Archive for the ‘Discipline’ Category

Me trying to feed Bella:

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Happy that I stopped trying:

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Max successfully feeding Bella:

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At the playground:


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I’ve been taking the kids to the park often, lately. I’m working on Max – trying to get him to stop fighting me when it is time to leave a place he is enjoying. This way, when I’m at the park – a place where there are actually not a lot of people – if I need to curse at him, no one will hear me. I’m still working out the kinks in my responses to anger therefore, every-now-and-then, I slip and say, I don’t care what you want to do, get in your fucking car seat. Of-course, he just says, no.

Then, I get another chance to reword my needs.





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These past 8 months have been quite an experience. My journey in parenting two wee-ones [specifically regarding disciplining Max] has gotten better. Here is how it happened:

1.) Time

2.) I stopped slapping/spanking Max

3.) When-ever Max hits me in anger I calmly and gently placed him in a time-out. Hitting is the only offense that we use time-out for. When the t.o. is over we talk about other ways to express anger and how Mommy isn’t going to hit him because it is hurtful. Therefore, I do not want him to hit me. He actually gets it. We are getting along so much better, now.

When he gets really mad, he runs up to me and states, “I not going to hit you, mommy,” then gives me a hug. He’ll tell me that he “REALLY wants, X, Y, or Z.” Often as this is happening he is crying and in the middle of a temper tantrum.

Sometimes, it is hard to put a parenting ideology (like, not believing in spanking) into practice. Before becoming a mama I thought it would be easy. The feeling of wanting to slap Max when he was at his worse was overwhelming – I had no idea it was going to be so hard to control myself. I also had no idea how quickly Max would learn a better way once *I* learned. Learning has been about awareness in that feeling. Once I became aware of it, it was easier to not react on it.

I am proud of myself for finding my way. I feel like a good mama.

4.) Time

I can’t tell you how helpful it was for me to be able to share the last 8 months of parenting two small kids in this blog forum. It has been a rough 8 months, no doubt. Thanks for all the support.

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My TV theory… was dead on. Max has returned to being a joy to spend time with. Yes, it does mean more work for me, but the rewards are immeasurable. I like the extra work (aka: being more attentive and involved with my busy toddler) because it just feels right… and it is so much easier than before.

I’ve returned to using a soft voice with him when he’s being naughty and as a result of limiting his TV viewing, I’ve become more in-tune with his needs. I did not expect this dramatic of a difference. I am pleasantly surprised. And even more pleased that my intuitive self led me to make wise decisions for my family.

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Oh My.


**Just for the record… when I say “TV,” I mean “videos and DVD’s.” We don’t even get the main TV stations and no cable, either. Commercial TV is one thing I am happy that we don’t have in our home… though it does mean I have to wait longer to see the good shows on DVD.**

Okay, I stand corrected, giving Max more “kid time” in the car did not work in getting him to cooperate. He had another car seat meltdown yesterday, as we were leaving the playground. Fortunately, MIL’s house was down the street. Max laid on the floor feeling quite victorious as I angrily drove to her house.

My son is stronger than me so I can not physically force him into the seat.

Once in her driveway, Max sat in his f’ing car seat and let me buckle him in. I stormed into the house, ordered Hal to get everything together because we were going home… no ifs ands or buts… right now! Yes, I was pissed.

So, I’m left wondering… when did my boy become such an asshole???

Max’s four cousins, and several adults were over at MIL’s house. Max has a cold and was already over-stimulated from playing with his cousins. Leaving MIL’s prematurely turned out to be the best thing for all of us. Once we got home Max was much calmer, a better listener, and ate a healthy dinner.

Why is he being such a shit lately???

As much as I’d like to blame someone else… I know it has to do with me.

My theory is…

I have been allowing him to watch way too much TV. Now, I’m okay with him watching one or two hours a day… but lately I’ve been overwhelmed with the day to day and have been turning on his TV shows for personal respite. I don’t feel bad about this but it is making me think the TV watching has something to do with his listening skills going down the drain. I mean, let’s face it, he’s two so therefore – he’s not always going to listen to what I have to say. I understand that, however, his recent twoness behavior seems more like a reaction to his lifestyle than ordinary twoness… KWIM?

I’m doing an experiment… no TV all this week. This morning we read about 50 books and he is now painting – allowing me to type this long post. I’m no expert… or maybe I am on my own child… but I think I’m on to something with my “TV Theory”.

