Sometimes the Positive Parenting just doesn’t work….for me….

angry baby

(Image courtesy of clip-art)

I’m sorry, but sometimes reading a bunch of mini-articles and blogs on “positive parenting” techniques is just a bit too much for me. Like when Mr. Ornery has drawn his battle lines – he’s not going to kindergarten today; he’s not going to put his shoes on; he promises to take his seat belt off in the car. His arms are crossed. His brows are furrowed and the eyes narrow to slits. His feet are planted….without socks on yet – he refuses them too.

I look at him. I size up my worthy opponent. I conjure up all that I’ve read about being a “great parent.”

Okay – the kid is apparently experiencing some pretty intense emotions.

  1. Take some deep breaths and calm yourself.
  2. Label the emotions – “Wow, Mr. Ornery, it looks like you are feeling very angry about school today.”
  3. Provide support and love as “those big emotions can be scary.” I kneel beside him and extend my arms to offer a “supportive loving” hug. He shoves me off balance.
  4. Empathize
  5. Encourage
  • Check
  • Check
  • Check
  • Check
  • Check

“Whatever!” I finally yell. I tuck the 47-pound obstinate soldier under my right arm, scoop up his shoes and backpack and coat with the left arm (we small wily moms have incredible strength) and march through the door graciously opened by our Thai guest (who must be thinking, “these American parents are nuts!!”). I toss him into the minivan and glare intently into his eyes ~ “GET  your  seatbelt  ON  NOW!!!!  And I mean NOW!!”

Yep – “positive parenting” at its best. Did it – failed. Tried it – failed. Resorted to….Power.

I know – in the long-term, the physical power of picking up a kid is not going to get me anywhere (especially when he’s 100 pounds). But on Thursday it got us to school on time.

Mr. Ornery does not like his new kindergarten class. I understand that. I understand that this month of “change” in every single aspect of his life is a bit disruptive. I understand he’s stressed and expressing his inner turmoil through obstinate defiance. I understand his emotional woes.

I understand a lot.

“Get in the car now!!” is how all that soft stuff boiled down in the moment of confrontation.

I’m not a bad parent. I’m a stressed single working mother. I get three kids off to daycare and before-school YMCA care before many people finish their morning coffee (thank goodness for Keurigs at the office!). I’m trying to be sweet and sensitive and sometimes I am. Sometimes I’m a really super mom. Sometimes I’m not.

Do you know that if you meet your dear sweet baby on their first day of life…and stick beside them for 18 years, you’ll spend 6570 days together (give or take a few necessary “business trips” and “I just need to get away” trips!).  That’s 6570 opportunities to completely mess up – but in reality, you’re more likely to have thousands of awesome days, thousands of “pretty good” days…. and just a few “that was really truly awful” days.

So on those downright no good truly awful horrible days (like when I’ve threatened to return the dog to the pound, have grounded the boys for the next 5872 days, or carried a flailing screeching kindergartener out of a birthday party at the bowling alley)…. I just tuck those little ones in at night with a kiss and an I-love-you and remember – tomorrow is a new day. And it’s likely to be an awesome day.  Day number 3184, day 2173, and day 1379, respectively…to be precise.





3 Things you absolutely positively cannot control, so quit trying!

And the sooner you learn this, the better parent you will be.1. You cannot control your child’s sleep. This you learn pretty early on. You can help your baby fall asleep by rocking and soothing. You can try to make sure the room is a perfect temperature, dimly lit, comforting, and definitely not too noisy. You can put a sign on the door bell that asks people not to ring it during nap or evening time. You can even have a video monitor of your child’s crib to make sure all elements are under control. But the little being inside that crib doesn’t really care about your efforts at all.  If he’s tired, he’ll sleep (in your arms, in the crib, in the car seat, on the floor, on the back of a donkey – he doesn’t care – he’ll sleep!). If he’s not tired, he won’t – even if you’re tired, even if you’ve controlled every single possible aspect of the environment around him, even if you threaten him (or promise to reward him).  He doesn’t care. If he doesn’t want to sleep yet – he won’t.

So calm down, grab a book, sit on the floor outside the room and wait it out!

2. You cannot control your child’s “waste” systems – neither of them (well, not the third – the vomitus system – either!).  He will eventually learn to control it himself, when he wants to using whatever reward/consequence system that he wants to. You have no control over this. Come now – imagine going through two whole years of your life with some absorbent thick elasticky material between your legs to “catch” you know what. And the changing of said messy “diaper” was completely random and usually involved being laid down at times in which you definitely were involved in something else and not what you wanted to do. And sometimes you’d be subjected to this indignity when you were dry, sometimes when it was coming down your legs, and sometimes you just had to endure “the sniff.”

But…. then sometime around 2 to 3 years of age, you’re expected to suddenly stop messing up this diaper thing and instead there is whooping and hollering every time your urine and excrement land in a pool of water that whooshes petrifyingly in an ever-narrowing circle until a huge swallowing glug rings out. And this is thought to be “normal”….hmmmm…..

So let’s face it – you, the parent, have no control over when this child decides to transition from “yep, done” to “Mommy, mommy, I have to go pee!”

3. The third, and probably my most frustrating, is the realization that you also have no control over the child’s vocal activities! And, by golly, they figure this one out pretty young – screeching repetitively and annoyingly in the back seat of the car out of the reach of your sweeping hands.  Sharing “sensitive” information — “Mommy, that man has no hair” — in the middle of the silence of the congregations’ prayer. Or, “That man’s smoking, he’s going to die” as we walk past. Or the Little Guy who just stands in the middle of the kitchen floor screaming and screaming and screaming ….

Nothing can stop the determined disturber of the peace. Somehow, yelling at a yelling toddler to stop yelling just doesn’t seem to have the right effect. And shoving their mouths full of Kleenex would likely impair breathing and not be such a good thing. Even sending them to the time out stairs does not affect the chalk-on-board volume level emitting from their vocal cords.

It’s particularly frustrating when you have no idea why the illogical youngster is melting in a fit of whines, tears and screams. It happened to 4 out of 5 boys one morning this week, during the 15 minutes before getting all five shoed and shooed out the door. My strategy – pretend not to hear anything, pretend my frustration level is not skyrocketing and my blood pressure not soaring. Guide, cajole, demand, plead…anything….anything to get them in the car and deliver them to the substitute caregivers for the day. Then smile and say “good luck.”

Yes, once you figure out in the early years that you actually cannot control these little creatures, you’ll be quite ready for the teen years!

Ps….you also can’t control the number of stickers they choose to decorate with, the number of windows they break, or how much water they splash out of the tub!