Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Retrenchment, or In the Trenches Again

Every so often in parenting, it goes like this: A child manifests some new misbehavior due to a new developmental stage or obnoxious phase or just the slow attrition of once-established routines and limits. And I must step in, with force and vigor and determination, to beat back the advancing sloth or rudeness or whatever.

Today, I’m fighting such a battle on two fronts, namely, Logan and Levi.

Levi has decided he hates chores, work, and being bossed around. So suddenly he occasionally--or, as time goes on, frequently--mutinies. Just refuses to, say, put on his Sunday clothes, wash his hands when asked, pick up his toys, put on his shoes for school. And today I decided was the time to take action. He mutinied before school and threw a fit rather than dress himself. I ended up carrying him screaming out to the car. Consequence: No movie during quiet time. Much screaming, complaining, and wheedling ensued. And quiet time is my work time, so I ended up proofreading resumes while Levi ran old bills through the shredder next to me--not the best working conditions. In short, everyone was miserable because I didn’t let Levi watch his movie. But I resolved to be unshakable and--this is important--calm and matter-of-fact.

Later in the afternoon he was asked to pick up a bucket of toys he had dumped on the floor. He refused. Consequence: Time Out. He came out of time-out before his timer had rung. Consequence: Fresh clock on the time-out. Repeat four times. During this process, Jesse woke up wanting some snuggle time with Mom. Instead I’m lugging Levi back to time-out--again. And again, everyone is miserable. But I resolved to be steadfast and serene.

Logan, I realized, has succeeded in gradually shifting all his responsibilities to me. He doesn’t get ready for school until I’ve reminded and prompted him numerous times, and then when he does, it’s with muttering and murmuring. Ditto for homework, chores, guitar practice--in short, everything other than play, TV, or computer. So I sat him down with a list of all his daily responsibilities, from eating breakfast to putting on PJs. I informed him that I would no longer provide any reminders. The privilege for completing these tasks sans lip would be his accustomed TV, computer, and friends schedule. The consequence for not completing them or inflicting mouthiness upon me would be revocation of said privileges. He cried bitter tears. He outlined my flaws as a parent. We were all, indeed, miserable. Furthermore, he declined my offers to figure out a schedule wherein not only would he fulfill all his responsibilities but would accomplish them so efficiently he would have extra free time. So without a doubt he’ll fail tomorrow, he’ll end up grounded, and we’ll all be miserable because he’s here and unhappy rather than at a friend’s house and cheerful.

Now I’m off to recharge with an episode of Law & Order and an icy glass of Fresca. Pray that I’ll face tomorrow with a fresh store of determination, patience, and soft answers. And pray for the power of the learning process--even when it involves failure and punishment.


  1. Awwwww. Poor Ang. Don't you love it when they double-team ya like that? But it sounds like you kept it under control, and that's great! Congratulations and may you continue in your successes.

  2. As someone who is about to start the parenting journey, I have a few comments. First while I have no experience with my own kid I have been reading what the “experts” have to say about it lately, and what you described sounds like a scenario from Love and Logic in the before column. Being a big fan of logic and love I am finding there anecdotal evidence compelling. Perhaps this could be a source of new ideas. I would like to know if that stuff really works in the really world.
    Secondly I am sad when I read blogs about this kind of stuff. Again not a parent… but it seems the “mothers blog” often has a negative tilt. What will your kids (or grandkids) think when they read these years from now. I would rather read about the good times and the happy moments of achievement. Maybe the bad stuff is just as well left undocumented.

  3. Mark,
    I totally disagree. It's good to write down ALL your feeling and experiences. A little while ago I was feeling kind of down, and posted a blog entry, but then decided against publishing it because I wasn't in the mood for responses like the one you posted here on Angela's blog.
    I wish I was as good and consistent and patient with my kids as you are with yours! Thumbs up. And you know it is for the better to stand up for the right behavior!

  4. Thanks for the snaps, Jessica. Although--the other day I watched an episode of that show Quarterlife (which I'll never watch again) and a character in that show posts everything on her blog--including other people's secrets. So let's not go THAT far. :)

  5. response to your original post, I think you're doing great. I'm impressed at your determination and consistency. The time-outs and loss-of-privileges are the only tools I know, balanced out with a lot of love and individual attention. I also try to praise, in a self-esteem-building way: "I bet you feel great about the way you can get yourself ready for school."
    And reward.

    I was just thinking about the Love and Logic stuff, not having read the book but having attended a class where I learned you should never do something for your child she can do for herself. I feel that's true generally, as it builds independence. But I try to make a lunch once in awhile just as a surprise, or show unexpected mercy once in awhile. Because I picture the day I call home to a teenage son and say, "I forgot something for this church meeting, can you bring it to me?" And he says, "sorry, mom. I can't. Otherwise you'll never learn responsibility." What a fun parenting moment that would be!

    Now in response to Mark A. (hi, it's nice to meet you, I'm Ang's college friend, maybe we've met before?), don't you think Angela writes about a lot of the great moments? She paints such a real picture of an exceptional home, and I find a lot of inspiration in her blogs. In fact, I'd wager she's holding back on the REALLY dark thoughts, so I want to applaud her for how she handled this particularly trying day. We moms know we have the best job in the world--at least we love the people we work with--but we still need to vent once in awhile. It helps us get support and ideas.

    Whoa, that was a long comment. Sorry.

  6. Ang, I love you. Really, really. You are the best.


  7. i always fear to do what needs to be done as far as discipline because of how it negatively impacts my life. but it's gotta be done as you so eloquently described! no pressure on the book, whenever it comes is just fine.... thanks!