Peacefully Handling a Child Being Uncooperative

mygirl

Is it obvious that I totally tried to make a P.C. title to this post?

Parenting is the hardest job I’ve ever had.  Sure, that might not be the case for every single mother on this earth.  But for those mothers who try hard every single day to raise a decent, loving, intelligent, open-minded human being, it is the hardest job ever!

It’s also the most wonderful job I have, truly.

However, I’d be embarrassed and ashamed if people knew how many times I’ve stumbled as a mother.  I try to do the best I can, but the thing is, I’m human, too, and therefore fallible and imperfect.

My daughter is what many refer to as “spirited” – a term used in the book “Raising Your Spirited Child” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka – a child who is more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent, and energetic than an average child.  It can be a challenge to raise such a child with your wits intact.

An issue I want to discuss is dealing with an uncooperative child.  A more specific example of this issue is getting ready on school mornings.  On a typical morning, I do my makeup, get dressed, feed the dogs, pack my breakfast and lunch, pack my daughter’s breakfast and lunch, and pack my bags for the day.  We have to leave home around 7:30 a.m. so I can get my daughter to school on time (and no, her riding the bus to save time isn’t an option).

In the morning, my daughter is responsible for dressing in her school uniform and shoes, and brushing her teeth and hair.  For years, I’ve had issues with it taking 45 minutes or more for her to accomplish these things, usually with my constant reminders to put on a shirt, or put on shoes, etc. Mornings were frequently stressed because we are always running late for school.  It is an absolute heartbreak for she and I to start our day stressed and mad at each other.

I’ve tried arguing.  I’ve tried yelling.  I’ve tried being calm and sweet.  I’ve tried rationally explaining my cause. I’ve tried emotional teary appeals. I’ve tried rewards.  I’ve tried a fun chore chart.  I’ve even tried explaining truancy. Nothing worked.

At my wits end, I really snapped one day when my mother happened to be babysitting (my daughter’s school was out for the day).  I had said I was tired of my daughter not listening in the mornings.  My mom talked to me and ultimately, gave me a solution:

No arguing, no yelling, consequence based cause-and-effect.  And absolute follow-through.  I took this approach over a month ago, and only had to warn of it twice – and it has worked better than anything else so far.

The first morning I employed this tactic, she was being slow as usual.  She sings, plays with the dogs, or just goofs off.  In a nutshell, I said, “We need to leave in 20 minutes.  If you aren’t ready to leave the house, you will go as you are, even if you aren’t wearing your shoes.  You’ll have to go like that.”

Her response?  Tears, telling me I was mean…you get the idea.  I looked firm on the outside, but on the inside, I felt horrible.  I didn’t let her know that.  All that morning, she sulked and acted as though something really terrible had happened, but she got ready on time without much incident.

Later that day I told my mom how she reacted, and thankfully my mom told me I had done right.  She said most likely my daughter had gotten upset because up until that morning, she knew how things worked.  She could be slow and not get ready on time, and mom would get upset or yell to hurry up.  That’s it.  No big surprise.

When I “changed the game’, there was no yelling or anything – just “get ready or go as you are, no exceptions”.  That was new and she didn’t know how to “play” that call.

A morning or two later, I had to use this warning again.  Get ready on time or you will have to leave the house unprepared and/or undressed.  She got pretty upset again and even said grandma was mean for being on my side, but she got ready.

So far, a few weeks later, I have had far less issues with her getting ready in the morning.  Typically, it’s as easy as firmly but gently reminding her, “get ready” or “we have to leave in 15 minutes” or some variation of that, and she is on task again.

Would I follow through if she didn’t get ready?  Yes.  Because if it happened once and she had to go to school without socks or her backpack, I think it would be the only hard lesson she would need.  I’d be willing to follow through and explain to her teacher so that she understood what happened.

As of yet, I haven’t had to follow-through, except one day when she couldn’t find her sneakers and I made her walk outside onto the porch in just her socks.  She was very upset with herself but didn’t act upset with me.  Unfortunately it was pouring rain and luckily the sneakers were in the car, so I was able to grab them and tell her to put them on while sitting on the porch.  That was a close call for her and she saw that I was willing to let her suffer the consequences.

I think this exercise has taught her self-accountability and responsibility.  It has helped so much but I’ve had to be willing to follow-through.  In the end, it has made our mornings SO much nicer and easier.

How do you peacefully handle tough parenting situations?

Raising My Spirited Child

wildchild

My little one, dressed up like a princess

Perhaps one of the most cliche and oft repeated phrases is “Being a parent is one of the hardest jobs you will ever have…if not THE hardest.”

In my experience in raising my only child, it’s true.

And when it gets hard…like, really hard, it’s difficult to keep a rosy attitude about being a parent. Sometimes I feel so frustrated I just want to throw in the towel and say, “Return to sender, I’m not cut out for this job!” Sometimes I feel like I fail as a parent – sometimes more than once a week.