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… later in the day… I made it until 3 pm with no TV today! At three, I hit an energy wall and wanted to lay down. Bella was also in dire need of a nap. I put on Elmo for Max in the living room (where I can hear everything) and laid down with Bella until she fell asleep. My new goal is to keep his TV viewing down to two hours and under a day. I think that is reasonable and more importantly… realistic.

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Maybe the kid-time during the next car seat incident will work. I’ll give it another go.

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Swing high. Swing low.

Man, I don’t know what it is, but lately I am really oscillating between loving and hating being a SAHM.

What that translates to is that more often than not I just love my little boy to pieces, liking every part of who he is, and feel incredibly lucky to witness his growth and development on a daily basis. Yet, sometimes… I really hate his behavior so much so… that I want to run away.

We had a pretty good week last week and even Friday at the library went smoothly… until we were leaving and Max ran out into the parking lot… not stopping when I screamed, “STOP RUNNING!”… until he heard me threaten to take away his dinosaurs… then as I was kneeling to talk with him about the dangers of running into a parking lot… my sling was cutting off Bella’s windpipe… and I didn’t realize it right away… and thank gawd she didn’t turn blue because that would have sent me over the edge… but then Max refused to get into his car seat… which he has done before and I have handled with exemplary patience… but by this point… I wanted to leave him with the library staff and drive home alone… so I found myself crazy and trying to force… no… bully… the kid into his car seat… the whole while he was doing everything the opposite of what I was telling him… and telling me “no”… and screaming… *sigh*… I was not a gentle mama and its only in hindsight that I can admit to handling the situation completely wrong… because in those moments I could have done much worse so justified my outrage and the way I dealt with it.

Yes, I was THAT woman in the parking lot with her kid that I used to judge harshly… before I had a toddler of my own.

Next time… I’ll just get into the driver’s seat, turn the air on, lock all the doors and let Max explore the car for ten minutes or so… and then I bet he will willingly climb into his seat for the drive home. Sometimes it is so freaking hard to let a kid be a kid. I mean, its not like I had to be anywhere at a certain time. And even if I did… so what. So I’ll be late.

Live and learn.

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What the HELL are you suppose to do when BOTH of your children need you at the same time???

Max was having a major meltdown this afternoon at the same time Bella was dieing of hunger, or so one would think if they could hear her. I couldn’t let Bella sit in her swing, on the floor, or in her crib (I tried all three) when she was crying hysterically. And I couldn’t get away from Max who was clinging to my legs [crying hysterically] as I held Bella. He was really tired because he won’t nap until he’s tired enough to fall asleep standing up.

Max kept screaming, “Put Bella down! Don’t feed Bella! I don’t want Bella to be hungry! Lay with ME!”

His world as he knew it was crumbling. He had just gotten out of a time-out for hitting me several times, I took away two of his toys (yes, permanently) for throwing them and hitting his bedroom door with them, and he had to get out of the tub before he was good and ready because he was purposely throwing water onto the floor – which, is already so water damaged we have to replace it and fear falling through the ceiling every time we have to use the toilet. I was pretty calm and collected during every one of these issues. Whew.

As I stood there trying to devise a plan to get out of this new mess, I felt a rush of silent laughter flow through me. In that moment my world slowed down and I thought to myself, Crazy! This is just too strange to take it seriously! I bet every woman in the world with more than one child goes through this.

I had an inner giggle. My kids were too out of control for me to loose control. I still tried to reason with Max, who was inconsolable unless I agreed to do exactly what he wanted (dump Bella) and I held Bella – who was just content being held and stared at Max in bewilderment. When I finally was able to reason with Max (yes! go perseverance!), all three of us sat on the couch and Bella nursed ferociously while Max practiced his “Bella cry” and cried/screamed himself to sleep next to me.

I snuck away to write this post because it was just too funny for me to let this one get lost in my memories. Then, just for fun, I snuck back upstairs to snap a shot of my two babies taking their 6:30 pm, nap:

We are on day four of Max being “high-need.” I have resolved to working my schedule around him and his needs a little more. This means cleaning less, staying home more often, and making certain he is eating very healthy (which is why I’m avoiding the in-law’s right now).

I have noticed a certain instability in his mood when he eats too much sugar and processed foods. He, as the rule, eats pretty healthy. However, there was one day this past week, the first day he starting becoming seriously demanding, that I was too exhausted to care and fed him macaroni and cheese, a cheese sandwich, chips, and chocolate. That night was HELL. I had to help get him to sleep when normally, Hal can do it. It was 11pm when he finally fell asleep.

