Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Where Did I Go Wrong?

Overall my boys are good kids, but it has become abundantly clear in the last two months or so that they simply do not listen, and I don't know what to do about it. They don't listen to me, their father, their grandmother, and sometimes even their teachers. They violate long standing rules for no apparent reason. They do things I have specifically told them not to do just a few minutes earlier. Where did I go wrong?

I have taken classes and read books and talked with other parents. What I am doing should work. They aren't monsters or openly defiant like some of the kids you see on the nanny shows. They just ignore me. I give clear warnings and I follow through with whatever consequence I threaten, but they don't care. I have "good citizen" rules that apply whether we are at home or somewhere else. We have "ugly" words we do not say because good citizens don't use those words. We have "bad" words that no one is supposed to say. I have restaurant rules and store rules. My rules are consistent, and there aren't too many; I definitely choose my battles. So why don't they listen? Where did I go wrong?

Some examples just from today. We have a long standing rule that we do not jump on the beds. I have explained that it is not safe and they will break the bed. They went off to play in their rooms, and sure enough within about five minutes I could hear them jumping on the beds. I reminded them of the rules; I caught them jumping on the beds five minutes later. We have a long standing rule that we do not throw things - anything - in the house. They hardly ever abide by that rule! We have two types of couch pillows, the "green" which they are not supposed to play with, and the "flowered" which they are allowed to play with. Sweetie launched a huge couch pillow - the ones they know they are not supposed to play with - across the room and knocked over some Christmas decorations. We have a long standing rule that we do not treat furniture - ours or anyone else's - like playground equipment. Did that stop Sweetie from swinging between couch and loveseat like they were parallel bars? Did that stop Stinker from tightrope walking on the back of the loveseat? Did that stop Sweetie from using his dresser as an anchor to tie up toys with Christmas ribbon? No, no and no. And this was all before dinner!! Where did I go wrong?

Neither of my boys can stay seated at the table through an entire meal. It doesn't matter where the meal is - home, restaurant, family's house, picnic - and it makes no difference what time of day it is; breakfast is just as problematic as dinner. Before we sit down to eat at a restaurant, I remind them of our table rules, including sitting "bottom to bottom, back to back" on the chair, facing the table, until I tell them it is okay to get up. If we are in a booth, they both eventually lay down and have to be reminded to sit up. Stinker turns around, or gets on his knees. At a kid friendly pizza place tonight, I reminded Stinker for about the fourth time to sit down, in his chair, and he said "No." Just like that. Nice and calm, no tantrum, no devilish smile ... just "no." I don't like to physically move his little body, but I do, and I did. He just got up again. Where did I go wrong?

We have very simple rules for any store: no running, no yelling, look with our eyes and not our hands, and stay close to Mommy. Stinker - the rambling man - is warned that if he wanders away from me, he will get put in the cart (which he hates). Long story short, we went to buy him a new pair of shoes, he ran away from me, and landed in the cart. And then he whined and yelled and cried that he wanted out, the whole time we were there. I'm sure the other shoppers loved me. I told him I would let him out to try on shoes, but that he was to stay close by, and if he could do that, I would let him stay out of the cart and walk. He took off again, with the shoes still tied together!! We went to a craft store to buy supplies for a school project for Sweetie. Stinker was so obnoxious; I took away a toy he was holding, slapped his hand, and gave him a timeout right there in the store. A woman told him she was going to make a phone call to Santa and make sure he was on the naughty list. How embarrassing!! Where did I go wrong?

And then the piece de resistance. They had a big fight in the bath, so I got them out and into their rooms to get ready for bed. After I escorted Stinker to his room, and as I turned to get his pajamas, he picked up a toy, and said to it "I hate that stupid Mommy." As you can probably guess, "hate" and "stupid" are ugly words in our house, and good citizens do not call other people names. I am devastated. I know most children say that to their parents at some point in their life, but Sweetie has never said it, and Stinker is only 3 years old. Where did I go wrong?

I'd love some parenting tips. I don't have any problem disciplining my children, but I don't want to be a yeller and I don't want to resort to spanking (though I have done both on occasion ... I am human after all.) In the meantime, I am going to go have a stiff drink and lick my wounds ...


a corgi said...

consistency with consequences; they jump on bed, they get a time out; they get out of time out an they jump on the bed again, they get another time out, etc. you are doing good; some kids just like to push and push and push the buttons and the limits. and not a lot of talk; just action; so no warnings, just if they do something they aren't supposed to do right then they get the discipline; they eventually learn and then they become teens and the rules change


Joy and Phil said...

I'm new to you blog. Found your link on Embee's blog list. Looking over your archives I found this post and my heart goes out to you. I have been divorced (three times!) but I am an old lady now and wish with all my heart I knew then what I know now.
Honey, your kids have been going through your divorce with you. They are not bad kids, you have done nothing wrong--they are what is called "acting out." They are hurting, they are scared and they are testing you. What they need most is your time, lots of hugs and to be convinced that you are not going anywhere (like Dad could possibly be saying behind your back). Sit them down and tell them how much you love them and that Mom is NOT going to ever leave no matter how bad they are--no matter who says she will!
Good luck and keep us posted.