For me, having a toddler was easier than having a grade school aged child.  As children get older, they are able to resist more, argue more, challenge you more.  And most children, like mine, will question EVERYTHING….to the point where my head starts swirling as I try to put together an answer that is age-appropriate and understandable.

At the same time that I’m being constantly challenged and questioned, I’m thinking about the more important aspect of being a parent.  I’ve been assigned the duty of molding this child into a decent human being that will one day go out into the world, for better or worse.  Sure, she is her own person and will make her own decisions, but I’m still here to guide her on the path towards adulthood.  I am trying to do the best job I can to make her a good person that is also prepared for this harsh world.  It isn’t an easy task.

It is the hardest job I think I will ever have.  It isn’t a fairy tale, and it isn’t what I thought it would be, in both good ways and bad ways.  I didn’t get to choose my child – she is extremely “spirited”   the definition of which is, “more intense, sensitive, energetic, persistent, perceptive” – which for me equals “a parent who is often exhausted mentally, physically, and emotionally”.

Every day is challenging in one way or another.  I know deep down that I am absolutely not alone in this, though truth be told, I do not have a support group of moms to talk to about raising my daughter.  But I know there are other children like her that do everything at 100% (at least it feels like it).  When I first read Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s book I knew I wasn’t the only one who had a child that wasn’t a peach to raise.  Though my spirited child is absolutely one-of-a-kind and a joy to have, raising her is a significant challenge in my life.  She is often black-and-white, full-tilt on life.  She is either making me cuddle her and love on her, or making me pull my hair out.  And yet – I wouldn’t change her to make it easier on myself, even if I could.

Keep the faith, fellow parents.  Each day survived is an accomplishment.  For me, each day is an opportunity to learn more about my child and myself as a parent.  Each day is a day to remember to go a little easier on myself than I did in the past.  Learning and growing is what we are doing each day, trying to get better. I love my daughter and even with the challenges, each day she is in my life is a precious gift. Give yourself a hug, fellow parents, and I’ll give myself one.  We deserve it.

A Few Favorites from my Bookshelf

bookshelfI’m an avid reader and every so often I read a book that will resonate with me long after I’ve finished reading.  These are a few random books that I enjoyed, including fiction, non-fiction, self-help, and parenting.

Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund – This is easily in my top 10 favorite books I’ve ever read.  It is a sweeping epic of a novel and Naslund’s intoxicating language is like reading beautiful poetry.  The setting is primarily the 19th century eastern seaboard and the story is told from the perspective of Captain Ahab’s young wife.  This book stole my heart.

Walden by Henry David Thoureau – If you are interested in nature, solitude, man’s relationship with himself, tranquility, finding peace – this book is a must read.  I loved it so much I wrote a short blog post on it here.

Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka – This is a wonderful book for a parent of a child who is “more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent, and energetic” as the tagline goes.  My daughter fits the bill and while the book notes that it is challenging to raise a spirited child, it is also a gift.  This book is full of helpful ways to help a spirited child best deal with the world around her.

The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer – A self-help book that calmed my soul and soothed my fears.  I read this book with a highlighter in hand and need to re-read those highlighted passages.  Maybe this isn’t for everyone, but it absolutely resonated with me and made me feel so much better able to handle the anxieties and depression with which I often struggle.  This isn’t just for those with anxiety and depression, though – it would be excellent for any deep thinker who wants to become more at peace with his or her life and the world.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson – This is such a funny but insightful story about two men hiking the Appalachian Trail.  It’s about man vs. nature, man in harmony with nature, survival, and learning what you are really made of.

On Writing by Stephen King – It has been several years since I read this, but I remember really enjoying it as a writer myself.  King is very readable, even when writing about….writing.

Feel the Fear….and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers – This book has a soft spot in my heart.  My now-fiance recommended it to me in the first few months of our relationship, when I was struggling with a lot of emotions and turmoil.  It is an excellent book about not letting fears rule your life. Five years later, I still think about what the book says and try to remember to not let fear guide my life.

A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle – A book about living in the moment, quite literally.  A book about not being remorseful about the past and not afraid of the future.  An excellent book to remind yourself that the only moment that really matters in the current one.

The 5 Love Languages – A book with a cult following and legions of fans, I bought this book right before going through a divorce several years ago.  Though it did not “fix” my marriage, it helped me more deeply understand the way men and women and all individuals have different approaches to what love is to him or her.  A very worthwhile read.

And one last book I wanted to throw in that isn’t photographed is a book I’m currently reading.  It was just published last fall and is called The Energies of Love by Donna Eden and David Feinstein.  Only 1/3 of the way through the book, I can already say it is fascinating and insightful.  Another book I would recommend, especially to those in long-term relationships.

Have you read any of these books?  What are some of your favorite books, especially non-fiction, parenting, and self-help?