Thursday, May 19, 2011

The slow death of consistency and good parenting

Before I had my first baby, I had loads of theories about how to raise a child.  And I was super confident in those theories and how I would expertly apply them to my role as a parent.

I would boldly proclaim, "Children need consistency.  You just have to be consistent with your expectations.  You either pay the piper now or later.  So consistency is the key!"  I would often state this whilst standing on some sort of transparent soap box.

Watching Super Nanny only made me more obnoxious.  How could these parents not see how inconsistent they were being with their children?  No bedtime?  No rules?  No consequences for bad behavior? No sticker charts?  I didn't even have my first baby and I already knew more than these hardened parents of multiple children.

I was confident.  I was smug.  I already new the biggest secret to successful parenting.  And I was going to rock as a parent.

I love how life has a way of humbling us to teach the real lessons. 

When Ella was born, I read Baby Wise and intended to have a sleeping-through-the-night baby in just a few short weeks.  And because we were parents to just one baby whose every breath, movement and fart had our ever loving attention, she was sleeping through the night and in her own bed by 7 weeks old.

Pat, pat.  See, I would think to myself, it's all because we are consistent.  It probably had nothing to do with the fact that she would have done this all on her own anyway. 

Now when Keira came along, I was slightly more interested in my own sleep so she slept in our bed for the first 5 months of her life.  But that was just a blip, I assured myself.

In other areas, I was confident.   For example, when one of the girls didn't listen, I would patiently give a warning, then put the repeat offender in time-out. For Ella and Keira it worked like a charm.  Especially for Ella who was born to please.  

And when we would get together with our friends who had two run-around-in-circles-throwing-things-and-nearly-breaking-every-bone-in-their-bodies boys, I would look at the girls quietly coloring or putting a puzzle together while sitting down and think to myself, consistency really is the key.   

Pat, pat.  

And then Sawyer was born.  A boy.  A passionate, stubborn, only take yes for an answer boy.  A boy who at just 2 weeks of age threw his first full-blown temper tantrum, while swaddled, complete with foot stamping and if he could have spoken, talking back and probably cursing.  And all because I had requested that he take a nap. 


So Sawyer slept with us, in our bed and usually nursing all through the night for the first 9 months of his life.  And until the age of 3, we had spent most every night trying to convince him to stay in his bed when it's bedtime. Okay, so night-time consistency was out the window.  But I still had all my daytime tricks.  

Time-out, for example.  The sure fire solution to making your child repentant.  Or sticker charts, because what child doesn't love stickers?

Sadly, he never got the memo about staying put in time-out so he could deeply reflect on the actions that got him there.  I could not get Sawyer to sit on the time-out spot on the stairs for any length of time.  So I moved his spot to outside the bathroom door.  And I began locking myself in the bathroom.  He really hated that. 

He ate the stickers from the charts or flushed them down the toilet.  Since the charts never made a dent in his behavior anyway, I figured it really wasn't worth the effort and/or possible toxins from the stickers.

So here I am.  On the other side of consistency.  Sawyer is now 3 and I had convinced myself that when this day came, I would suddenly have a little boy who when I said, "No, Sawyer, please don't touch that" in my ultra calm, I-have-it-together mom voice, he would say, "okay, mommy."  

This really doesn't ever happen unless he just doesn't care.  And I lost my ultra calm mom voice years ago.  I actually think he might be allergic to the word, "No."  Oh, and also the words, "Not now, later or maybe." 

Don't get me wrong.  Sawyer is one sweet, big-hearted little boy just brimming with a charming personality.  He's got all the potential.  It's just the "accepting the things he's not allowed to do" that is the problem.  

Last week, we went to the pool for swim lessons where Sawyer has to wait for an hour during the girl's lessons before his begin.  I spend most of this time pleading, threatening, cajoling Sawyer to sit quietly and play with his cars.  He spends the majority of this time evading, tantruming, running or attempting to drown himself.  

So this time, I bribed him.  I told Sawyer that if he played quietly with his cars at the pool, I would pay him 25 cents for listening to me.  He did and I paid up.

Is this wrong?  To pay your kid to listen?  Am I teaching him the value of money instead of the value of listening and being good for its own sake?  WAIT!  Don't answer that.  I really don't want to know. Because, yesterday it also worked at the grocery store and I felt blissful, serene and once again in control.  

Different personalities call for different strategies.  I have learned so much from Sawyer.  Never judge others.  Don't be a smug parent.  Having one child cannot be compared to having a third.  Sometimes you have to do things for the good of the whole as opposed to the good of one person.  If you pay your kids for good behavior, you can also fine them for bad behavior.  And the biggest....boys are different from girls.  Really different.  Sawyer may be my biggest parenting challenge now, but I have no illusions that the girls will be the most challenging when they turn 13.  Ugh.

I don't have the answers.  I am probably making loads of mistakes.  I can be consistent but I am also inconsistent, quite frequently.  I have no doubt Super Nanny would give me her most disappointed British look. 

But I try...I try really, really hard.  




....
 

8 comments:

  1. So true and so funny! You go girl, I say whatever works is what you use, short of using Duct Tape! We all have our gifts.In parenting and in just being a little boy with a lot of energy! Love ya...Thanks for the giggle this mornin'

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  2. Funny Melissa! But you are right, and that's so true. What works for one kid does not work for another! And I love the idea of paying for good behavor (or taking away for bad!). The girls had to pay me the other day because I cleaned their room and they didn't (I made a whole $2! Woohoo!). You are FABULOUS mom, and the perfect mom for that Sawyer. Love him! :)

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  3. Hang in there, each child is so different.Happy Friday. I hope you have a lovely weekend. Please stop by my blog I'm having a great giveaway. Hugs!

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  4. omg melissa, i still have tears streaming down my face from laughing at your blog,
    I also resorted to bribery, all kinds of things, not only money, and with the peace it brought, I think I forgot that i should feel guilty. But I love your honest and well written expression, and I bet, sawyer is punishing you right now, you have been a bad mommie and actually dared to have some fun away from your kids. You are in time out, and I am sure he will let out soon.
    PS ITS WORTH IT, If I am right, I wonder if next time he will accept cash in advance?

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  5. That picture of Sawyer made me laugh so hard, he is so precious! It's almost as if you wrote out my exact story, even the part about Super Nanny. I remember watching that show and having those exact thoughts. What a sigh of relief that I am not alone! I keep telling myself that the passion is good thing and will result in an amazing man one day. Even right now as I am listening to Matty through a fit, you have helped me take a big deep breath! We will get through this friend and laugh one day!!!

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  6. And it shows that you work really, really hard! You are a great mom! I love seeing how you handle Sawyer at the pool. And he's such a snuggle bug, smiley boy, I just want to squeeeeeeze him! But you are so right about finding out what works for each child; I never spanked Steph, but that Trin... boy oh boy, she got some spankin's. Hang in there... only 15 more years. :) Love ya!

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  7. I'm laughing b/c like you I thought that and then had a boy! Oh my, can he throw a fit! I say, whatever works for a kid, do it; the same thing doesn't work for every kid, and sometimes it only works for a kid once!

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  8. That's wonderful MIss. I can't tell you how I feel the same with Owen. I"m happy to know I'm not the only one that bribes with quarters and the occasional candy. It's about survival sometimes once you have three. And lucky me, I have another stubborn crazy boy to try and raise properly:) Maybe I'll have the boy thing down after Owen...you think? No, I don't think so either. Sorry Nate.

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