Monday, January 17, 2011

Food for Thought and I Enlist Your Help

My pastor's sermon was very thought-provoking and very timely for me yesterday. She was talking about the virus of violence in our world and how what we, right here in our very own lives, can do to help stop it. Her suggestion was to follow the three rules of the Methodist Church:

1. Do no harm -- While on the surface, this seems like it would be pretty easy, right? I mean, none of us go around hitting or otherwise physically harming others. But what about those words we use? They say "Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me," but we all know that's the biggest lie there is. Words are sometimes more painful than actual physical hurts because the sting of words can last far longer any physical ailment. The pain of childbirth is but a distant memory, but I can still remember the emotional hurts of years ago.

2. Do good. This, too, at first seems easy. I think the majority of us go about our lives trying to be good people. There is a difference between being good and doing good. "Doing" implies activity, not passivity. It is not enough to BE good, we need to DO good.

And 3. Stay in Love with God. This one seems easy, too, especially when you've just left a particularly moving sermon or a great worship service. But when life gets really busy and we get stressed out, it is easy to feel one's self losing that close relationship with God, losing that connection. We start to feel as though God has left us, but it is generally we that have left God.

All of these messages struck home with me yesterday because my own home hasn't been feeling particularly peaceful as of late. I don't know whether it's the continued lack of any kind of schedule because of the Christmas holidays and then no school for a week because of the snow, but Punkin's behavior has deteriorated. It seems as though we had a great couple of months and had a lot of forward progress, but lately we're back into the daily tantrums and the yelling, oh the yelling -- it kills my soul.

Yesterday in the car on the way home from church, I made a vow to my kids: No more yelling. BUT, I also said, I needed them to do their part and do what they're told when they're told. Now for Bubba, this isn't really a problem. Bubba is a model child. If I'd ordered him from an order form, I don't think I could have done any better.

But remember that "mind of her own" of Punkin's? Well, that mind rarely, if ever, wants to do what it's told to do. It never puts on it's pajamas when asked. It never brushes it's teeth, instead piddles in the bathroom forever. It doesn't put on it's socks in the morning, pretending intead that it doesn't know how. It falls down (in the most melodramatic fashion possible) to keep from having to do something it was told to do.

And y'all? I don't know what to do. I've tried everything. Knowing that reward works better than punishment I made a chart, complete with little pictures of all daily activties. Punkin got a sticker if she completed her task when asked. Once the chart was filled, she would get a prize. Guess who got a prize? Bubba! Who also got a chart in order to head off the "why does she get a prize for doing something I do all the time" complaint.

I've threatened to send her to school in her pajamas/sockless/naked if she doesn't get dressed.

I've used a timer, which works, but which causes so much anxiety and tears in Punkin that it's really not worth it.

So, I turn to you. What's a non-yelling mom to do? Englighten me, O brilliant readers.


Nicole said...

Well, I certainly understand your plight. I'm not much of a yeller but have been moved many a time to raise my voice to a lovely, ugly yell. It makes me feel so horrible inside.

You have been blessed with two very different children. I too have the pleasure of children with very different temperments. My first was a model child, no tantrums,ever, easily potty trained, slept well, not a picky eater, didn't complain about her clothing-just got dressed... My second child could not have been more different. He came out wailing and it seemed like he would never stop. I could not change his diaper or remove an item of clothing without a huge fight every time! He had tantrums at times for over an hour. He would melt down over anything. At least three times a day he was upset about something. Taking him to Mass was a nightmare. Just a simple thing like sitting down to dinner was usually very unpleasant in our house.

I know all the behavioral modification techniques and all the psychological gobbledy gook and you know why I can say that. Nothing worked other than time out done very very rigidly.

For us, all that really worked for the overall situation was time. I believe God spoke to me at one point and I finally heard Him. God created my second child the way that he is for a reason. He is God's child not mine and I must respect that. If God wanted us all to be the same he would create us that way.

Time really has changed things. Our second son is now eleven. He is much more of a model child now than our first. He makes perfect grades in school and is very sensitive to the feelings and needs of others. Our "model" first child is not sensitive to others but absorbed in her own egocentric self. Now I must remind myself again that God made my oldest the way that he made her and she is God's child not mine. God has entrusted theses children to me and my husband. I am His hands, voice, and heart. With time, your children will change and grow and with Gods help, they will shine with the light of Christ.

It's funny to me to recall the difficult time's of or second borns early childhood. And don't get me wrong, he is no dream child now, still has the occasional meltdown over his percieved imperfections, but much quieter now. Maybe that's partly what's going on with Punkin. She may truly believe she cannot put on her socks because she does not believe she is putting them on perfectly. She'll figure it out eventually.

I know at the moment this is very hard for you. It will pass. There will be gains and setbacks but it will pass.

Till then and always we will remember your family in our prayers.

MadameQueen said...

Thank you, Nicole, for your comment. It is a good reminder for me to sit back and trust God that he made Punkin the way she is and that he gave her to ME for a reason.

You have hit the nail on the head in another regard as well -- Punkin's need to have everything be perfect. A lot of her tantrums and meltdowns are frustrations over things that aren't going to suit her.

I guess we both need a little patience. ;)

maggiegracecreates said...

I am a yelling mommy. And a door slammer. And embarassingly a cusser. Wish I had a dollar for every time I promised myself NO MORE. I took mine to school in their pj's. I physically and with screams and tantrums included on both ends brushed teeth and scrubbed heads.

But time slowly healed the issues. I gained patience, they gained maturity. It will work out.

