I’ve read a lot on gentle discipline, natural consequences, rewording phrases to be “yes” statements instead of “no” statements–all the latest research on effective, yet empowering, discipline techniques. It goes something like this:
“Oh my, you’re screaming your face off. You must be frustrated. ”
“Uh oh. You threw your food at Mommy. You must not be hungry. I’m going to put your food away.”
“Yes, we can finger paint–after you reassemble the priceless antique wristwatch you smashed to bits with a shoe.”
And you know what works the best?
NONE OF IT.
I have concluded that everything you read in parenting books is total bullshit.
It may have something to do with the fact that Chris and I are, you know, human, and we get frustrated and yell or ignore or get angry sometimes instead of being peaceful, sunshine-y parents. So there’s some inconsistency there.
But come on, let’s be honest. Real kids don’t act like the ones in the books, do they? The ones that say:
“Yes mommy, I’m really frustrated because I was trying to get your attention and you were busy! Can we please talk about my future Montessori schooling now?”
“I threw my food because I really don’t like organic quinoa with curried cauliflower. Can I please have raw milk and broccoli instead?”
“Now that you mention it, the house is kind of messy. Maybe I should clean up my blocks before we finger paint!”
Yeah, that? Never happens.
Chris and I have kind of fumbled our way through and find that we tend to fall back most on the “if, then” style of discipline:
“If you don’t stop screaming, you’re going to have to go to your room until you calm down.”
“If you throw your food again, I’m going to take it away.”
“If you don’t pick up your blocks, I’m just going to put them in a box for a few days and you’ll have to earn them back.”
While this approach does tend to get results–we’re giving a warning and stating the consequence for continuing an undesired behavior (right?)–it has also resulted in that unintended side effect of the kids throwing it back in our faces. And of course, it never sounds even-tempered and measured like when Chris and I say it. It’s always all:
“Ama, if you DON’T give me a Popsicle, I’m NOT going to brush my teeth!”
“Elise, if you don’t give me back my toy, I’m going to TAKE AWAY YOUR BLANKIE!”
“Amaia, if you don’t come back here RIGHT NOW, I’m going to LOSE IT!”
It’s always a humbling and shocking moment when your child repeats back something you know you’ve said to them.
“Oh my god. Is that what I sound like???”
Try as I might, I just can’t seem to grasp this Perfect Parent thing, and there are many times when I’ve wondered if everyone else got The Manual and I didn’t. Why are everyone else’s kids so gentle, thoughtful, sweet, and loving? Why are my kids all sweaty and dirty and rude and hateful?
Then I remember that–shocker!–I’m not perfect. And neither are my kids. And that there’s something to the concept of the ‘good-enough mother’–the one who screws up a lot, yells more than she’d like, feeds her kids Cookie Crisp
daily on occasion, throws away toys when they aren’t looking–but she shows up, tries her damnedest, and loves the hell out of her children.
I might have a daycare’s worth of kids, but I’m still a relatively new mom and I’m learning as I go. I remind myself daily that, chances are, my kids are not psychopaths and they’re going to turn out just fine.
Because if they don’t, I’m going to send them to their rooms.