June 4, 2014

What a different a week (or so) makes...

 Was it just this time last week when I was looking forward to a Family Fun Weekend--complete with a hotel stay and awesome pool?  It would be an understatement to say that things did not work out.  Oh, the pool was lovely and our room was very comfortable.  It was the company that disappointed.  I can say that.  I'm their mother.

We had a perfect storm of bad behavior.  The boys took it upon themselves to leave all manners, common sense and self-control at home.  In fact, they were delighted to do so.  I won't go into the ugly details of the three days but let's just say, when a stranger confronts your five year old for spitting in his brother's face while you pay the restaurant bill, you've hit the bottom floor in the discipline department.

Things went from bad to worse, to even worse than that.  How a five and seven year old can muster so much disrespect for one parent, I'll never know.  They demanded things right and left, acting entitled to their every whim and NOT taking no for an answer.  I'm embarrassed by how often I resorted to threats even after that tactic showed itself to be useless.  (By the way, how entitled does my five year old act?  As if on cue, he just  came out of his bedroom and told me to buy him an iPhone because "then I'll be good".)  

I've always set limits, created routines and followed through with consequences.  Don't those things guarantee positive behavior in offspring and peace in the family home?  Apparently not.

It has become painfully clear that I need to make major changes.  If my children do not respect me or my rules today, how will they act five years from now?  Ten years?  If they demand material goods at every turn, will they ever be happy with our modest lifestyle?  Won't every day, every interaction be filled with conflict and disappointment?  To be perfectly honest, what I experienced this weekend really scared me.

Sometimes sheer, abject terror is a good thing.  In this case, it spurred me to action.  I have vowed to read three books this month:
  • The Blessing of a Skinned Knee (Wendy Mogul)
  • How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk  (Faber and Mazlish)
  • The Five Love Languages of Children (Gary Chapman)

I have also implemented a behavior system, complete with rewards.  I absolutely hate these things--let's just be clear on that from the beginning.  After 18 years as a special education teacher, the last thing I want in my home is a green-yellow-red traffic light, sticker charts and a prize basket.  I think I'd rather have a colony of ants.  Oh, wait, I have those too.  
Prize choices after 24 stickers (approx. 2-4 weeks)
Chore Charts (we already had those), Lego pieces for the traffic light colors above the dreaded sticker charts.

Lastly, I have completely changed our calendar for the summer.  I had dreams of doing everything in here (and more).

Now I realize that if I want the boys to practice self-control we are going to need to stay home as much as possible.  Summer attractions, amusement parks, even retail excursions (okay, especially those) are full of temptations to act out, demand more and succumb to the constant assaults on their little senses.  I've taken a GIANT step backwards here.  We are going to stay in our house/backyard as much as possible.  There will still be lots of challenges but I'm hoping by playing a smaller arena for a couple of months, there will also be successes.  The boys need to have some positive behavior experiences here before we take our show on the road again. 

This was not an easy decision to make.  As a single mom, there is no one to relieve me in the evening so I can go to a store or a restaurant.  If I think it's best that the boys not see the inside of Target or Red Robin for a few months, that means I don't go those places.  At all.  And I don't like staying home.  I don't like eating/preparing every meal at home.  I like shiny new things and good food.  But if I'm asking my boys to stay away from those, they are out of bounds for me as well.

To ease the transition, I've stocked up on library books.  Although we are staying home together for the foreseeable future, the boys and I will still need our space.  I plan to escape into one of these historical biographies while the boys play throw build throw play Legos.

This weekend I felt as though my family were on a precipice.  I was afraid we would fall so far that we'd be lost forever in a place of conflict and negativity.  How could this be happening to someone who so intentionally wanted to build a happy, loving family?  I haven't been this scared since I came home alone with my first newborn.  I met that challenge.  I will do everything I know how to meet this one as well.

If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do matters very much.
--Jackie Kennedy


  1. I'd love more information on your chore chart. I'm sorry your boys are getting out of control, but you are definitely doing the right thing to raise them to be respectful young men. I hope you see a drastic improvement quickly...especially so you can start to go out again. I'm reading a great book - What Alice Forgot.

  2. Oh, I could write a whole post in response. I so feel for you. In the past few weeks I have struggled with the entitlement and not taking "no" for answer with Fiona. I thought extra time with me since my layoff, and my less stressful schedule would be great for us, but in many ways Fiona just acts more selfish and demanding. Just today I showed her the birthday invitations I made for her last night on the computer and one of the hula girls wasn't exactly to her liking and she called them "stinky." Yeah, she got an earful for that. I too have been threatening too much and it just leads to Fiona trying to negotiate how to get her way. I think your plan to seriously slow down is a really good one. I've got "How to talk so kids will listen..." book on my shelf to read, too-- maybe we can have a little virtual book club this month. Hang in there!

  3. My heart goes out to you as you navigate this murky water. It has to be so frustrating for you to be doing everything you can & think is right & to still have your boys show such disrespect. Good for you for putting on the breaks & changing things up. Good luck, I hope you see improvements soon.

  4. Wait, are you sure you weren't with my kids that weekend? I could swear they were with me, bothering each other until their breaking points and insisting that they weren't "doing anything" while the other screamed at them to stop whatever they "weren't doing".

    I'm so sorry the boys acted so poorly. Hopefully some play dates aren't out of the question this summer. :)

  5. Ugh. Hang in there. This parenting thing is not for the weak of hurt and we all struggle with it. Do what you can when you're in survival mode. Eventually they move out. :)

  6. Thanks for posting those book titles. I'm so sorry you are having a rough time with them. Stay strong and let them know who is boss!

  7. I hate those times in parenting when it all seems so out of control. But I love love love your plan. I'm a couple of chapters in to the Talk so your kids will listen book and really like it - the other two are on my list, too. HIGHLY recommend reading The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting (the audiobook is less than 3 hours, if you have a place/time you could listen). It really spoke to me, and I think put me in a better place to implement the changes I think I need to make as a parent. In fact, I'm listening to it again next week so I can talk about it on my blog. :)

    I can't wait to hear how things go!

  8. So sorry the weekend was a bust! Elsie was pushing boundaries a lot this weekend too! Maybe it was a full moon!