I’ve been on the floor playing with him a lot, going outside with him, reading less of my favorite blogs all at one time, reading more to him, trying out some art stuff with him, and not buying chocolate for us him.

For a while, he was able to just hang out and find his own way during the day. Right now, he needs more guidance.

Preschool starts August 20th. I’m hoping it is just what he needs right now.

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Written Friday 13th, 2007

My MIL picked Max up today around 1:30pm, and is keeping him until… any minute now. My house was a disaster when she arrived to take The Bossman. The bathroom smelled like piss, there were dirty dishes in the sink, it looked like a bomb went off downstairs, upstairs was riddled with toys, and I had tons of laundry to do.

Five hours later…

The house looks the same.

I napped with Bella, ate chocolate and almond butter, read my favorite blogs, watched TV, and I’m writing this post. Some days, ya just gotta indulge.

I think a lot about the philosophy of parenting that shapes my actions as a mother. I’m always tweaking it to fit what is practical and working on learning how to put my ideals into practice.

I often spend time pondering the question, how much control do I really have over how my children “turn out?”

Yes, as the mama I play a huge role in shaping who my children will be in the future. However, it is not so much me as a mother, individual, and adult that plays a roll in shaping my children as it is their experiences in life.

My power lies in the quality of their experience with home life, in the environment I create for them with my actions and words, and in teaching them to listen to their inner voice. My power does not reside in their perception.

This is really hard for me to understand and even harder to explain. I think on the most basic level, I want my children to grow up in a home where they are free to trust their intuition. So, if this is a skill that is already within and only needs encouragement, how do I become part of that encouragement process instead of a hindrance to it?

If you watch a toddler, they don’t take very many things personally or hold any one feeling for very long. They are the perfect people in a lot of ways. They experience life as it is in the moment and not through the lens of judgment, scrutiny, contemplation, or too much analysis (point taken).

I don’t obsess over this, really. Its just that being around children is so new for me that I’m really getting into understanding them.

Lately, I’m paying special attention to the words I use when speaking to Max. My body language and tone is (usually) in check but I think word choice is important, too. I’d like to be a mother who guides her children instead of the mama who tries to mold them.

Observing Max has made me realize that my children perceive life from a place within that runs deep to who they are. Layers of confusion (read: many future therapy sessions) can be added by mistreating them, attempting to make them into a smaller version of my ideologies, lying to them, attempting to mold them, or misguiding them. However, the core of who they are will always be pushing to reach the surface. They will either live life to experience their true selves or they will live life on the surface – superficially. I think I can help them to live as their true selves by guiding as oppose to controlling.

I do not believe that we are blank slates waiting for our guardians and the world to write who we are into the emptiness of our minds. However, who we are as an adult has a lot to do with what we experienced as a child. And although those last two sentences may seem conflicting, they are not. I am going to try to give my kids the power of insight, perception, and inner strength.

How am I going to do this kind of parenting? With my interactions with them. My voice. My actions or inaction. This is something that is different for every family dynamic. Though, I imagine for everyone it is a constant work in progress.

I believe in sitting back as much as possible and enjoying my children’s mind unfold – their likes and dislikes, their observations of others and of the world. It is hard to parent a child this way. It means parenting without judgment. It means parenting/guiding my kids as separate individuals from myself. It means as a parent I have to learn how to talk so my children grow from the inside out. All of this is really hard and I do screw up a lot. But I am trying.

I want my kids to learn to listen to their own inner dialog and I want that inner voice to grow because I have stepped back and allowed it to be.

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I’m downstairs enjoying my time alone, but I can hear Max and Hal upstairs fighting about something. Oh well, Hal can handle it.

We had our first pot luck dinner party since Bella’s birth this past Sunday, from 5-8pm, and it went rather well. It was actually a birthday party for Hal. Normally, when we have a party everyone I know gets invited. This time, I decided to only invite Hal’s friends and family. I was very pleased with the turn out and the flow of conversation. Everyone showed up on time with the exception of Hal’s brother and his family. They arrived at 7:55pm. However, they were a joy to have over and only stayed for about 1 1/2 hours. They even picked up the toys before they left. I’m looking forward to hosting more dinners!

I had a couple “ah ha!” moments last week.

