I am the only parent parenting my kids. I am in the thick of it 100% of the time. I have a wonderful support system and appreciate them more than I can express, but I am the only one there at home. I am the only person in charge of their discipline. I am the one who it all falls back on whether they turn out to be criminals or fantastic, contributing humans. (No pressure though)
This constant environment means I hardly ever get a break. Even if my children are with someone else, I am called in for the discipline and holding them accountable. I have to carry out the discipline and be consistent with the punishments. I am there every 5 minutes when one of my three boys is being unkind to the other. I am there every 3 minutes when they are fighting over the remote or video games. I am there when they refuse to do their chores, but also insist on getting what they want. I am there when they are using too loud of a voice in a restaurant. I am there when they shout inappropriate things in the store. I am there when they are grounded already and sneak an electronic. I am there when they don’t want to do their homework or feed the dog. Being constantly there, I don’t get a lot of time to reflect or look from the outside in. I do enjoy watching other adults interact with my kids and getting ideas of how I can better interact with them, but I don’t often get to be completely out of the scenario enough to do that.
I get caught up in the actions of the moment. I truly forget they are tiny humans trying to figure out how to deal with whatever they have going on in their minds and they do not yet have all of the tools to do this. Part of my job is to provide them with healthy tools to deal with things. In the midst of the moment, I forget. I am more focused on getting them to be more quiet, say the appropriate things, or at least get them to not say the inappropriate things, and behave correctly at that moment. I freak out if I cannot gain control. I break down. I feel like a failure. Well, you don’t need to be a licensed psychologist to know that me freaking out and losing my shit while they are losing their shit does not equal a peaceful situation.
The other night, while we were out to eat, one of my boys was acting up in the restaurant. I can’t even tell you all of the inappropriate things he said or did, how loud he was being and how out of control he was. It was embarrassing. It was Jack’s birthday dinner, so I let Jack invite his girlfriend. This happened to be the first time the rest of us met her. I also had my boyfriend join us. My kid was acting a fool. I’m not sure if he was trying to be the center of attention or impress the guests or what. I went home that night livid and feeling like a complete failure of a mother. Of course, I went to some close friends and was venting.
All of a sudden, one of my friends said something that hit me. She said:
“Wow that’s rough, he had a burst of being really worried & scared everyone is attaching off & leaving him behind…”
Woah. Okay, I hadn’t thought of it that way. This kid was just trying to process his emotions and find where he now fits with us and these new people and here I am punishing him for it. While the actions he was outwardly portraying do need to be fixed, there is a deeper issue we need to figure out how to deal with. Then I realized this is why he acts up most of the time, I’m sure. Not this specific emotion/reason, but the fact that he is going through his own stuff and trying to figure out how to deal.
Aren’t we all? I mean, I know plenty of adults who need help figuring out how to deal with the things they go through in life, myself included. Imagine being a kid and trying to figure it out. I don’t remember much of my childhood, but I do know the ways I used to “fix my problems” were not healthy and did nothing but create longer lasting problems for me.
A different night, we had another meltdown/fight and I acted right in the moment like I tend to do trying to stop the bad behavior. After getting the kids in bed, I started to think about and assess my actions and words. I was texting a friend and even said to them, “Idk how to do this whole thing with him… I often feel like an asshole when I think about what I say to him or threaten him with. Especially because he is just a kid who doesn’t know how to process all of his emotions and I forget that all of the time when we are in the moment & I get so frustrated. I’m sure I could sit down with him each time and try to figure out what the real issue is he’s trying to deal with, but that shit is exhausting. I know that makes me sound like a bad mom, but it’s the truth, so I guess if the shoe fits.” The longer and harder I think about this, I need to take the time to do just that.
I need to try to diffuse the actual situation instead of the current situation.
I need to act intentionally instead of react.
I need to help him deal because if I don’t, he will never learn and that will be my fault. If I don’t provide him with the tools he needs to work things through, he won’t have them.
I need to have a plan.
Talking to an upset child is not easy. Talking to a child who is acting poorly in a public place is damn near impossible. I need to be more patient. I need to remember to be kind. I need to remember my children need my help to learn how to become happy, healthy human adults.
I’m not trying to be my kids’ best friend. I don’t care if they like me. I figure if I can help them grown into happy, healthy adults, they will realize why I did the things I did when they were younger and the friendship and appreciation will come then. I am completely at peace with being the bad guy, the punisher, but I need to extend some grace.
The line between immediate punishment for actions that need rectified Now and working through something that will take some conversation and time is super blurred and is basically the same line. I need to resolve the bad behavior right then, but also need to help my kids deal so the bad behavior doesn’t ever start.
I have no answers to how to so this. I will take all the suggestions you want to give. I wanted to write this to remind you that kids aren’t acting out just to act out. Kids are acting out for a reason. They may not even know why their feelings are manifesting into the bad behavior that is coming out of them. Adults are here to help children figure out life just as we are here to help one another. I often forget this, so I wanted to remind you just in case you forgot as well.
People have suggested a ‘Calming Corner’ and sent me tools and resources to help my kids recognize their feelings and work through them. I have yet to utilize these tools, but have them in mind for the future.
Since first writing this post about a month ago, I have started to do things differently. I no longer react by yelling immediately. I try not to react at all. Instead, I intentionally act. I stop and remind myself there is something else going on with my child and they need my help figuring it out. It is hard. It takes a lot of patience and I often feel like I do not have enough left to do this, but I do it anyways. Many times I haven’t gotten to the core issue right in the moment, but every time I have diffused the situation without yelling. My children can see when I am getting really frustrated now and as we talk they often realize they are being a little over-the-top and immediately change their behavior.
Don’t ReAct, Act Intentionally.
Help our children become the Fabulous, Amazing Humans they want to become!
MAKE GOOD CHOICES.
~Love & Light, Sarah