Friday, June 22, 2012

I've got parenting skills.

But they don't always work.

Exhibit A:  Reed has a nasty little temper.  He has big blue eyes and perfect skin and soft blonde hair, and when he sleeps he's so beautiful that I swear to God I can hear angels singing, but he has a streak of terror that belies his angelic look.   If you send him to time out, he will go, but he always picks up something and throws it on his way.  Or, he'll kick the wall.  Then he does the most impressive mad face and crosses his arm and spits daggers at you with his eyes.  And I try not to laugh because he's still so freaking cute.  I also try not to be sarcastic, but I can't avoid saying, when he kicks the wall and consequentially hurts his foot,  "I bet you feel a whole lot better now, huh?"  More daggers.

So, I've been working on teaching him to do deep breathing and count to ten when he gets mad.  Instead of throwing or kicking, I try to get him to breathe in through his nose and blow out through his mouth and count to ten.

The other day, Reed was furious because I took away a toy for talking rudely to me.  He was fuming.  He was sitting on the floor, and had just taken off his shoes.  I watched him pick up a shoe.  I said:  "Reed, do your breathing."  He huffed and puffed and counted.  One.  Two.  Three.  Deep breath.  Four.  Five.  Six.  Deep breath.  Seven.  Eight.  Nine.   On ten, he picked up that shoe and chucked it at the wall so hard it left a mark.

Okay.  Next strategy?

Exhibit B:  I've been reading the book Siblings Without Rivalry that was given to me by my friend Susan when Reed was born.  I smugly didn't read it for 5 years because my children are not like other children, and there was no rivalry.  Until this year when they are sometimes so mean to and mad at each other that it makes me want to cry and pull out hairs (mine and theirs).  

The book is great, full of actual strategies to help your kids get along with each other.  I read chapters 1-2 the other night and the basic advice is that instead of constantly telling your kids to "stop fighting!" and "don't touch each other" and "grow up,"   kids need their feelings of frustration and jealousy about their siblings to be heard, acknowledged, and understood.  There are lots of role-playing examples to illustrate what parents should say, things like "I know it must be very frustrating when your brother knocks down your block tower" or "It's not fun to be left behind, is it?"  But there are some ideas that made me laugh out loud and I doubt that was the author's intention:  "You must be so enraged.  Would you like to draw a picture that shows me how you feel?" or "You can't hurt your sister, but you can show me your feelings with your doll."  (Yikes!  Reed would decapitate the doll, and then where would I go from there???)

Anyway, reading this book gave me a good reminder that I need to, especially in Skyler's case, let my kids express their feelings of frustration instead of shutting them down.  She gets VERY frustrated with Reed several times a day.  He touches her, pokes her, and gets into her space, so I shouldn't blame her.  But she can yell back at him in a very biting tone.

The other night, I sent her to her room because she called Reed "stupid," and she yelled it.  She was very upset by the injustice that she had been sent to her room, and was crying loudly.  She has an especially, um, inspired type of dramatic cry when she feels she's being treated unfairly.   I thought about what the authors of the book would say, and went into her room. I was pretty proud of myself when I said:  "Why don't you spend a few minutes thinking about five words that you would use to describe Reed and how he makes you feel.  I turned to walk out of her room.  She sat right up and shouted:  "RUDE.  DISGUSTING.  HURTFUL.  MEAN.  DESTRUCTIVE.  AND ANNOYING."  Then she continued to wail. 

I said:  "Good job.  That was six words.  And I'm glad we had this little talk."


love is written here said...

Love it. Right there with you. I've honed something I think is working. I get that idea that we can't just tell them to "cut it out" and think that will solve the underlying problem.

I'm also glad we had this little talk.

Jen said...

Oh man, I need that book! Who would have thought that even with the 5.5 year difference - we'd be dealing with sibling rivalry! It's killing me and I am guilty of shutting them down. I need some strategies.

Nancy said...

OK....started reading this right after saying "KNOCKITOFF!!" to my two youngest. Continued reading while they they appeared to work it out. Moved on to your earlier post with the inspiring pictures while they wound up again. Finally gave up, bolted into the family room and said "Turn the Wii off now. Each of you go to your rooms. Think of 5 words to describe your current frustration. Take a long deep breath. I'm doing the same." Now to go talk to them. Thanks for the timely advice!!

Nancy said...

Update: had good talks with both kids and everyone felt better and behaved better for the rest of the day (mostly). We also ditched the electronics and went for a long walk by the river and out to eat. Much better all around. But can it last???

Kirsten said...

This could be my house. Those could be my kids! Except my youngest screams this ear piercing noise while throwing objects. It's fun.