Last week was a parenting minefield for us and really has been a mother of a challenge. It was challenging for both of us, but because I am the one at home most of the time I bore the brunt of dealing with some bad behaviour from all of the kids. It was a long week and I ate lots of chocolate to compensate. I have been umming and erring about whether to share this as I don’t want to vilify my own children or make them out to be awful and so the temptation would be not to discuss bad behaviour, but I also want to be honest. It is not all homemade snacks and coping round here! My parenting journey is also about sometimes making mistakes and not knowing the best way to do thing.
Tell me why?
I won’t bore you all with the details of what the kids having been doing, but a brief summary would be just not listening and being exceedingly defiant and rude. My breaking point was reached by Monday afternoon which is a record low point in my mothering career. It is usually Friday before I feel like I need a rest and a large drink! Last week is for sure right up there with some of my toughest weeks as a mother. It holds a candle against having newborn twins, a just two year old and a 3 year old all at the same time. I thought the really tough bit was behind me, but no there are clearly some difficult parts still knocking about.
So I reached breaking point by Monday afternoon when I cried on the way home from the school run as honestly nothing I did was enough. Nothing seemed to stop the stroppy teenager behaviour that I was on the receiving end of. All I was thinking was why? Why were they being like this? I have been going over and over these questions in my head all week…
Each one of the littles behvaed as though they hadn’t slept and yet I knew they were in bed on time if not early each night. No one was up early either; apart from one day, when one of the littlest lovelies decided to treat us all to a 5am wake up call. So why were they all possessed by unpleasantness?
Are they ill?
I was wildly checking for temperatures and asking if they felt OK as I was sure they must be getting ill, but no there is no sign of that. The only think I can come up with is that it is the end of term and they have reached the end. Perhaps they, like me, need a break from the school run. Anyway the whole things has prompted a reassessment of how we parent as it seems our style has slipped into accidental or whatever works at the time parenting and it clearly is not working for us or them.
What we changed
After Monday’s awful school run a line needed to be drawn. They all needed to understand that they can’t treat me badly without consequence. Fortunately my husband is my biggest advocate and I could hear him giving them the big chat about how mummy does everything for them and that I am the last person they should ever say no to etc… We realised though we needed more than a stern talking to. Generally they are good kids, but there has been an increasing trend to say ‘no’ when asked to do something and to answer me back. These maybe don’t sound like big things in isolation, but when it is all the time and the two year olds are starting to do it too enough is enough! So we have changed a few things:
- They are currently on a privilege lock down for two weeks – this means no turns on any devices and no watching TV in the playroom
- The bath time routine has changed and they are no longer allowed to go up to our bathroom to use the walk in shower. They all have to use the children’s bathroom so we can see what they are doing. Once they prove that they can wash and get ready without chaos then the boys will once again be allowed to shower up there which they love for some reason!
- We have implemented a ‘no tolerance’ policy for any physical behaviour. You simply cannot push or kick your brother (they don’t do it to their sisters, but the girls have seen the boys squabbling and fighting and have started to do it to their brothers if not getting their own way) If anyone touches anyone else unless it is a cuddle they are straight to time out
- Saying ‘No’ is not ok when asked to help or do something. Again we are using time out if they do not do what they are asked and should they continue to argue etc… then we add on another day of no electronics
- We have introduced a reward chart and they need to earn stickers in order to get their ‘Friday Treat’. Currently this is a really good motivator for them. We have set this up as a collective result so it is a team effort and they support and encourage one another to achieve
Their behaviour has honestly markedly improved and this weekend they were a joy. I had such a great time taking the boys over to the woods to build camps it was hard to remember the upsetting behaviour earlier in the week. That is the thing about being a parent – we forgive and forget easily! I have seen a real change in their responsiveness to request like ‘please get dressed’. Of course they are still little kids and so they get giddy and distracted very easily and I fully expect the last 5 mins of the morning routine to take an hour! This means that the mornings are not perfect, but they have been in the playground before the bell rings everyday since we started the new regime (that sounds so harsh – I promise you readers it is not harsh at all)
A change in me
Perhaps the biggest change has been in my attitude. I don’t want to sound like a victim taking the blame for someone else’s bad behaviour, but when I reflected on the issues I just knew my lack of consistency was at least in part to blame. I have always wanted to be consistent with my approach so that the littles would know I am not just idly saying ‘if you do that one more time we will go home….’ or something similar, but I have found myself letting them get away with things. I have 4 littles and if one child is misbehaving I felt like I couldn’t devote all my attention to ensuring that they sat in time out so I didn’t always fit what I saw as smaller battles. I was so upset last week that I just knew something had to change and if I am honest a good part of that change needed to come from me.
As a leadership and management trainer in my former life I would often tell people that you can’t continue to communicate and engage with someone in the way you always have and expect to get a different result.
Yet there I was doing the same things over and over, but expecting the littles to change their behaviour. I knew I had to change to make us all happier.
I do love to panic and make things bigger and bigger in my head so I felt like if I didn’t change something now we would be fast forwarding to two boys in borstal or something. Please don’t think I am judging them harshly as actually I am not judging them at all. I know these littles are great people and have such potential, but it is my job to guide them and I don’t know how well I have been doing it. I am also not judging me (although I did a bit when I was having a good old cry about all this) as I know I try really hard to get it right and none of us are perfect. The important thing is recognising where things aren’t right and trying to fix it.
Consistency – say what you mean!
My lack of consistency is undoubtedly confusing for them and it HAS to stop! So that is that! Even if it is hard I need to always follow through with the things I say. Little children need to know where the boundaries are, I know that, but if I am truly honest I let them slide sometimes just for an easier life. To avoid one battle I risk a bigger one. I am determined to be the best mother I can be to these lovely little people. So if that means that sometimes they like me less because I followed through on our agreed consequences then they will like me less… It won’t last. I love them and I know they love me.
Fingers crossed the tables have started to turn as even with privileges revoked the whole house was a happier place to be this weekend. Now part of this was absolutely caused by the warmer weather as we do hate to be stuck inside, but I can tell that it is deeper than that.
They like the rule changes. Everyone seems calmer and the littles have been, dare I say it, enthusiastic to help. My eldest said that he had been getting off to sleep quicker without access to any devices so clearly that rule will be hanging around and my younger son came into the kitchen to ask if he could help me lay the table!!!! They were also super quick to tell my parents this morning about the new rules. It was as if they wanted to make sure that their grandparents got in on the consistency act.
I really hope it all continues to work and I know it will all take time. We can’t have one week of success and then sit back and let think the problem is solved. No, we have to stay focused and ensure that our parenting enables these littles to reach their potential and be the lovely humans I know they are. Today I caught myself giving in to a snack request right before dinner. I was cooking and as it was easier to give in, but I corrected myself, he threw a wobbly and I followed through on the time out process. It was hard and inconvenient to do, but I was proud of myself for being consistent. I really hope these changes continue to have positive effects for us all as we were a bit broken by last week…