Thursday, June 14, 2007

What Shall We Do?

The little girls were eating breakfast when I arrived. "So have you guys had a fun morning?" They described excitedly how they had watched Dora, jumped on the couch, and worn their pink jammies. Then I asked, "What did you do last night?" Lucy rolled her eyes and pointed wordlessly to the top of the refrigerator. There was Annabelle (her doll) Duckie (her duck) and Blankie (her blankie) along with several other little stuffed friends. "What happened?" Chelsea showed me her cheek, and explained sadly, in 2-yr-old, that it had been bitten, by, of all people, her sister. Lucy was nodding solemnly. "So that's why they're on the fridge."

What's a parent to do? The whole discipline thing is a huge question mark. The little old lady spanked them all soundly and sent them to bed. I thought it was in the nursery rhyme book as instruction to mothers, so I usually resorted to that. My kids turned out well in spite of it. We also tried grounding which I soon realized was just a punishment for me. Dee would march in and say "You're grounded!" while I was waving my hands wildly, motioning "NO! NO! Anything but that!"

My mother was not above corporal punishment. We used to provide each other with books to put down our pants in case my mom looked angry. She was ready to spank my brother one day and he stepped aside so that her hand hit the door and she broke her finger! My dad's MO was the lecture. My history teacher drew a little circle on the wall, and the offender had to stand with his nose in the circle. Dee used to rattle the utensil drawer to remind the kids that the wooden spoon was available.

Time Out is the modern method. The parenting books make it sound so sensible and effective, but it is very difficult to carry out. My recent Oma-ing has provided opportunities to observe the kids punishing their mom with time out. When Lucy was crying, while in time out for punching Chelsea, Chelsea brought Lucy her doll to comfort her, saying "It's OK, Luc. I'm here."

Chelsea was in time out, required only to say "I'm sorry" but she defiantly refused to do it. Soon her mom was giving her every option she could think of, ("just nod if you feel sorry") when Chelsea finally asked "Can I say sorry in Spanish?" Unfortunately nobody knew how to say it in Spanish (where's Dora?) but that was good enough! Lucy cheered when Chelsea reappeared in triumph. It had all been a great dramatic success for the kids. They had taught mom a lesson, for sure!

By the time Dee and I got to our seventh kid we had tried everything. We conceded in defeat. The white flag was flying high, and when we heard our final toddler crying, we would call downstairs to the kids, "Just give her anything she wants!"

It will probably always be a question mark. I heard once that raising kids requires a safe, sturdy playpen. When they grow up, you can climb out. Bill Cosby said, "No matter how calmly you try to referee, parenting will eventually produce bizarre behaviour. I'm not talking about the kids. Their behaviour is always normal."

So, anyway, as an experienced mother and grandmother I would say to parents of little children everywhere, "Hey, good luck with that!"

12 comments:

Annie said...

I had to laugh out loud about your comment about grounding...it IS worse for the parent than the child when you've got a grumpy sullen punishee on your hands. It always sounded so strange to use staying home with the family as the ultimate consequence...surely it should be a positive rather than the worst thing we can think of!

MissKris said...

Oma, I'm SO frustrated!! I tried sending an email to the address you sent...the same you sent before, even...and it came back as "failed to deliver" AGAIN!! Argggghhhhhh! I'm hexed, vexed, and bewildered, haha! WHAT are we gonna do?!? I will thank you here for the wonderful comment you left about rocking babies and Dylan not being able to tell on me. I know exactly which poem you're referring to...I used to have it hanging on my wall when the kids were little. It's called "Babies Don't Keep". Speaking of babies, Dylan will be here any minute...gotta scoot. (((HUG)))

Bev said...

this makes me think about my own time with a small child at home....and I think I shall have to blog on this subject tomorrow!

Stie: My Favorite Things said...

It's good to know that at some point I'll be free. Some days it feels like this life will never end (and a few rare days that I don't want it to). Still laughing at the little Ballou girls. So, so cute.

mama jo said...

stie, as a mother who's last child is leaving...don't wish for it, it will happen way to soon....those sweet little girls biting? i agree with everything you said about discipline...it sucks...every time i grounded someone, the best invitation of the year came...i've realized that it's good that my last 2 children are dogs, because they would be the wild children of the neighborhood...

Kelly said...

i often wonder what i should do too? this parenting thing is tough. and discipline is the worst. it's especially hard because i don't think gavin is old enough to get it. boys are just different. i'ved tried spanking, i've tried the time outs... nothing seems to work. here's the first, and he is alread wild. if i'm starting off wild, where to go from here?

rp said...

Yes, parenting is tough. Sigh. I don't trust myself to hit. I would do (and have done) it in anger, and that is just wrong. Discipline should be meted dispassionately. Cause, effect, period. I stink at it, as I am just way more volatile than that. But I have learned to let it blow over, then talk. I can't even talk when I'm angry. It would be hurtful. Gotta wait until the high emotions quell, and all sides can be more rational.

As for the defiant steak, I had to laugh. While a bear to parent, I very much respect and admire it.

Annie Lou said...

Hi Kelly,

Try this. Tell Gavin every day what a GOOD boy he is. Keep stressing his goodness. Pretty soon he will have a reputation to live up to and he really will be good. If he does something terrible, don't tell him he's a bad boy. Say, "I am surprised that such a good boy did such a bad thing." They always say that if you keep telling a kid that he's bad he will think ,"Well, I've got the name, I'll have the game." It works both ways. Give him a GOOD rep to live up to. The one thing all children want most is their parent's approval and they will work for it if you encourage them.

Betty said...

My mother used to make me go and pick out the switch that she was going to use on the backs of my legs when I was naughty. If I didn't pick out a good one, she sent me back to try again until I got it right. Double jeopardy!

Gramafolly said...

I did all the things that everyone of you have done, with the same results. Was I a good mother? I don't know, I tried and am still alive, barely, at the young age of 54! So I guess that says something. Children are way smarter than any of us parents that are trying so hard to do what's right. I've finally decided to throw in the towel and see how it all works out...which should be easy since my youngest child is 25, and I shouldn't be doing any parenting at all. I only know that I wouldn't have been even close to being sane if I didn't have sisters, friends and moms to discuss and cry to and then lots of times end of laughing and it didn't seem like I was doing that bad a job. I'll let you know how it all turns out when Whit is 40.

rp said...

Betty, my mom made me go get a belt. If she wasn't happy with my choice she sent be back for another. In the very few occasions I have struck my child (and felt horrid afterwards) I used "only" my hand.

MissKris said...

I came back to really comment on this one. My parents swatted me and my brothers and we...especially me!!...deserved every one I got. We also spanked our kids. My mom once went to swat one of my older brothers and he had a big magnet in the back pocket of his pants...she sprained her wrist! I agree...time outs seem silly to me. We never used them. No grounding, either. We just started consistently disciplining them from the time they were tiny and we never had much problem with them as they grew older. I dunno how we ended up so lucky, but they ended up being excellent adults!