Friday, August 22, 2008

Parenting is Hard Work

This parenting thing has not been too easy lately. Whew. Will has been misbehaving in school and Nathan is coming up on the Terrible Threes (the 3s are much worse than the 2s in my opinion!). To top it off, Witt's teething and has slept through the night twice in about 10 days (so that means I'm not sleeping either...)


Will's school has a system of pulling cards when children misbehave. If I understand it correctly this is how it works: Everyone starts on a green card at the beginning of the day. If they misbehave, a warning is given. Then after that the cards start to get pulled. The card after green is yellow, then orange and then red. Orange includes a note sent home from the teacher. Red includes a phone call from the teacher. Every day the child stays on green they get a hole punch in a different card. Once there are 5 punches, they get to go to the treasure box.

Will has been in school a total of 11 days and only has 4 punches on his card. You can do the math - there is lots of misbehavin' going on. Two days ago he got up from his chair and went to cut a little girl's hair instead of doing his art work. Yesterday he licked the inside of the bucket that holds their cartons of milk on ice. He won't keep his mouth shut or keep his hands to himself. I feel like the mom with the "bad kid", but he's not a bad kid. I just don't know how to help him make better choices.

His teacher is great. Last night was Open House and she allowed me to talk with her about Will even though it was mostly a night for the kids to show off what they've been doing. (Side note: I didn't realize it was a night to bring Will; I was by myself.) So while all the other kids were showing their parents around the room, I was talking with Mrs. P about Will. In fact, when I walked in she greeted me with a smile and "How are you?". I almost welled up in tears to that question. I'm really not doing all that great (see first paragraph...). To add to it all, I feel like I'm letting her down because she has to deal with his misbehavior and I've let Will down by not training him correctly to be more obedient (and quiet).

I don't want to be a super strict mom (which I'm not) nor do I want to be a lazy walk-all-over-me type of mom either (which I'm not). I want to be the mom that does the right thing. That disciplines correctly. That says the right thing at the right time in the right way. I want to be the mom with the child that behaves and obeys the first time. And the parenting I've been doing, well, I guess it's not really producing the fruit I had hoped it would.

Will and I have talked every day on the way to school what he needs to do and then each day I pick him up to hear, "Sorry, Mom, I'll do better tomorrow." It's very disappointing.

We are talking so much about how he needs to behave that this morning when I came and sat down next to him, his first words were, "So, what did you want to talk to me about?" He knew something was coming and he was right. We went over AGAIN that when he's in school he needs to sit & stay, zip his lips, and obey. Obviously we're talking about this a lot, but talking is not helping him make good choices.

So, what to do? How strict to get? What form of discipline to use? We've got some decisions to make and some action to take. Something more than a time out, nose in the corner, or occasional spanking. I think the only thing we haven't tried is taking something away. What's going to hit him the hardest is to loose his trains. I don't look forward to that meltdown.

I know this is a personal decision for each family, but what works for you? If you don't want to leave it in the comments, please feel free to email me... I'm looking for suggestions!!!

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Amy said...

My heart breaks for you because this is a toughie...
it's one thing for there to be misbehavior in the privacy of our home; it's another for a 3rd party to be in play.

Okay, as another parent I say, you know him, you know his heart & his spirit. And you KNOW he's a good boy just making some wrong choices.

As an elementary teacher, I say to find out what will effect him the most (trains) & do what you have to do.
I'd start out with maybe one key train, his favorite, and sit it on top of the fridge (for ex.) where he sees it & it serves as a reminder, "You'll get your train today after school if your card doesn't get moved."
It's an immediate reward AND consequence.

You could also go the route of, "If you get 4 punches this week in your card, we'll go buy Percy on Saturday."

Sometimes what hurts them (& us!) the heardest, is what works the best (& fastest!!).

You're a great mom!! Good luck!

Super B's Mom said...

First of all...
((((HUGE HUGS)))) to you, honey.
My heart really goes out to you.

I don't feel that his behavior is reflective of your ability to be a great parent. I think it's a reflection of a very strong-willed boy. BUT - I know how horrible you feel. I really do. When B acts like a monster I feel like a complete failure.

In my own situation with B, I learned quickly that rewards DID NOT work. For him, I didn't get his attention until I took something away. He was quick to forget a reward, but VERY slow to forget a punishment. I remember one day in particular when I was at my wits end, I was so frustrated and tired of warning and begging - that I packed up all the toys in his room and put them in the attic. I'll never forget the look of shock on his face and yes, I did feel a bit guilty - maybe that I'd been a bit extreme. But I was amazed by the results.

