Thursday, July 22, 2010

Child Discipline

And now, may I present an old favorite:

It Takes Discipline

Who are all these kids and why are they calling me mom?

I used to be this woman: young, formerly cute, with a bad attitude and a mean face. I started out with great theories on raising kids. Then one day I found a 25-pound bag of sugar spread evenly on the storage room floor. The kids and their friends were ice-skating in their socks over the slippery crystals.

Chalking it up to bad outside influences, I kept them isolated from naughty neighbor children. The next thing they designed was a swimming pool. They covered the shower drain with a towel and let the water overflow onto the bathroom floor. The plan was to fill up the bathroom and swim like fish in an aquarium. The resulting flood ruined the tile, and the carpet in the next room.

Experts on child-rearing have never bothered having children. If they did, they'd know nothing works. My theories toppled like blocks in a playroom.

When the corner of the boys bedroom started attracting flies, I investigated. Hmmm . . . what was the stinky, sticky liquid that had stiffened the carpet and eaten away the carpet pad . . . even the floor boards were dissolving . . . Could it be that animals lived in this room and had marked their spot with urine? These could NOT be my children! My children were obediently doing their extra reading at bedtime, not filling their toy box with bodily fluids!

Insanity is hereditary. You get it from your kids.

There were emotional issues, too. One kid had a conniption fit when the tub drain was released, convinced that he and all of his loved ones would be sucked down pipes and live in the sewer muck forever. He could hear the plug being released from any room in the house and broke into screams of terror. Another kid refused to take baths. He sat fully clothed on the bathroom floor and stirred the bathwater so it would sound like he was washing his sweat-stained arms.

Fears of wind, car washes, and vacuums ran rampant at our house. Two kids "rolled" their heads in a rhythmic effort to sooth themselves to sleep . . . for hours every night! I sat in darkened bedrooms to scare away bad dreams, and laid in darkened doorways to rescue sleepwalkers.

My bad dreams involved taking them out in public. Mom rearranged the furniture one year for Thanksgiving. She hauled the ping-pong table upstairs to the dining room, and set it with her lovely silver and china. The meal got underway, with instructions on where to sit and thanks to great-grandma for her homemade watermelon pickles. "Everybody fold your arms. It's time for the prayer."

I scanned the room for my cute little boys while my sister searched for hers. Suddenly the decorative metal room divider lurched towards the table. As we all looked up in horror we saw four little monkeys clutching the aluminum scroll-work as it fell from it's place between the ceiling and the half-wall. In the nick of time, our husbands caught it before our sons became the centerpiece. Turkey time.

I childproofed the house but they keep getting back in.

I'm not telling these stories to brag. I just want to establish my credentials as an honest-to-goodness mom. Thirty years of on-the-job training taught me that most naughty behavior is just a stage. Happily all seven kids grew out of all conduct unbecoming, and now it's entertaining to watch them deal with their own little rascals.

I remember how hard it was to be a mom—it was so constant! Every night I'd climb in bed, exhausted, and I'd wake up still exhausted, knowing the second my feet touched the floor it would start spinning like a merry-go-round. One of the homework assignments I read this week (they are all so good!) compared motherhood to the movie Groundhog Day: the same day over and over. Isn't that a perfect description? But now, with my Oma perspective, I see it differently. A few months ago I wrote a post called Wax Strong as a tribute to the never-ending task of raising kids. Caring parents are awesome.

But what do you do between "the baby just rolled over!" and "he's going away to college?" My dad used to say, "Just love 'em, and make them mind." So, how do you teach them to mind? What works? Time outs, grounding, incentives, threats, taking away privileges, little chats? What's fair? What if you're inconsistent? Is there a place for spanking? (If I was a young mother now I'd be turned in for child abuse for sure.)

(All illustrations here are from the darling book Jillian Jiggs, by Phoebe Gilman.)

As a parent or grandparent, you've been on the front lines and your experience, good and bad, is valuable. If you're not a parent, you were a kid. How did your parents handle tantrums, lying, bad grades, curfew, swearing, speeding tickets or whatever your vice happened to be?



MommyJ said...

I remember when I was a teenager, I respected and loved my parents a great deal. We did not always see eye to eye, but I cared very much of their opinions. This often motivated me to be good, to do good, even if I didn't really understand why. Because I trusted and loved them. I know this is a relationship they worked very hard to establish before I was a teenager and thought I knew everything. They created a great foundation that really helped us through the most difficult years.

Now, with my own five children, I just try to love them... to make my home a place where they comfortable, loved, not judged. For discipline, we take away privileges that mean something to them for a period of time long enough to make them miss it. And... I never hesitate to apologize if I screw up. Parents make mistakes too. I think it's good for kids to see that, to not feel bullied just because we're grown ups and get the final say of things.

Kathy C. said...

I love this post! We were brought up in a strict military home. We DID what Dad said, no questions asked. We DID get spankings and they hurt. If something broke and no one fessed up, we ALL got the spanking just to cover all bases.
Dad was super strict, but he also had a very funny sense of humor and that balanced things out a bit for some of us (not so much for others, lol).

The difference with raising our own son was the Christian influence. I didn't grow up with that. I obeyed my Dad out of fear, not respect, and not in honor to God.
We raised our son with a knowledge of WHY he should obey, and WHOM he is disrespecting when he doesn't...and YES, we spanked.
My husband is a police officer and he has told people before (when noticing their disruptive children) that they should give them a spanking...they tell HIM it's against the law!??? He assures them it is NOT. There is a line between discipline/spankings and abuse, and it's not a fine line, it's rather thick.

Heffalump said...

One of my sons used to go into another bedroom and pee in the corner at night. He was afraid of coming downstairs to use our one bathroom in the middle of the night. We still call that room the pee room sometimes.

I'm no expert. I'm still right in the middle of raising my six (going on seven) and making mistakes all the time.

One thing I think is important is that if we as parents make a mistake, we don't just smooth it over and pretend we are perfect. Our kids aren't dumb, and they will see that we are covering up. It's important to acknowledge that we sometimes lose our temper, and to apologize for it. If we don't apologize it makes it easier for us to keep up the same bad behaviors ourselves, and it also models that for our kids.

Consistency is a lovely thing, but not always very easy. I guess I just try to love my kids and let them know that I love them, and as time goes by, they are suddenly growing up, and I am realizing that my time is getting short. In just five short years my oldest will be getting ready to leave on his mission...time sure flies!

Diane said...

We had three rules:
1. No lying
2. Obey your parents
3. Stupidity is not an excuse (in other words, sometimes they should just know better, and not have to be told every little rule).

I should blog about this in more detail. The three rules sound cold all by themselves, but surrounded by love, they really worked.

Sasha Worthy said...

Very good stories ! The story about the aquarium was cute :)

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