Tuesday, January 31, 2012

discipline...it's a four letter word

So this whole mom thing... sometimes I just don't feel very good at it. It's been a rough couple of weeks. Our plumbing went out (has been in the process of going out since September) and we had to have the whole sewer line replaced. Additionally, for no apparent reason, Cate's just been grumpier than usual. It seems like we go through seasons, really tough stressful ones and really beautiful soul-nursing ones. And honestly, I don't know if they're caused by her or me. I tend to blame it on her, but something inside nudges me to think it's me. Hmph.

During the tougher seasons, it's so hard to figure the discipline thing out. I never know which route to take. Each situation necessitates a different response, and people who deal with disciplining children (parents, teachers, daycare employees, etc.) have to be very intuitive, responsive, and perceptive, I think. Let me give you a run-down of my morning and all the different techniques I floundered with.

Cate asked for more milk, so I opened her cup and began pouring. She did the ol' flail and wail right there in the kitchen chair. Wait, what? What just happened here?
"Stop. Stoooooop. What's wrong?" I ask.
"I wanna drink the milk!" (more wailing and flailing)
I'm already a little exasperated, but I'm trying to be patient (technique 1). "That's what I was doing. I was getting you milk."
"No, the old milk!"
So, she wanted to drink that last bit in the bottom of the sippy cup before I added the fresh milk. But it was too late. I had already tainted the "old milk" with approximately 2 mL of fresh milk. Meltdown ensued.
I tried to ignore (technique 2) the fit, but her screaming was starting to scare E, and she was moving M's chair with her foot as she flailed about, making it hard for him to eat. After listening and ignoring, and supressing my boiling blood, I removed her from the situation (technique 3) by telling her she could go to her room and come back when she's calm.
She obviously thought that if she did what I said, she would have lost, so she went to the bathroom and shut herself inside. After about 15 more minutes of screaming, I went to check on her. She's laying on the bath mat, pants around her ankles, crying. (She had used the potty, but apparently found the task of pulling her pants up to be too daunting considering her emotional state. Plus, she probably knew it would bother me.) I just feel weird about her being all bare-bottomed with the boys there, so I tell her she must pull them up this instant. (Talking firmly, technique 4). I don't know why I picked this battle to fight. It seemed important at the time. When she refused (and continued to wail) I pulled them up myself. To which she graciously responded by kicking me repeatedly.
Sigh. Here's where it gets ugly.
I pulled her up into my arms, and she tried to wiggle free. I spanked her bottom (technique 5) and said, "We don't kick each other." (I know... the irony wasn't lost on me). I plopped her in bed and told her not to get up until she was ready to stop crying and be nice. So she continued to cry.
To keep myself from dissolving into tears, I had to call Dani, just so she can say, "I know, I've been there, I'm sorry, eat some chocolate." She always makes me feel better. Finally, Cate came back into the living room. She wasn't exactly crying, but she wasn't a ball of sunshine either. If I tried to talk with her or even look at her, she'd make a loud EHNT! noise just because she knows I don't like it. I decided it was best to not make matters worse, so I didn't tell her to stop. I just gave her my mom look (technique 6) and kept playing with the other two kids.
Finally, she came over and started pushing my arm. She was being kind of rough, but I think she was just trying to get back close to me and wasn't sure how to do it. I ignored (technique 2) her jeering looks and less than gentle love-taps, and let her sit in my lap. I know that feeling. Sometimes you want to hit someone and make them hug you at the same time. Just ask my husband.
Finally, we were getting somewhere, I distracted her (technique 7) by asking for help with the shape-sorter. When she finally calmed down, I gave her some love. (technique 8) That's my favorite technique.
So I don't know. I don't know if I did it right; I don't know how to do it right. Kids are so adaptive that as soon as you think you've got it figured out, they change on you. You try so hard to avoid things that will cause a meltdown, make sure they're fed and napped, get the appropriate exercise, not too much tv, and the right amount of play dates and then here you are, trying to figure out how the hell you were supposed to know that they wanted to drink old milk before you put the new milk in.
And you know, as I go back and reread this post, I guess maybe it is about me after all. Because the meltdown didn't hurt anyone. She's ok now (and asleep, praise the Lord!) and the other two kids barely even seemed to notice it was happening. So I guess maybe the question is whether or not I'll let it ruin my peace today. Will that hour of stress ruin the remaining twenty-three? Maybe I'll choose not.
Thanks for listening.


Grandi said...

Great post! You did good. We never know if the decisions we make are exactly right, but you made them based on your love and knowledge of her, that is all anyone can do. It is so good to call a friend that is so helpful, I miss that with my friends.

I hope I can do ok when you are gone,lol. One thing I do know is NEVER FLUSH THE POOP!

Sarai Brinker said...

I hear you. I sure do. :)