I suppose sometimes we have to be a bit extreme to get their attention. Not that we should be "mean" but we shouldn't be afraid to do something out of character - like throw all their favorite toys in a garbage bag and lock it in the trunk of our car.

This may not be the case with you, but personally, my biggest problem with B is that I want good behavior from him, but I also want to be his "best friend." And sometimes I end up with-holding discipline because I want to "keep him happy." And that comes back to bite me.

A few weeks before school started, B really tested us. And he was very ugly with his Nana, whom he never disobeys. We had to show some major tough love. It was getting out of control.

I am going to help you pray about this. No one knows your boy better than you. You will work this out!! It sounds like he is just testing authority.

If you haven't already, check out the Focus on the Family library. Dr. Dobson has some EXCELLENT books. If you don't have the strong-willed child, let me know and I'll send it to you.

HANG IN THERE. You are an AMAZING mom.

Andrea said...

I'm there with you - totally! I have a strong willed 5.5yo dd who brings me to my knees more than I can even count! We take her out only rarely because we never know when she will pull one of her tantrums (they are MAJOR). She is smart and a great helper - just won't obey unless SHE wants to.

And then there's how you feel as a mom - what have we done wrong, what can we do now, how can we fix this, how can we reach him, why are those moms looking at me - do they really think they're perfect either?? We dealt with this in pre-k and were blessed with a wonderful teacher. You must first realize that this is not the st time his teacher has dealt with behavior like this. She knows what she's doing but can do a better job if you guys work WITH her.
1st - Help her to find a motivation technique that works for him while IN school(the treasure treat may not be immediate enough to him to grasp and make him want to sit still).
2nd - prcatice training him at home - SPECIFICALLY. For ex., if he has trouble sitting still in class, take time at home when everyone is happy to use a timer to see how long he can sit still. And then reward, practice, reward, practice. See what I mean? If it's talking while the teacher talks, take time at home to see how long he can sit while you and dh have a pretend conversation and then reward him for waiting to speak. Again, practice, reward,practice.
3rd - you cannot control him behavior at school or when you're not around. Truthfully, you cannot control his behavior since God has given him his own will. BUT you can continually be in prayer for wisdom as to how to reach his heart so that he wants to obey even when you aren't around.

Obviously this is only my 2 cents, but it's what we try with our dd. She is terrible with long-range consequences and needs to know that her reward/consequence will be immediate.

I hope that this helps! I know that you are a good planner and that you and dh can get this figured out while he adjusts to school. I will pray that God will give you much wisdom here - He is god to always provide!


Anonymous said...

I read your posting, and the comments, and have another thought to share.

I remember dealing with similar events and was confused by it all. At home, Jeremy would sit still and would remain quiet for significant lengths of time - if it was of interest to him.

Remember that Will is in Kindergarten, yet is one of the older students. Also, he has already learned so much. Hopefully, the work in school is geared in a way that it interests the younger as well as older kindergarteners.

Are you sure that he is stimulated in school? I know it is hard for a teacher to realize it, but some children need more stimulation than others, lest the child become bored and "misbehave".

Certainly everyone has good ideas for "misbahvior", but the other side is something to consider as well. Honestly, it took me too long to figure it all out for Jeremy. He became "labeled" in school... when all he really needed was a higher degree of teaching...

I believe I know Will and I have certainly seen him sitting still for long periods of time, engrossed in his activity. (He is not ADHD) Yes, he butts into conversation, but what child (or adult for that matter) does not? I wonder if he does not need more to do in school to hold his attention and not allow boredom to override, thus making poor decisions like cutting a girls hair, oh my!!!

Anyway, I am playing "devil's advocate", yet again, I am speaking, too, from some experience.

BEAR HUGS to you and Will; Nathan with the terrible twos/threes; and, Witt with the teething. At least when the good times are upon you, you will be able to notice and cherish them!

Unknown said...

Every mom goes through this, honey. :-)

Aaron started with bad attitude when he hit kindergarten. Not fun. All these things are phases that they go through, trying to learn their boundaries.

But you abslutely, CANNOT let him get the best of you. DO NOT give in just to make him be quiet. That will totally give him the wrong message, like he's the boss.

I say go for the trains. I know it will be hard, but you have to get his attention so he will realize that you mean business when you tell him that he has to behave.

I know it will drive you nuts with the fit he'll probably have over the train, but remember that what you are doing is absolutely in his best interest. But don't get angry with him. Reassure him that you love him, and that's why you have to punish him. If he's about to drive you over the edge, just remove yourself (hide in the bathroom if you have to!) until you get control, and then go back.

I'm praying for you, Becky. You can do it! :-)

Unknown said...

