Monday, 13 August 2012
My relationship between my kids and I has progressively become more of a fight as they've headed into their 3's and 4's. It was getting to the point that I almost couldn't stand to hear the sounds of their voices, which is so tragic. Right after one of the kids' huge blowups occurred, I was seriously considering running away and hitch-hiking my way to a Costa Rican beach (the danger didn't even bother me as much as my kid's meltdown). I started cleaning up and coincidentally found some of the tips-for-parenting papers that the pediatrician always hands out during check-ups. I decided to peruse them before throwing them out.
On them was the standard stuff like feed your kids healthy foods every day, brush their teeth, etc but there was also a single line that read, "Say yes as much as possible". It instantly reminded me of the Oscar Mayer Turkey commercial where the mom constantly says no. The commercial annoys that crap out of me but I know firsthand that as a mom, I say no A LOT and it's fatiguing to have to say it all the time. It's a natural tendency for kids to want to push the limits and do what they want - so saying yes often is hard to do. I knew that whatever I'd been doing wasn't working anymore and that I should take the advice instead of thinking, they don't know my kid. I know, what kind of crazy person would ever take a doctor's advice?
As my kids have grown, my parenting has had to adapt from giving constant care to dealing with bad attitudes. It seems like every month to even every couple of weeks there are new things to learn, a little personality shift and intellectual/emotional/physical growth. I was thinking about all that after I read the a fore mentioned advice and how there probably needs to be a shift in my parenting again; an update of sorts - Mommy4.0. The kids no longer need a super-involved mommy who is at their side all the time nor do they need someone who says no constantly even when they do a lot of naughty things. I decided to stop saying no so much and be more of a yes person, even when they were doing something wrong. I knew it was going to take a lot of creative thinking and would take much more thought and patience than simply giving an easy yes answer to everything, unlike Jim Carrey in Yes Man.
I am all for having well-disciplined children who are obedient and listen well but it seemed like the more my children acted out and the stricter I got, the worse they became...kind of like negative quicksand. Consistency is important in discipline and children absolutely need discipline for their own well-being but I knew I was doing something wrong in other areas of parenting because of my kid's attitudes. They were combative even when I was nice. They have manners and say please and thank-you but they can get upset and angry so quickly over nothing! I had already backed off a good deal and they've subsequently learned the art of playing by themselves creatively over the past month but the stubbornness/rudeness/temper flares have increased. Up until my son was about 3, I could sweetly ask him to put something back and he would. Now that he's wanting to do things his way more, it doesn't work. My daughter has always been contentious but it has gotten much worse through her 3's and 4's.
So my effort to change attitudes in our home had to absolutely start with myself. Like Dr. Phil says, "You can't change the people around you, only your reaction to them". I can't change them, they need to be who they are, so I had to change my reaction. My first step: figuring out how to have more yes even though I'm saying no. It's an art of thinking a lot before speaking, I've realized. For instance, my son wanted to take 2 nail files out of my drawer while I was trying to do my make-up. My initial response would be, "No. Mommy doesn't want you to touch that."
Instead I asked, "Is that Mommy's?"
His response, "Yes."
Me: "Do you like mommy's files?"
Me: "That's great, I like them too but I bet you know that you shouldn't play in mommy's drawer with mommy's things, right?".
Me: I bet we can find something more fun to do! Do you want to put on daddy's sneakers?"
I've found that the best way to get compliance is to ask questions that are answered with yes's-es. I'm not really saying yes as much as my kids are and I've definitely reduced my no's. We went to the pet store which is normally a huge pain but again, I kept saying things that were positive and could be responded to with a yes and the trip was so easy. We went to Target, which is a huge hassle normally, yet it turned out to be fun. We even went through the toy section and somehow avoided complaining and screaming for toys. It was so much easier!
It was the same thing with getting dressed. I let the kids pick out their clothes and when my daughter became dead set against wearing what she had picked out, instead of telling her no, I simply said, "I like the jeans that you picked out. The flowers on them are pretty...do you think they're pretty?" She said, "Yes! They're pretty." Then I said, "...and you did a good job of picking out that neat Cinderella shirt. It looks nice on you." Next thing I know, she heads over to her jeans and t-shirt and puts them on. No fight, no struggle, no headache. It's been an amazing day where we have enjoyed being around each other. No buttons being pushed or intense fighting. In fact, they squabbled at each other for a short minute and then stopped of their own accord. Amazing!
I did have to mention a time-out just once but that was it. Just once. Which brings me to the second thing I'm doing to keep discipline from being a no-nofest. I give them two choices: shape up or get disciplined. If they are being ugly I ask, "Would you rather behave and have a good time or do you want to go in time out?" 9 out of 10 times, they say they'll behave and they do. I use the Supernanny technique of time outs and it works pretty well, especially when they are given the choice to adhere or go in time out.
It's going to take a lot of practice for me to continue going down the less-no-path but it's the doctor's order and I want to say, it's a good one. Maybe the approach is working because it's new and the kids aren't used to it but maybe that's just what they need at his age. I'm sure it won't work for ever because as they grow, they need different approaches. I guess that's one of the hardest things about being a parent. Figuring out how to change with them.
How can you practice saying "yes" more?