They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Well, then. Check me into the asylum friends, because um, I think this might be my parenting life, like, all of it.
These are things that were actually uttered in my house this morning:“You are not excused from your timeout until you list ten things you are grateful that others have done for you.” “Get into child’s pose and stay there until your attitude improves. Breathe the cranky (internal speech- “shittatude”) out, breathe the happy in,”
and, the ultimate:“The fact that you had to flush your brother’s poop down the toilet does NOT excuse you from flushing your own. It doesn’t work like that, actually (this is not a competition for Most Helpless Child- it’s way too early for that nonsense).”
Sigh. The battle of wills has begun, and the odds are not, currently, in my favor.
Life with kids is a life on repeat. I say the same things, over and over and over. Okay, well maybe not that last one, that I only say like once a week, or so . . . But really, not a whole lot changes other than the tone and volume of my voice by the fourth effort in the same ten minute span- “put your shoes on please. Please put your shoes on. Put your SHOES on please. PUT YOUR SHOES ON. please.”
Clearly, I am an effective communicator. Obviously.
Now I know our brains are a pattern seeking device. I also know kids are constantly testing their boundaries. And by testing, I mean pushing them, all.the.damn.time. Actually, adults do it too. We want to see if the imaginary constraints someone has set on our behavior are still live and in effect and/or, if they are, will we really get caught jumping the fence.
We usually do. It usually hurts. We usually do it again anyway. This seems to contradict the pattern seeking behavior a bit, no?
Well, ringing bells and salivation aside, conditioning our responses, in a healthy way, is no small task. If science is right and it really does it takes about 27 experiences with something to form a habit then one would expect that I would have mastered at least the following by now: 1) jedi mind power, 2) ninja stealth skills, 3) dance moves other than the “tall girl can’t shake it” and “hands in the air.”
Sadly, none of these have manifested themselves fully, yet. #fail.
The closest I’ve got to getting down like yoda is my killer teacher/mom look. You know- THE look. The “get your shit together, stat, or be prepared to face my fury” glance of admonition. It’s actually fairly effective on other people’s children (you should see them scatter when I hit the pavement on a Elementary School campus, it’s hysterical) but mine have called my bluff.
However, I have noticed some behavior patterns are taking hold. Some things, I am doing an OUTSTANDING job teaching my kids. They are picking up what I’m throwing down after all.
Hooray, right? Um, well, actually, no. Nope. Negative. Not the kind I was hoping for.
Take these snippets of conversational exchanges between my Dear Daughter and me, for example:Me: “Do you hear yourself right now?” DD: “No. Because my ears are plugged” Me: “I don’t hear you when you speak to me like that.” DD: “Then how do you know what I said?” Me: “Where did you put it?” DD: “Somewhere. . . over the rainbow” Me: “You may not speak to people in that tone of voice” DD: “Well he was making his cute eyes at me and that’s just not going to work on me today.”
Gee, I wonder what behavior those remarks illustrate? Couldn’t possibly be sarcasm, could it?
On the bright side- my kids are kinda sharp after all, phew. Using sarcasm requires quick wit, a large vocabulary and a smarter than average train of thought so it’s not all bad. But ahem, um, I wonder who taught them to talk like that? I don’t know anybody who engages in that kind of discourse, on a regular basis or anything. . .
And the award for Most Hypocritical goes to. . . . ME!
Yep. My bad. All me. I take full responsibility for this. High five me. It appears the lesson in respectful dialogue is going over like a lead balloon. I can tell them how to talk, I can tell them what they should be saying, but unless I am modeling it myself, the point is moot. “Do as I say not as I do” is a supersize load of bullshit, and I know it.
This is a problem, cuz’, without anybody backing me up, I’m kind of, um, totally screwed. Unless. . . unless, I change my habits, perspective and response.
So, since I love to list things, here’s my plan of attack:
- Reserve sarcasm for appropriate moments. Use a different outlet to get all that clever satirical word play out. Maintain the art form, to be sure, but overall with the kids- give love, be love, receive love.
- Go slow. Move slowly, speak slowly, respond slowly. Acknowledge where the kids are at in their development- emotionally and physically. Consider what is going on in their lives, the antecedent for the behavior and what might best offer them support in redirection, rather than straight up correction for one act. Put myself in their shoes for the moment, and then consciously respond. See the moment as well as the repercussions and respond with the total picture in mind. Put that giant Educational Institution paper trail to work all ready dammit.
- Continue using time-outs a way to create a short term safety solution as needed (like when the kids start going all kung-fu panda on each other and need to be separated) as well as an opportunity to reset. Time-outs are not a consequence- they exist to CTFD before the consequence.
And, since I have no backup here in my house, do me a favor, will you please? Send me a message now and then and ask me how I’m doing. Remind me, nicely, of what I committed to changing. Call me out when you see me fail (in private, and preferably while handing me a glass [or bottle] of wine with the bad news). If you do this in front of my children, however, we may never speak again. Fair warning. If this also comes off as being scolded or reprimanded, the same outcome applies. Just gently and kindly keep me accountable for my actions, pretty please.
In theory, it’ll only take about 27 times so I should be good by like . . . tomorrow.
Want to join me in this effort? Make an accountability pact? Hit me up; I’ve been known to help people stay on track with goals before. Once or twice. Self not always included.
Want to laugh at me instead? Please do. Go for it. Either way, we’re both going to end up smiling blankly into space somewhere wondering what just happened and whose kids those are.
Here’s to insanity. Bring.it.on.Like this post? Post it, tweet it, pin it, google it, trip on it, or otherwise spread the social love people. Really, really, like it? Subscribe to my feed and get posts delivered in your inbox. Can’t get enough? Stalk me: @CFOLikeaMother, Facebook or Pinterest