Today is the first day in a while that I feel like writing about something other than feeling like I’m falling apart. Maybe because today was the first day in a while that I didn’t feel like I was falling apart, and maybe that’s because my baby slept a five and a three hour chunk last night, after about a month of waking up every hour. Hallelujah indeed! It’s amazing what a good night’s sleep can do for you.
I’ve been reading several parenting books lately, as I have been trying to figure out what “fits” as a style of parenting and discipline. I have yet to read a book that I agree with 100%, but the three that I have read, and successfully used ideas from each, have been Parenting with Love and Logic, How to Really Love Your Child, and Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids. All of them have some some ideas and suggestions that I have liked, but the piece of advice that has made the biggest change in my parenting came simply from a friend as we chatted during a play date.
I had been trying to reconcile a desire to better connect with Peter (Carolyn is a little too young for much disciplining), with the simultaneous desire to set and enforce firm boundaries and help him to be a generally well behaved child. I felt like every time I leaned “firm boundaries”, it seemed like he and I were locked in a battle of wills all day and upset with one another to boot. And I felt like every time I leaned “connecting with him” I ended up being too permissive and creating a different set of behavioral problems. As I was discussing this struggle with her, she told me how she has tried to disconnect the negative emotion from discipline.
This felt like one of those huge lightbulb moments. I realized that whenever I was leaning “firm boundaries”, I was often enforcing those boundaries with anger. You know, the whole “Time out! Go to your room! No!” stuff. The anger seems to give your discipline an extra “kick” because it’s scary, and requires less thoughtful boundaries because getting yelled at doubles as part of the punishment. That’s what wasn’t sitting right with me, and that’s what was causing so much friction and lack of progress between Peter and me.
Lately I have been enforcing limits, but doing so without the anger (you know, mostly…). If Peter doesn’t want to come with me to get into his pajamas for the night, I will very evenly say “do you want to come with me, or do you want me to carry you?”. If he doesn’t come, I say “It looks like you’re choosing for me to carry you” and I calmly pick him up and bring him (who is not so calm) in for PJ’s. After a day or so of that, he started deciding to come on his own.
When he rips a toy away from his sister, I calmly tell him not to take someone else’s toys and take him to time out. After his time out I sit down with him and calmly explain again why he had to come to time out, what he should not have done, and what a better behavior would be. I usually give him a hug as well, you know, for that whole “increase of love” thing.
It’s only been a couple of weeks of really working on this new effort, but I have loved that it preserves a much better spirit in our home, and I feel like I am both teaching and connecting with Peter. Two thumbs up for friends sharing their great wisdom.