One – involved boundaries and how to set them without others even knowing that I’m setting them. Whereas my original focus on boundaries with loved ones was about letting them know that I have limits, my focus has turned to more subtle boundaries. These kinds of boundaries are what I have to set with people who I love whose values and ethics are straying too far away from my own. I have never once considered this a reason to place some space between myself and another – not on a conscious level, anyway. These kinds of boundaries are actually meant to preserve my relationship with someone but allow a change to occur that will prevent us both from being hurt.

These kinds of boundaries are tricky because I often become addicted to people that I love. This addiction sucks me in and takes my power of choice away. Instead of choosing to not talk to someone because they are doing/saying/living in a way that I don’t like or affects me negatively, I become even more involved with their life. Becoming more involved has inevitably lead me to getting hurt and then “dumping” my friend. Unfortunately, the dumping doesn’t stop my love for them and hurts us both pretty badly. So anyway, I’ve been chewing on this for a few days, now.

My second ah ha! moment has to do with discipline. Discipline is about giving direction, guiding, helping another to learn. My ideal has been to discipline this way. However, the language I am using is not fitting my goal. For example, something as simple as teaching manners to Max… when he asks for something without saying please, I would correct him by saying, “How do you ask mommy, nicely?” The word, nicely, is a judgment word. So instead of teaching him to actually “be nice” I am only teaching him how to “act nice.” Big difference and NOT what I want. He may eventually get that he is suppose to “act” a certain way to please others, but he doesn’t really care about how what he says affects another – or himself, for that matter.

What I need to do to correct his “rude” way of asking for something is “model” the language I want to hear from him, then let him figure out through life experience that what he is saying is “nice” – he feels nice when he says it and those that he says it too respond by being nice (ideally). To model, I need to get eye level with him and say it the way I want it to be heard:

Max: Gimmie some more cookies!

Me: Can I please have another cookie?

At first he would answer me and say, Yes! You can have another cookie, mommy! I had to repeat myself before he got it. Then he decided to ask me for the cookie the same way.

I don’t always get to his eye level (not really practical) but I am trying to be consistent with the language I use. Often, I will say, “what is another way you can as mommy for a cookie?” And then I sit back and watch his mind work.

There is a whole world of judgment language that I have to become aware of. This is going to take hyper sensitivity to what I say to Max, lots of time to re-learn how to talk to him, and lots of forgiveness when I fuck up.

I have had two people recommend, “How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen….” I finally asked Hal to bring it home from the library. This book is all about the kind of gentle discipline that I am wanting to learn.

My first step in learning how to be a good guide for Max was to learn to manage my own feelings (the hard to handle ones like rage, annoyance, ect). The second step is learning how to talk to him so that he can become the person he is meant to be.

I’ve finally made it to step 2!

The big ah ha! moment was realizing on the deepest level of my being that Max is already the person he is meant to be and that he is completely his own person – a person that I can not control and should not try to control.

My days with Max have become more enjoyable, less intense and way less frustrating.

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Max is now sleeping with papa and Camus. He has shunned his own room and settled for the bed closest to mommy. I don’t mind because at least he’s no longer in my bed cramping my joints. Papa doesn’t mind because he never got to co-sleep with Max as a baby and feels like he is bonding with him even more so as a toddler. All is good.

However, Max is either very clever or the sweetest kid ever.

Last night after story time and lights out we heard Max whimpering. Then came the tears. We kept asking him, “what’s wrong sweetie? What’s wrong, Max?” All he could get out between tears was, “Bella.” So Hal asked, “are you sad that Bella is sleeping with mommy and you can’t?” He either said no or didn’t answer so we kept asking him, so what is wrong, then? Why are you sad?

Finally he said in his sweetest voice, “I’m sad.”

Okay. What are you sad about? Hal and I were both moved by his tenderness and his communication of feelings.

“I’m sad about Bella.” We consoled him some more and asked, what about Bella makes you sad?

“I sad about Bella’s skin.” And then the floodgate of tears opened up in him.

We assured him we are going to help Bella get better and then…

He asked to crawl into mommy’s bed because he wanted to hug.

Once he was in he instantly fell asleep. Hal had to carry him back into their bed. So I’ve concluded, Max is both very clever and the sweetest kid ever.

