I hate yelling at my girls. I hate it. The worst part, it doesn’t even work! My girls rebel against my anger every. single. time!! If insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, then I’m insane. Period.
However, my insanity was cured the moment I watched my husband “lose it” with our 4 year old daughter yesterday. I had the aha moment I needed to change my perspective. And this is the heart of mindful mothering, ladies--changing our perspectives so that we can do better.
A Healthy Dose of Defiance
When your child is defiant, your perspective is probably focused on the fact that he is not doing what YOU want him to do. The frustration you feel is no longer about the fact that he isn't picking up his toys, eating the food you placed in front of him, or not going to sleep. No. You are pissed he is not listening to you! And after all, you are the parent, and he is the kid. He should listen. It’s his job, right? Sound familiar.
I just watched this entire scene play out between my husband and my 4 year old daughter. He politely told her to pick up her Polly Pockets before bath time. She didn’t. He raised his voice and told her again. She remained utterly still among the mess of Polly Pockets strewn around her. “Here it comes,” I thought. And there it was-- full blown anger and threats being hurled her way.
“Chloe, if you don’t pick up those d* Polly Pockets right this very minute…,” well, you know the rest.
I’m not judging my husband. I’ve been in his shoes.
Seeing the situation from the perspective of defiance leads to enacting the threat cycle. Threatening our children is temping for two reasons according to Cline and Fay in Parenting with Love and Logic. “Using threats doesn’t make us feel like the wimp we feel like if we whimper, cry, or plead with our kids. And threats sometimes work.”
The threat didn’t really work in our situation. With a lot of screaming and crying, my daughter begrudgingly moved at a snail’s pace to comply with her dad’s demands. She defied him initially and then chose to move as slow as possible because she felt totally out of control in this situation. Her defiance was her attempt to gain some control. Understandable. I don’t know about you, but my husband doesn’t immediately jump to his feet the minute I ask him to do something. He doesn’t appreciate being told what to do and to get it done the very second I demand. So in an attempt to regain control, he eventually does what I ask on his own time.
Wonder if he realizes his daughter is just like him? Wonder how he would respond to her if he was aware of this fact?
Being a mindful and respectful mama doesn’t mean we are soft or pushovers. It means we are just super smart…so smart that we know that anger and threats don’t give us more control over our kids, but rather makes us lose it almost immediately. Mindful mamas know that children desire to be independent and in control. We also know that it’s our job to give them an appropriate amount of control in their little lives so that they can feel confident, think on their feet, and gain independence.
- AWARENESS and PERSPECTIVE are key: Become aware that your child is not being defiant because they want to disrespect you. Chloe wasn’t thinking, “My dad is a jerk, and I wanna get him irate.”No. No. You are your child’s world. They love you beyond words. Rather, when they defy you, they are exercising the very small, teeny-tiny amount of control they do have in their lives. And this is a good thing!! You don’t want a push-over as a child (or adult) do you?! Remember, often characteristics that our children display that frustrate the hell out of us are characteristics we want them to exhibit as adults! Go figure.
- Give them OPTIONS and make them THINK (a.k.a. give away just the right amount of control): Parenting with Love and Logic reminds us that “responsible behavior is a direct correlation to the number of decisions children are expected to make. The more they make, the more responsible they become.” My girls respond to choices because they like to think for themselves and feel in control. Who doesn’t? I like to give them choices because when they make choices that are poor, the punishment comes from their decision, not me. Thus, I don’t get angry when they make poor decisions. What’s there to get angry about? They are not being defiant towards me. In fact this is cause to celebrate. When they make poor decisions, they are learning a great life lesson-- make a better one next time!
- POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT works wonders: Don’t forget to compliment and praise your child’s good behavior. Shift your perspective from focusing on negative behavior to focusing on positive behavior. I bet your kid displays it more than you realize. Tune in and compliment it often!
- ROUTINES and REWARDS: Kids thrive on routines and rewards. For instance, our clean up routine starts with setting a timer on my phone that I display for the girls to see. I tell them they have 3 minutes to clean up before the timer goes off. If toys are still lying around when it beeps, they lose 2 tickets each. Thus, I don't have to keep hounding them. The expectation is set. They know the consequence-- losing hard earned tickets... not my yelling. Much more effective. Tickets are the rewards in our house. I use store-bought raffle tickets, and I give them to the girls when they display good behavior-- saying please, acting kind to each other, not freaking out in specific instances, staying in their beds at night, etc. They collect their tickets and then use them to get an extra cookie after dinner, buy something from the $ store, or get a movie from the video store. Whatever. They decide. They are in control.
Let go of the right amount of control, establish clear routines and rewards, make your kids think, let the consequences of their decisions be the punishment, and watch your anger magically disappear! Come back, comment, and tell us how it goes...