Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Right Thing

The worst part of parenting is that you don't know if what you're doing is right until your kid grows up and either becomes a serial killer or doesn't.

Well, okay, maybe that's a little too broad of a spectrum, but you know what I mean.

Basically my discipline for Brianna consists of time out when she'll miss something fun (like Kindermusik), spanking immediately when she does something dangerous (like playing with the "hot" knob on the bathtub), and the "1... 2... 3... spank" method for outright disobedience after a warning.

Anyone who has been within 50 feet of a 2-year old knows the attitude they can have. The more kids I am around the more I realize it seriously is something that every kid goes through. Some kids may only have one tantrum their entire childhood (seriously??) and some may have one a day, but they all cop an attitude at some point, or do something out of direct defiance. It's always nice to see someone else's kid acting out because I can feel the tension go out of my shoulders a little bit. Hah!

All that to say, I usually don't have a problem with Bri. She is a really great, fantastic, smart, independent, creative, obedient child most of the time. But there have been times, I admit, when I felt like just grabbing her and saying, "TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT!!!" The only thing that has kept me from literally doing that is the fact that that will only make her scream and whine more. Seriously, am I the only parent who has ever been in that situation? Then, on our recent trip to Las Vegas, I read this book on the airplane, and in it the author admitted to having problems with yelling at her children, getting really frustrated with them, etc. And then she quoted James 1:20, which is a scripture that really stood out to her. It says, "For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God." She realized that she would discipline her children out of anger, and it was really making them fearful of her and she was kind of out of control with the whole discipline thing. That verse really struck me because I wondered how many times I had given Brianna an evil eye or even growled at her when she was frustrating me!!

About two weeks before we went on that Vegas trip, I was driving the kids home from somewhere. They were both quiet, and I needed to call my mom about something, so I picked up the phone and dialed her number. The second she answered, Bri started screaming, very shrill screams, at the top of her lungs. For no apparent reason. She screamed constantly and I couldn't hear mom at all, so finally I yelled into the phone that I would call her back. I hung up the phone and immediately turned to the backseat and said, "BRIANNA! GOSH!" (more like "GooOOOooSSShhhh!!!" And she just sat and looked at me, her lower lip quivered, and she burst into tears. Well of course that made me feel like crap. Then, as soon as the words were out of my mouth, I had the awful feeling that I had not hung up the phone and my mom had heard me just yell at my 2-year old. I checked my phone and I had, in fact, hung up, but just knowing that I would have been ashamed for my mom to hear me speak to my daughter like that made me realize I had an issue that I need to watch out for.

Like I said, not long after that was our trip where I read James 1:20 and I was determined to never huff and puff at Bri again, never yell at her out of anger, never hit her out of anger (don't worry, I have never hit her or anything like that, I'm just saying hypothetically!!!).

Okay, so all of that is background.

Tonight I was working on a puzzle I've been doing. It's a small, 500-piece puzzle that I just work on about 15 minutes every night after the kids go to bed. It's something to force me to relax and not do housework or anything else that is manual labor. I love puzzles and I take them quite seriously.

I'm sure you can see where this is going.

I was in the living room handing Hunter a new toy. I walked into the dining room, and saw that Brianna had climbed into a chair at the dining room table and had pulled every piece of my puzzle apart. All the 200+ pieces I had put together were strewn across the table, the pieces I hadn't gone through yet were scattered across the table and floor.... my jaw just dropped. And this might sound crazy to some of you, but like I said, I take puzzles seriously! I had put several nights worth of work into that puzzle so far and to me, she had just ruined the whole thing in thirty seconds!! As I stood there with my mouth open (literally, my mouth just fell open), my mind started racing. I see that phrase all the time in books but it really was racing. So I just said, "Oh. My. Gosh. Brianna. Oh. My. Gosh." I didn't even say it in a mean way!! Honest!! But I think she knew she had done something wrong so she just - "WAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!"

I was TICKED. I mean, I was seriously mad! These are the types of thoughts that were all going through my head at one time:

  • I am going to have to do this entire puzzle all over again.
  • I just wasted time doing this puzzle. I never should have even started something like that.
  • I shouldn't have left it somewhere within Bri's reach.
  • I can't even yell at her because she doesn't understand what she just did. When we do her puzzles together, we always tear them apart when we're done.
  • Don't yell. Don't yell.
Finally, she was just standing there, looking at me, and I just looked at her, I was still so mad, and I just said, "Don't talk to me right now, okay? I don't feel like talking to you right now." She just looked at me like, I have no clue what you just said to me. It's kind of funny now, but I knew I needed to say something to her so I didn't keep ignoring her, but I was also so furious I didn't want to keep talking and say something mean to her.

Yes, I'm going to have to rework that whole darn puzzle. And I was just on a roll. But the great thing is, within 15 minutes of that fiasco, we were both on the living room floor playing with Hunter, and then we went out to eat and had a great time together. And the puzzle was forgotten. Because, it's just a puzzle. And now I have the task of putting it back together, but you know what? That's what puzzles are made for.

So I'm glad I have learned a little something along this parenting journey. I have learned not to yell at a child for something that they don't understand. She had no idea that that puzzle was so much work for me to do. All she knows about puzzles is that we put them together and rip them apart in just a few minutes. Why should this puzzle be any different? Not to discipline them for something they didn't know was wrong. That if I am angry I should not discipline in that moment. Now you may have a differing opinion, and that's fine. This is what is working for me right now for the age of my kids. I'm sure things will happen as they get older that I will have to play by ear.

I just have to thank God for putting me in situations like this, though, to show that I am able to have self-control. This whole story may seem silly to some of you, but you can probably imagine it in some other form. Your son drops an entire batch of cookies that you made for his Cub Scout group in a mud puddle. Your daughter spills red juice on the beautiful white shirt you just handmade for her, and you know it won't come out. Put it in perspective before you open your mouth. BREATHE, think, pray, and then react.

Do you think it was silly of me to get so upset? I can't believe now how angry I was, especially since I had forgotten about it within such a short time period. I guess we all get angry over silly things though. Er... I hope I'm not the only one!!

1 comment:

Jennifer Kirby said...

Yeah, you're the only one, except for every other parent in the history of the world. I think you handled the puzzle incident great. This post hits on what I agree are two of the major keys to disciplining: don't discipline in anger, and don't discipline for childishness. We all have stories like the one about yelling at Bri in the car and we will never be perfect parents but thankfully as long as those moments are the exception, not the rule, they don't come close to negating the millions of other actions by which we assure our kids that we love them unconditionally. You are an AMAZING mom and Bri and Hunter will never doubt that! I love you!