Max in his ponies (and what we imagine Bella will look like at his age):

Max is well aware that Bella is uncomfortable and itchy. He knows what “itchies” are like because he too has eczema. He knows mommy is very sad that Bella is itchy and that I don’t have the magic cure for her, yet. He also knows that while him and Papa are going to the movies today (Max’s first movie theater experience!), mommy is taking Bella to the doctors. He knows all of this because I talk with him about what happens in our home.

One thing I make a point to do with my kids is to talk about life and feelings. When stuff comes up, we talk about it. Toddlers may not understand the abstract ideas behind what makes people “feel” but they do need a language presented to them to start the education of learning about their emotions. An education that I think generations before us neglected. I try to weave this education into our daily life without it seeming like some kind of weird classroom lesson that needs to be repeated and memorized. Saying something as simple as, “mommy is so sad that Bella is suffering but we will find a way to help her.” And then move on to what ever is next – playing with toys, cleaning a poopy butt, ect.

If it is a big feeling that Max is having – usually anger – I talk with him like this, “Max, I know you are very angry right now because mommy won’t give you any chocolate but please don’t hit me.” Then I give him an alternative, “You can scream, I’m angry!, or hit something soft like your pillow – but we don’t hurt people when we are angry.” This conversation happens several times a day. Sometimes he remembers to say (with force), “I’M ANGRY!” and sometimes he doesn’t. Eventually, he will remember all the time. It is the same thing with him having to be reminded about “manners.”

The tricky part is when I’m angry. I need to appropriately express my anger as well. And when I was angry at him and dealing with 5 different life crises, I didn’t do so well. So, I have figured out that hitting/hurting my kids doesn’t work on ANY level – duh, right? There was a part of me that was *hoping* that Max would “get it” (re: hurting Camus or Bella) after being spanked. This hoping (mixed with being at one’s wits end) is probably the reason many of good and loving parents resort to spanking their child.

Where does this lead? On the whole, when the day only presents it’s usual list of challenges, I’m pretty laid back and rarely raise my voice. I am very proud of this personality trait, but my pride stops there – at “when the day only presents it’s usual list of challenges.” I need some more “tools” in my box for those extraordinarily difficult days – because I’m sure there will be many more to come. And you better believe I’ll get those tools sooner rather than later – for both mine and my kid’s sake.

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I’m usually pretty good at drawing boundaries with other adults (and really good at doing it with my children). However, with adults I tend to lack the same gentle approach as I use with my kids. I shouldn’t though, because many adults are emotionally very much the same as a child. Usually not their fault, I should add, but the fault of bad luck, bad parenting, and okay, maybe a little bit their fault for not doing the work of maturing.

I’m good at recognizing when someone is asking too much of me. I’m very aware of how much I have to give to others and (eventually) stop others from taking more than I have to give. However, I’m not adept at drawing the lines before getting to that point of no return.

Two recent friendship break-ups come to mind. I’m not going to get into the sordid details (boring anyway) of what went down, but never-the-less, I felt these two individuals were emotional vampires. And while I don’t regret putting/allowing (it was mutual) an ocean of space between us, I regret how I allowed it to happen. I have a lot to learn about setting boundaries with other adults and the ol’ MIL will be my first “test subject” in how to do it gently.

She is a person I can not escape from. I can’t decide to NOT be her daughter-in-law because she is insensitive and judgmental. And I will see her [hopefully] for a long time to come because I have children with her son. The only thing I can do is to do the work of setting boundaries with her. I want to do this gently because it is very important for me to preserve a positive relationship with her and set a good example for my children.

Now, how the hell do I do this???

What has been suggested to me is to not engage her in conversation when she approaches any subject with a negative judgment. I’ve been practicing body language and verbal tone in the shower, “Yes, we too would have liked Oscar to die in our arms at an old age.” “Yes, I can assure you we have a wonderful pediatrician and we are doing everything we can for Bella’s skin.”

Michelle, you don’t have to defend your choices! You don’t need to go into detail about ANYTHING. You don’t have to explain yourself. You CAN put your hand up (like, talk to the hand) slowly, gently, and without attitude to give a strong message. You CAN gently put your hand on her shoulder. You ARE a strong woman, Michelle, and you CAN project that message without offending. Michelle, DON’T forget her limitations, again – she will only disappoint!

How am I doing?

This is not going to be easy. I want to learn.

And now I bomb you with the photos I took today and ultimately, my inspiration to become a better person…

Who needs a teething ring when you have a big brother???

Who needs a mobile when you have a big brother and a robot?

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