I don’t write often enough here about my failings as a parent. And there are many of them. You see? I have what I’m learning to reframe as a “spirited” child. She’s full throttle all. the. time. And though I love her more deeply than I ever understood one person could love another, most days the degree to which I am grateful for her bedtime feels wrong.
This morning we argued over whether there were socks in her hamper. Over what kind of toy she wanted to bring for “M” week at school. She chased her sister around the house instead of putting on her shoes despite my pleadings, only to finally stop in her tracks to
debate with yell at me about the practicality of sandals in the wintertime. By the time I dropped her at the brick pathway, we were both relieved to be rid of the other’s company.
It’s like that all day long. Nothing is simple. Nothing is done just for the love of pleasing her mother or father. Everything must be on her terms and those? Come with litigation-worthy dispute.
The hardest thing about having a five year old is that they are too big to just pick up and put in timeout. They are too focused to distract with shiny keys and too stubborn to respond to force. You must learn to convince them and to bewitch them with the illusion of control.
Hence our timeout chart:
Timeouts are a great tool for parenting, but I have to remind myself constantly that discipline is about educating behavior, not about punishment (though punishment sure does feel good to an angry mom, I must admit). And though I usually end up sending Bug up to her room to stop the conflict and give everyone a chance to cool down, I needed more. I want her to be able to make the kinds of choices I only just learned how to make – how to recognize what she needs and react accordingly.
So now, when things get out of control, she may be asked to go choose a time out. Sometimes she gets full control of the choice, while other times she needs to be guided to an appropriate timeout for the situation (and other times, I forget about the chart and holler at her to go sit on the carpet). It’s a reminder to me not just to punish, but to teach. To think, “what was happening and how can I best teach her to change her behavior?”
It’s far from perfect, but so far it seems to be helping both of us. And as a bonus? It comes with drawings like these. My husband and I were both surprised and enlightened by the discrepancy between what really happened and how Bug viewed it. It’s quite revealing – and hilarious. The laughter helped disperse any tension over the actual conflict.
And if you’re not laughing, you’re crying, right?
Talk to me. What works for you with your most challenging kiddo? How do you parent your child once they’re not a toddler anymore?