Let me not waste your time with a lot of back story. I am against punishment—spanking, verbal abuse, love withdraw, etc. I am also against rewards. These two approaches are meant as behavior control and I still haven’t found a strong enough reason to focus solely on behavior modification tactics. You probably know that there are other approaches besides punishment- check them all out before you settle.
Not punishing doesn’t mean that my kids get away with being rude, by the way. However, I consider this “mean” energy to be misguided energy. The bottom line is that this approach takes longer. You have to be disciplined in order to stay focused and calm. It takes a lot of effort, but the results are a feeling of pride that you have taken another step closer to your kids.
Let me set up a story so I can delineate my approach.
Let’s say my daughter wants to play alone. She doesn’t want to share her toys. My son might come over and insist they play together. He might take one of the toys, making my girl feel thwarted in her attempt to play by herself. She takes the toy back from my son, upsetting him. He might then reclaim the toy and throw it across the room. Okay. So this actually happened. It happens often. Often enough that I’ve formulated theories and tested them out in the field.
Once the toy was thrown, I stepped in to help. Sometimes I just tell one kid to let it go. Do something else. Sometimes that works. Remember, this is misguided energy that we’re working with. It’s not just one kid wanting something that the other won’t give them. Well, it is, but it isn’t. Looking at it from this perspective can help with the anxiety parents feel when their kids “misbehave”. Scott Noelle, from Enjoy Parenting, has a fresh perspective on loving the behavior. He suggests loving kid’s behavior since it is a reflection of that child. Part of them wants to behave that way. So, Noelle says, loving the child requires loving all behavior, even if you don’t want it or tolerate it. Once you can see why the less-than-desirable behavior is useful information to you as a parent, you can let go of the fact that you don’t like it and learn more about how your kid works.
Taking into account Noelle’s advice, I accepted that the behavior was happening and that the kids behind the behavior are mine. I realized my daughter wanted to have her grandparents all to herself. She doesn’t see them that often so whenever we visit, she compromises my mother-in-law’s (MIL) time. My MIL barely gets to eat, go to the bathroom, or shower when we’re around. She’s nice enough not to mind because she doesn’t see her grandchildren as much as she wishes.
What also happens is that my daughter doesn’t want to walk away from my MIL. Even for a minute. Even to eat. So, she ends up a bit dehydrated and hungry. Knowing that she just might be hungry and thirsty, I prepped some food. She ate. Her brother ate, and, if my memory serves me, all was better.
For the most part.
It’s not a simple task. Play it cool when you can, vent when and where appropriate, and listen to your kids. As thankless as this job is, I still felt good for thinking and acting on the subliminal message I was inferring from the situation. In my book, that’s a job well done.