I was never terribly into children, believing them to not be part of what I had in mind for my life. Children were little brats who screamed in restaurants, disturbing those around them, loud, obnoxious wiggly things that squirmed out of control in shopping carts at the market, grabbing everything they could get their hands on and making mommies drink and grow grey hair faster than nature intended. Not for me. Needs a diaper change? Here ya go, have a nice time. I did babysit a bit in my teens, but once I "grew up" I could not relate to kids like I did when I was a kid. I was a grown up now, and had no time for understanding these creatures.
I raised three girls for a few years, then one stepson before I had my own. They weren't too bad, and the nice thing was that they were not mine. I COULD return them if need be. The first time I met Michael at the ripe age of six, he resented Daddy's new girlfriend and proceeded to unroll the entire, new roll of toilet paper onto the bathroom floor. Wrong thing to do to a poor neat freak. It didn't go over well. I had not discovered patience, and that episode set the precedence for a stormy relationship that did not mellow for many years. Now he is a human adult and truly wonderful guy, thank goodness, and I still pray my nativity didn't do him too much permanent damage.
When I met my future husband, he wanted kids, I didn't. I finally figured out that my wedding dress had become a bit snug due to the fact I was pregnant. John Stevens' birth would change my life more than I had ever been able to imagine. One of my most precious memories of my life would become carrying a life inside you for nine months. Six years later, just as we had given up on having another, I finally was pregnant with Jena. She was born when I was 37. Do the math. My children will be playing loud rock and roll when I will be in my fifties. Thank God I love rock and roll. Little did I realize their music would be punk rock. Yuck.
I owned or read every parenting book and child psychology known to man, from Dyer to Summerhill, was well versed in Scientology thought and Est logic. These children are going to be different. These children are going to be outstanding. I am going to do this right. What parent doesn't think this? While I did have some really good learning experiences from my mistakes with Michael, I knew just as every delivery is different, every child is different, every raising is different. You can be armed with basic principles but you can't make it work each and every time.
The best experience or tool I had for raising children, bar none, was my training to train guard dogs. It's a game, like war, and the rules change, but the strategies don't. You have to outsmart your opponent in order to win, especially if you are aiming for a win/win, and with children, a win/win is the ONLY solution that is best for everyone.
What started this subject was taking care of my John's daughter, Emerie, while Stacey was in the hospital birthing Paige. While I had been around Emerie for her two and a half years, I had never experienced a full day, which includes grouchiness and all the less desirable aspects about dealing with a two year old. It was also, extremely easy to spot out what caused some behaviour problems, which amused me. Hindsight is 20/20.
I will forever remember this guy criticizing what I had done, or the way my children had behaved. I realized this guy had never had kids, had no plans to have any, he had absolutely no room to talk, and most likely told him this. When I encountered those who were looking forward to having their own who criticize, all I could think was, "Just you wait, and call me up when your kid is two!"
Both John and Jena were Scouts. They were not the best students, but they have graduated or will soon. They do not use drugs, they are not in gangs, they don't wear piercings on their faces, and they basically know the ten commandments. All of our friends love them and have repeatedly complimented them on their intelligence, behaviour, ease with adults and conversational skills since they were wee. Their formal dinner manners are impeccable, but I have to remind John not to wear his baseball cap to our informal dinner table. If they are served something they do not like while at someone's house, they know to be silent, eat as much as they can and politely refuse more. We have some work to do in intensive old fashioned Emily Post rules and regulations for social gathering invitations, but they are open and understanding and obedient of most essential social etiquette.
In other words, I did something right. I believe my advice, if requested, would be worth listening to, especially now with a grand hindsight. I have been approached with the "If you used MY detergent, you wouldn't have stains" attitude on more than one occasion, so if I find myself wanting to offer unrequested suggestions, I know to tread gently. I have not encountered every type of problem, either. Only a lifetime or career with children might experience everything they offer. I can guarantee a young parent that consistency is a top priority. I know this from experience for I had to learn consistency and paid well for the years I did not practise it.
My mom was probably the reason I woke up to what I was doing wrong. When John was quite young perhaps three or four, he had done something blatantly, my mother caught it and asked my permission to handle it. I said sure, and watched. I felt a bit sorry for John who got a proper verbal thumping from an old and wise first grade school teacher, but I remained silent, thinking I will make it up to him later. Not. What happened was that my son developed a strong, unwavering respect and adoration for my mother immediately following the discipline (sitting in her bedroom in a time out corner) that exists still today. The incident changed every way I had looked at discipline.
What really showed up loudly was watching a parent unwittingly award bad behaviour, and distracting a child when blatant discipline was called for.
The most important ingredients, to me, are patience, consistency, firmness, and love.
Situation: A child does not like a present, based on the fact they
are being rude, not from lack of focus or too much excitement.
Don't: Offer another or try to force the child to accept/play the present
Do: Take the present, say, "Okay." and quietly place it where it will go out the door with you when you leave. Don't bring it back, ever.
If you have to toss only one perfectly good present to get the point across, would it not be worth it?
Situation: The child repeatedly does what you have instructed him
not to do (or vice versa)
Don't: Hit, scream, lose your cool or ignore the offense
Do: Remind the child he already knows he was told not to do that
Do: Apply your heavier discipline, be it a small slap on the hand or time out
This is the largest (and most common) test a child can place on his parents, don't fail him by ignoring it
Situation: The child refuses to take a bath
Don't: Coddle, hug or bribe the child, or worse, forego the bath
Do: Inform the child that when the bath is over, we are going to watch cartoons (or a favorite activity)
Do: Give the child a pleasant playtime goal to reach after the unpleasant task is done
To turn around any similar situation is one of the best lessons you could possibly give your child.
Any time you start a discipline routine, especially a new one, make absolutely sure there is an even balance of praise, too, even if you have to praise him for the smallest thing.
"You are being a bad child" is not the same as "You are a bad child."
For every discipline there should be a hug and love after the incident is closed satisfactorily.
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