Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Parenting Crossroads and the Yes Man

I am not a single parent, but I have been playing one for quite awhile now.  I can say that there are benefits to both sides of the parenting fence. I will also say that a single parent can parent as effectively as a couple, because as in all things life- you are only as strong as your weakest link.  Yet it is always nice to have a partner. Playing good cop- bad cop just looks silly if there's only one actor.  I have learned some amazing things about parenting by watching my husband interact with our children.  When he is debriefing behavior, he covers the finer elements of a standard flight defrief. Since there are rarely films to evaluate- the replay is more of a constructive questionning with a fair amount of detective work. This detective reasoning leads to the reconstruction of events and well as an opportunity to guide the children into the problem solving Woulda Coulda Shouldas. Once these have been established, they once again reflect on the positive and negative aspects and compare them to other times we have seen or not seen such behaviors. Once the child has effectively reflected, the true redirection (aka parenting- lecturing- mentoring- guiding- brainwashing-etc) begins. Once the debrief is concluded he usually asks them a trivial question. They usually respond, "Yes, sir"- and he knows they understand where everyone stands. Except Bella, she always responds "Yes Man"  because the other ones used to say "Yes Ma'am" and he would then have to say "Your mom is a Ma'am. I am a Sir."  I have yet to hear him correct Bella and neither one of us can resist snickering.

His talks are always one of the highlights of my job. He doesn't talk down to the kids, nor does he lecture over their heads. He is relateable yet authoritative. I often have to leave the room in a fit of giggles because when you watch an adult debriefing a toddler on the finer points of appropriate behavior choices- it is inherently funny. The one thing you will not see him do is negotiate with them. Some call it stubborn, but I think it is an element of parenting that is often overlooked these days. If children were equipped to handle all of the choices society has to throw at them- they would not be kept under the parenting umbrella until they are 18- oh wait- maybe it's 21-or is it 23 now? Oh yeah- some policies allow you to extend coverage to your "child" who is up to 26 years of age.  It wasn't so many years ago that a 26 year old was considered an old maid and destined to live a life of solitude. Time to take off the kid gloves people.

As I said, I've been tackling some parenting hurdles solo.  I have found that yelling only works to get their attention- but doesn't accomplish much else. I'm sure my neighbors appreciate my extensive research on the subject. Ignoring doesn't work either. Telling the children to work it out- plain old ridiculous- if they could work it out on their own- really would there be a conflict- um no.  What does work?  Consistency. For the same reasons children go haywire as soon as you get on the phone, talk to a neighbor, or are out in public- those are precisely the times you need to enforce appropriate behavior. Especially if it is uncomfortable. You will save yourself lots of discomfort in the long run.  Lately- my kids like to approach me after 8 pm. I go off duty at 8. Off duty in my world means I'll deal with you- but in an adult fashion.   It occurred to me that I was completely enabling their behavior because I was tired and it was quicker to just sign their homework logs after hours than deal with the fallout. Every night I was dealing with the logs. I finally said I wouldn't do it. If it wasn't done by dinner- it wasn't signed. The result was Phillip sneaking his on the counter in the morning.  I would sign it without thinking.  And then I didn't and I refused to.  It took 2 days and he finally figured it out.  Children have to face the consequences. I didn't want him to go to school and have his planner not signed and have the teacher think I wasn't doing my job.  And then it occurred to me- my JOB is to teach him to be responsible. That's the whole point of consequences. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks- if I am doing what needs to be done.

I don't like public humiliation. I don't like to humiliate my children in public and I sure as heck don't like being humiliated. Yet at some point, children subconsciously recognize this and use it to their advantage. Like yesterday morning. Bella chose to ride her scooter to school. Once we drop the kids at school, she decides she is done riding the scooter. The rule is- you choose it- you have to get it home. I remind her of the rules and listen to her complaining for a block. We get to the corner of death( a main intersection with only a 4 way stop and people who would rather have your blood on their car than take the time to obey the rules of the road- like stopping). I usually carry her scooter across and hold her hand so if necessary, I can slingshot her to safety and take the full impact of a hit and run. Bella refuses to hold my hand and stomps her feet. I grab her hand and threaten punishment in the form of my hand hitting her butt if she doesn't hold my hand and walk across the street, she pulls it away. At certain ages- immediate reward and punishment are needed. And then for good measure- booster shots of reinforcement need to be given as kids get older. She then does the wet noodle act and throws herself on the ground.  I now have to spank her because I threatened it. In public. So I do. I can tell you this because I already had about 25 witnesses to it- it's not a secret. She still refuses. At some point this is not working and reinforcement has the potential to become child abuse. That point is now. It is not a battle of the wills- it is me making a point and getting a child across the street safely.  I pick her up grab the scooter and dash across the street. Before I even get to the sidewalk- I hurl her scooter into a grassy patch and park her butt on a nearby step. I get down on her level- because that's what Supernanny says to do- it's less intimidating. I then wonder if I should stand back up- because she just publicly disobeyed me and threw a fit- if this doesn't call for a little intimidation- I don't know what does. And as a sidebar- I don't watch supernanny- I've seen it twice and both times it was the exact same. I only watched it those 2 times so I could feel like my children weren't Satan's spawn- and it worked. I stay at eye level and explain to her that when we get home, since she is sooooo tired of walking she will sit in time out until she is no longer tired. At that time she will clean the backyard and if she gets tired she can go back to timeout. Do you understand? Her response "Yes Man."

 The good news is I can say "I am not a MAN I am a MA'AM" without sounding utterly ridiculous. But I don't because I have to walk away so she can't see me snickering.

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