Ever have that Ah Ha moment? That moment where there is perfect clarity. I had it the other day. I have been struggling with keeping my cool in regards to Cookie and her 3 year old behavior. That little girl sure can push. Not to mention she already is sounding like a teenager. Her tone when responding to us can really use an adjustment. And the other day her Daddy was the recipient of a "Fuck You, I hate you" face. In fact if she had those words I think she would have used them.
Back to my moment of Zen. I was reading one of those Parent magazines with the name "Parent" in it's title and there was an article about how to stop yelling at your kids. I am not sure what spoke to me, and made me actually take their advice, but for once, maybe the author knew what she was talking about. She wasn't some clinical child psychologist or doctor telling me how to raise my kid. She was a mom who also found herself yelling at the top of her lungs, "You will listen to me! Why are you driving me crazy? Why are you doing that?" While her kids either looked at her like she was crazy or continued to misbehave.
Here's the thing. Some of the suggestions were things I learned to do as a teacher....and employed them successfully on a daily basis. After my first year teaching, in which I call the "screaming year." Where as a first year teacher all you do is scream louder than the kids. I learned that yelling did nothing, so I whispered or spoke softly. This method always worked. Well why wouldn't it work with my three year old? Cause newsflash, it does.
Secondly, as a teacher I found I had to be explicit in what I wanted and why. I also had to explain in detail why I was upset and what the students were doing incorrectly. If I had just said, "Jimmy, you are driving me crazy." He would be clueless as to what behavior was really driving me nuts. Since, he may have walked in the door, sat down at his desk, got out his notebook, all correct behaviors, but was chewing gum and blowing bubble (incorrect) in a one minute span. I would have needed to say, "Jimmy your gum chewing and blowing bubbles is driving me crazy." Immediate understanding should follow. This descriptive talk is something I have failed to do as a parent. I am not sure why, as it is one of the first lessons I learned preparing to teach.
Yesterday I employed tactic number two, while speaking in a soft firm voice. It worked. I found that when my blood started to boil in annoyance at some behavior Cookie was displaying, telling her in detail why it was wrong actually calmed me. I found other parents at the park giving me marveling and impressed stares as I told the girls, who were fighting over a water bottle that, "taking turns is how both of them get what they want, so Cookie gets to take a drink first while Jelly waits and then it is Jelly's turn to take a drink while Cookie waits. Grabbing the water bottle out of each other's hands just makes the person whose turn it is upset and no one is happy." I didn't shout my usual, "SHARE FOR GOODNESS SAKE!" or "STOP HITTING YOUR SISTER!" Amazingly the fighting stopped and both girls waited their turns. All day things like this happened. It was only while I was cooking dinner that I lost my patience with Jelly as she can not quite understand why she is not allowed in the kitchen while Mommy is making dinner.
The last tactic discussed was reminding yourself that your child is acting their age, so speak it out loud, "you are acting so three!" This is supposed to help you remember that your three year old has only been around for 36 months to learn everything. This tactic makes me think of "CaddyShack" and Chevy Chase saying "Be the Ball." Cookie is just being "3" that's it. I need some reminders of that.
Parenting is harder than I ever imagined and I need a lot more patience than I was ever given. Hopefully by employing these tactics I can learn to parent smarter not harder.