Yesterday the sermon was one that I took notes on including a quote from Dr. King. "finite disappointments but infinite hope" was my paraphrase written in the margin of my bulletin. Seems I am looking for world domination in my household ALL THE TIME.

I'm sure God looks at me as you describe punkin' - strong willed, determined to do things my way or no way - unwilling to ask for help to figure out a better way - frozen still and basically unable to do anything when I am overwhelmed. Wanting to have a tantrum myself fairly routinely.

Sure - I'm an adult and I have snarky humor and retorts to cover up and hide behind - but I sure am glad God holds onto that infinite hope that at some point I will just listen to Him and fully submit to His path.

Hummmmm - more to ponder.

Much love to your beautiful family.

I pray for yours and mine. I pray for you and myself.

for a different kind of girl said...

I wish I had great answers for you. In my church right now, we've just started a sermon series on the Book fo James, and the first sermon centered around James 1:2, which encourages us to, and I paraphrase, consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of many kinds. We might not enjoy what we're going through, or we might not yet know what lesson we're to learn from what we're experiencing, but we're to consider these opportunities time for great joy. Now, I'm not sure if this, for lack of a better word, applies to what you're going through now (oh, a Bible scholar I am not!), but I think God would be cool with us taking these words and applying them even to the 'smaller' things we face in life because, truly, it's the smaller things that impact us more often. I think if we step back and realize we're dealing with a child, whose brain is firing with so very many things at so many points in the day, that we can take a breath, consider the joy they bring us, and then do what we always do, be it remind them, again, what needs done, or encourage them to help us with a task we ask them to do so often simply as a means of reinforcing the idea in their busy mind. Our kids truly are our joy, even at their most frustrating, and taking a moment to react to that rather than react to the issue may help lessen the stress or urge to yell. It's not a perfect science, of course, but I don't think God expects us to be perfect. We're going to slip. You might yell, but when we do, if you do, we ask for forgiveness and we try again.

The Thrailkills said...

Christmas threw Xman (our six year old) for a huge loop. I accept full responsibility for not being more aware. Heck, it's been a year since we've had a Christmas and I forgot. The lack of routines, the not knowing what to expect every day, the new people and places, the excitement. I forget that while a lot of people enjoy the Christmas festivities - he does not. It unnerves him.

Up until about 3 days ago, he has been unbearable to live with. He rarely does what I tell him to do without pushing me to my extreme limits.

Last week our church started fasting and praying. My husband and I are fasting and praying about Xman. About his behavior, about self control and self discipline for him, about wisdom and direction for how to parent him. We are also praying with him specifically about his behaviors.

I don't know how long it will last - but things are better. Much better. I think one of the keys for us has been to include him in problem solving rather than trying to "fix" him. He has helped us make lists of things that make his day better. Chocolate milk first thing in the morning (note to me: don't forget to buy the chocolate milk). Time outside every day (note to me, move the van out of the garage when it rains so he can get out and run around). Those kinds of things.

As far as discipline, we've been doing "time out" on his bed - as soon as he makes a poor choice, rather than me yelling and nagging and repeating, I walk him (as calmly as possible) to his room and point to his bed. I set the timer for 6 minutes. Then, I go back to get him. I try to never have a conversation with him about the time out. He knows he is not supposed to yell at me, hit his sister, play superman off the back of my couches - he doesn't need me to retell him the rule - he just needs me to tell him it is a rule.

Katie said...

Hello, my name is Katie, and I am a mom who yells when she snaps. And I'm horribly embarrassed by it, too. The marble jars helped my girls, but we still slip. It helps that I have my own jar and the girls are in charge of giving - or taking away - my marbles. While I remind them (often!) that I am still the mom, I also remind them that I make mistakes, too, and I still have to have good manners even when I'm bossing them around. It helps me remember to keep my calm when they threaten to take a marble away, and it makes them not resist their own marbles-rules since they feel a little better being in charge of mine.

If marbles don't work, maybe being in charge of something else would make Punkin' behave better? Is there a doll she could change in the mornings after changing herself? Or pretend to brush her teeth after she has done her own? One of my friends let her daughter do that with her American Girl doll and she started zipping through her chores so she could make her "baby" do similar things like getting dressed, brushing her hair, etc.

Hang in there, girlie. Even if our suggestions don't work, we ALL know what you're going through!

1blueshi1 said...

Wish I had some wisdom to give you, but all I can say is...My name is Elena and I'm a does get better with time. Zac and Lynda are 13 and seven now and it just does not seem possible to me! Also, as my personal life improved, I had so much more to give to my kids. So please, in the midst of all that we do every do, don't forget to take care of yourself. If you aren't filled up with positive things, you don't have them to pass along to your kids. You are a wise, funny person, and a great mom.

Laurel said...

Oh, you are singing my song! Guess who had a conference with her son's teacher today? Yup. Things were going so well, and now we've taken a few steps back. Blech. But, I am trying to recall the baby steps he has made. Trying to remember that he is only 6 and time is bound to work miracles. Right? I think, too, that Christmas holiday is having lingering effects. It seems he takes a while to get back into the swing of routine.

Most of all I believe in this little formula:
consistency + time = behavior change

It is a long, long battle my friend. Good to know I am not alone.

jessicabold said...

Hmm....maybe tell her that the only way Santa Claus comes is if she gets dressed and completes her chart?

Or maybe she won't turn whatever age unless she gets dressed. She'll be (whatever age) forever and ever and...

I have no idea. Obviously.

Luck to you...and I only hope my future kids like clothes. (that's me!)