Our little Rosebug has been hugely challenging these last couple of weeks, as the adoption finalization gets extremely close. With all the various sources of well-intentioned advice, I experience a lot of anxiety about what is the “appropriate” response when she is disrespectful, argumentative, interruptive or when she hits me :O . When I really analyze it, I think I am experiencing more anxiety about trying to find that “appropriate” response, than I am from her actual behaviors!
Good news is, the closer we get to the final adoption date…the closer to that day when she is really and truly MINE, the less anxiety I feel about what everybody else wants me to do with MY daughter.
I am a lecturer. I have a good way of delivering a good, strong lecture to a child, in a way that they can understand it. I don’t know when “lecturing” became politically incorrect. How else am I to impart my fountains of wisdom on my child? Some people say that when you lecture, all the kids hear is “blah, blah, blah…”
I tend to disagree, at least when it comes to the children I have lectured, especially the ‘Bug. Remember that in my heart I am a teacher. Maybe that is why I like to lecture. Lecturing does not mean ranting and raving. It means sharing with them, in language they can understand, the error of their ways, why it is an error, and reasons they might consider correcting those errors. When at all possible I try to end the lecture with as much positive as negative. Affirmations of my love and admiration for the child, the reasons why I CARE.SO.DAMN.MUCH.
Timing is critical. You can not lecture with every infraction. Fewer is better. When kids are having a temper tantrum is not the time to try and lecture. But I do believe that sometimes lectures are more effective when things are still a little bit “hot”. When my ‘Bug starts down The Road of Bad Choices I tend to send her in her room for a Time Out (and the time out doesn’t start until she has stopped “tantrumming”), and then while she is in her room my mind starts whirring…I am thinking of why she might be choosing to travel The Road of Bad Choices. (It also give me a chance to calm down!) What is her point of view? Often children this young don’t really know why they do something, they are just reacting to gut feelings, or perhaps testing boundaries because they are feeling insecure. Oftentimes all we parents can do is guess at what motivates their actions.
The bottom line is that sometimes their motivations are irrelevant because the behavior, whatever it is, needs to stop. If you can figure out what the problem is, then by all means, address what you think the problem is. Recently when my ‘Bug had to write a “character essay” about “why she shouldn’t hit people, especially her parents” she wrote that she might lose her friends if she hits them (truth) and she might lose her family, too (false). When I read her essay I stopped right there at the “I might lose my family” and corrected her. I told her, in a firm voice, that this part of her essay was incorrect. That no matter how obnoxious she was, how many things she tried to do to upset us, she was NEVER going to lose us. That we were FAMILY until the end of time. Wether she liked it or not. Well, she was so overcome by emotion at that time that she stopped glaring at me and stepped in for a hug. Which was nice. (But it didn’t stop the lecture!)
Another benefit of the well-timed lecture is that it clears the air. The other day I was so annoyed at my li’l Bug because she had been incredibly rude to several people (including myself) who were trying to help her with her schoolwork. They would start to give her a suggestion or an idea and she would interrupt them, with a raised voice, telling them that THEY don’t understand, and that THAT won’t help, and that she is STILL confused! In other words, she really had no interest in learning the concept in question, she was just spoiling for a fight, or attention, or who knows what! It annoyed me, and she got more than one time out for it, but it wasn’t really helping her turn her attitude around. Instead she got worse, with disrespectful, sarcastic remarks outnumbering the genuine ones. In a word, she was simply being UGLY.
Finally I had had it, she had disrespected me one time too many, and I took her outside and made her walk laps (a different version of time out). Then I sat her down and gave her a TLE (Terri Lecture Extreme!). For 45 minutes we talked. She got a fresh education about appreciating the people that were trying to help her. And I brought up quite a few examples. Then I asked her “Why would anyone want to help someone who treated them that way?” I specifically remarked on her treatment of her Dad, who normally tries to stay out of all things school-related, but he had made an exception that day and tried to help her. She ADORES her Dad (even when she hates me) and so I asked her if she thought he was going to want to help her with her homework the next time she asked.
The moral of this story though, isn’t the lecture I gave her. It was the naturalness of it. I “Let It Go” (to quote a too famous princess), and I lectured her about a lot of things. Most would say too much. But then…but THEN…after I got it all out on the table….the lecture naturally evolved into more of a conversation, with more back and forth between us (in the beginning she wasn’t allowed to interrupt), and it evolved into a very positive conversation about the hopes and dreams her Dad and I had for her future, and about our future as a family. I was given an opportunity to point out all the things we love about her. All the fun things we got to do together when she wasn’t being ugly. And she loved it!
It’s funny how much she loved it. By the time we were done we were hugging. When she went in the house she was giggling and happy (and hyper!), and I was energized. And happy! And she really turned her attitude around and the next day she was absolutely wonderful! Great attitude, finished her schoolwork before noon, she got a lot of TK pennies to buy a privilege or two back, and she got her pet hermit crabs put back in her room. There are a lot of benefits to being good.
And it lasted one day. One whole day!
And then there was the next day….sigh…. but at least I got one whole day!