

When Jen isn’t creepily photographing her children in their sleep, she blogs at Diagnosis: Urine.

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Find the Currency…

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Control the Child.  Or something like that.
My sister dropped this pearl of mommy wisdom on me recently.  She can’t take credit for it, though – Dr. Phil has it trademarked.  I haven’t watched Dr. Phil in years, so I have absolutely no clue if he has any other parenting gems.  But this one?  This one I like. 
Amelia and Ella will be two next month, and in typical two year-old fashion, they have started developing very strong (and sometimes odd) affinities toward certain objects, activities, food items, etc.  Say it with me, people: currency. 
Ella’s currency is easy – crackers, crackers, and more crackers.  Keep ‘em coming, baby.  She sat through an entire Easter Sunday Mass with nary a peep (if you discount the crunching noises).  I bring an entire box of crackers with me to the grocery store and sometimes throw another in the cart if things get hairy.  She just cannot get enough.  She is equally obsessed with her “Baby”, a raggedy blue bear that I only allow her to have at nap and bedtime.  I recently started using her love affair with Baby to my advantage.  You may recall my documented struggle with tooth brushing.  Struggle over.  If she refuses to allow me access to the cracker chompers, I threaten to put Baby in time-out.  Man, you should see how fast her little mouth opens! 

Amelia, on the other hand, is my horse of a different color.  She likes crackers but is no fiend like her sister.  And, while she does have a rather strong affinity toward her stuffed kitty, it’s not powerful enough to allow Mommy a decent whack at brushing her teeth.  Hrmph.  She is much more stubborn than Ella (no clue where she gets this), making it difficult for me to find her currency.  But, I think I may have found her one real motivator thus far – dessert.  I got her to eat a serious serving of asparagus tonight just by dangling 7 piddly M&Ms in front of her.  If she is acting up at dinnertime, I threaten to withhold her dessert privilege.  Works like a charm for the half hour that is dinnertime.  What of the other 11.5 waking hours, you ask?  Yep, I got nothin’. 

So, what about your kiddos?  Have you found their currency?  Do tell…

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My First Time

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I was 43. He was 7.

To paraphrase/elaborate upon St. Paul: When I was a child, I thought as a child. I spoke as a child. When I acted unacceptably, I was spanked as a child. To paraphrase every corporal punishment apologist, I turned out okay — psychologically undamaged from derriere-administered discipline.

Prior to parenthood, after discussion with my comparably corrected husband and pending parenting partner, we agreed. We’d likely employ the method as occasion(s) deemed fit.

However, following my son’s – and his twin sister’s – birth, the implementation of the swat/smack/spank simply felt wrong.

Perhaps pridefully, I became besotted with the efficacy of oral diatribes regarding behavioral expectations (frequently paired with the removal of privileges), and was repulsed by the prospect of engaging in the “do as I say and not as I do” inconsistency. Seven years and two months passed.

In the interest of word count, and a modicum of discretion for my son’s and my privacy, details of the catalyst infraction need not be revealed. Suffice it to say, on the day described, all other punitive means had been exhausted.

With a bare hand and a heavy heart, contact was made. Tears were shed. (I managed to hold off on mine until he had run up to his room.) The sister, well-aware of her brother’s lapse and the subsequent consequence, with respectful dignity uncharacteristic of one her age, went into the den.

So then what did I do? I called my mother – who with no subtlety in times past had implied my parenting arsenal was incomplete for the absence of the proverbial “rod.” Did I call to confess my matriculation into the Spanking Parents’ Society, or was I somehow unashamedly professing my actions — seeking parental validation and/or approval from my own mother?

As I write this now – outing myself as a deflowered spanker – am I seeking forgiveness or acceptance, understanding or empathy, from those with whom I am treading parenting’s path — or a virtual spanking via reprimanding comment?

My children, uterine co-habitants though they may have been, have already demonstrated they respond to varied modes of direction – and correction. Our daughter tends to seek our parental (and others’) approval more readily – sublimating her own child-like desires to meet that goal. Not so with our son.

So did the spanking work? As the Magic 8 Ball would say, “All signs point to ‘Yes’.” Am I still tormented by the incident? Affirmative. But what torments me more? The idea that I had to resort to something I initially did not want to do — perhaps admitting defeat — or the actual physicality/ perceived violence of a hit? Maybe a bit of both.

Humiliation (not unlike guilt or shame), in moderation, may be healthy. Pain (carefully administered), parceled in moderation, may be proactive.

Let me have it.
c. 2008, Cheryl Lage
Cross-posted from our family blog, Twinfatuation

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Magic Words

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Categories BehaviorTags , 10 Comments

If I were a teacher at Hogwarts, I’m sure I could get my kids to behave by a wave of a wand and a few choice words. Being mortal, however, I have to rely on carefully chosen words alone.

I’m a firm believer in not negotiating when something absolutely must be done.  There are times when the parent should assert themselves and be the parent. One technique that’s tried and true is counting to three to get the kids moving. There’s a great book that talks about using this method called “1-2-3 Magic.” What the author makes clear is that you cannot dither – no counting “1, 2, 2 1/2, 2 3/4. . .”  The child knows he has a good long time until you get to 3 because you’re giving him that out.  He’ll ignore you almost indefinitely.  You must firmly and steadily count to 3.

But the author also describes a twist on the technique that works fabulously for me.  Count backwards instead.  In my house, all I have to say is “3. . .2” and the kids jump to do whatever I’ve asked them to do.  It’s like a bomb about to go off.

The irony?  They don’t have any idea what might happen when I get to 1, and I’ve never thought of what I might do.  Just counting backwards is ominous enough.  In fact, I usually just say “3” and off they go.

The other magic word that I use very sparingly is “FREEZE!”  The kids know this is the word of imminent danger.  Moms say “stop” and “please don’t” enough that kids easily tune them out.  Freeze is the word to use when a child is about to chase a ball into the street in front of a moving car.   I use it so rarely that the kids know it’s important enough to really stop what they’re doing.

These magic words work for me.  I’d love to hear what works at your house.

You can meet my (usually) well-behaved children at Lit and Laundry.

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