Oh Becky, I am sorry that you are going through this with him. I don't have any sage advice (looks like you've gotten some already!) But I will say that it's probably a phase and that he's testing the waters just as they love to do. "This too shall pass..."

Hugs and prayers that it passes quickly.

And yes, taking away the trains may be your best bet.

Matt said...

I have been out of town, and am just reading this post, but I had heard a little from our phone conversation a few days ago. I am so sorry you are having a hard time. I could feel the frustration in your post.
Parenting is BY FAR the hardest thing I have ever done...and definitely the most sanctifying! :)
I don't really have any solutions. If there is one thing I have learned/am learning from having three small children, it is how little I am in control of. I, of course, must do the best I can as a parent, but in the end, I can not control my children's behavior, or what is in their heart, only God can.
On a practical level, I had the same thoughts as Deborah. And, it is such a big change, there are bound to be hard days in the beginning, during this period of adjustment, no matter how excited he is to be there.
I wish I had something concrete to tell you, but few years of parenting I have under my belt only makes me believe even more that there is not a formula!
I am struggling with the whole discipline aspect in our home right now as well. Reading, praying, studying about what is biblical, and then, what is right for our family, as well as for our children individually. Above all, I don't want to focus on behavior modification (though that of course, is necessary too) so much as I do on the issues of their heart, which motivates their actions. So, I guess if I did have one little thing to say, it would be that: while of course it is important to focus on changing the way he acts at school, to put the majority of the focus on the sin in his heart that is manifesting itself in it's actions as school...for example, if he is not listening to his teacher...maybe read/memorize scripture about respecting those in authority, thinking better of others than ourselves, treating others as we want to be treated, etc.
I am praying for you, friend, as we fumble together through this parenting journey.

laurel said...

That last comment was from me. Matt had logged himself in on my computer, and I didn't notice. :)

Unknown said...

hi dear! sorry to hear about this. i am by no means an expert on school as my kids are only 1 and 3. i suppose i have a teaching degree but haven't taught in 10 years so who knows. but my first thoughts are that, from reading about your life at home with the boys, you are by far not a bad parent. it sounds as though will is in a very loving, caring, supportive, structured, and disciplined home. the other things that come to mind, like others are saying, is that perhaps will is not stimulated enough...his mama has taught him so much at home that he is beyond the level of teaching that he is receiving. another thought is that he is thrives so much on the great environment at home, that he might be having a hard time adjusting to being away during the day right now. i recently read dobson's "bringing up boys" and it shed so much light on boys and schooling. if you haven't read it, you might want to. it mentions how the school format is not conducive to boys as much as girls....because boys are wired to MOVE while girls can actually sit still. my mother in law can attest, my husband spent his entire first grade STANDING next to his desk. fortunately, he had a teacher who understood that he wasn't being BAD, he just wasn't able to sit still (he wasn't ADHD, just a BOY). As long as he could stand and do his work, both teacher and student were happy. That blows my mind....can't relate as I was a studious little girl, ha! Anyways, the book really opened my eyes on how to deal with our boys differently than girls. And how society interprets the adventure and energy of our boys as "bad behavior" when many times we just need to find ways to channel them better. And what better example than the Michael Phelps story..the record breaking Olympic swimmer who was the "trouble, hyper kid". Fortunately, his mom realized that she needed to help him channel that energy and put him into swimming! Sorry for the long post. I just want to encourage you. The most important thing is that you do care and you are working to figure out a solution. That alone shows that you ARE a great parent!

Mary@notbefore7 said...

Oh girlfriend, I am so soryr things have been tough for you. We have all been there, and ARE there for many of us. Some of these phases are downright tough.

I agree wtih so many of the good thoughts here...I am sure you have found some gems.

Consequences are good - spelled out and followed through. I'd go with the trains - and be glad you know it will work. I had a friend once tell me you have to find their "currency" (much like teens can be motivated with $$$). If trains are his currency, then trains it is.

BUT, first make sure you have the full story - like Debroah suggested - checking into the possiblities of boredom at school, etc. NOT that boredom means you can misbehave, but just to give you the full picture.

Thinking of you. We have found that the age of THREE is MUCH harder than two. (both times so far). We are doing dances of joy that T turned FOUR this weekend!!!!

Hugs to you!

mamatutwo said...

You've gotten some great advice here. I wish that I had something else to add, but everything that you've gotten sounds great. I'm going through the same kinds of struggles with my 12 year old--we've tried to be so consisent, read all of the books, but the comments are right, in the end, the decision is theirs. I do get ya', though. I feel like a rotten parent and look back over the years wondering what I did. But it's not that. In the end, it's a maturity issue and a strong will issue. I pray that God will soften the heart of your little one and my not-so-little one.

God Bless