Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Discipline

This is such a controversial issue. And such a big one to parents. Parenting can be so hard. When our children are behaving badly in public we worry that it reflects badly on us as parents. And whether in public or at home it will drive us nuts. No one wants to spend their day having to yell at, spank, put in time out, or otherwise discipline people that they love. We want to just enjoy them and have fun with them.

And then there are the guilt issues that go along with discipline. We're supposed to be 100% consistent, never lose our temper, and be calm and patient all the time with our children. That's what makes us good parents, right? So when we can't measure up to those standards we feel like failures and worry that we've ruined our children or at least scarred them for life. Therefore we are bad parents.

But is that really true? Well, in part, but not completely.

Yes, it's best if we can meet those standards. Consistency is important. Calm patience is good. But if God thought all parents needed to be perfect, He'd be raising all the kids all by Himself.

My mother has apologized to me for mistakes she feels she made. I even agree that some of those things were mistakes and she shouldn't have done them. But I wouldn't change a thing. My past is what made me who I am today and I like who I am--most of the time. I am happy to be with Roger and be the mother of my children. I'm happy with my relationship with Jesus. If my life had been different, I might not be who I am today. That could be a really sad thing for me. It's some of those trials we endure that help us to grow. My children need trials too. As much as I hate that thought, I know it is true. And even more troublesome to my thinking is that *I* will inflict some of those trials on my children. Not on purpose, but it will--and probably has already--happen. (And btw, my mother did a lot of things right, too!)

So what's a mother to do when she realizes that she's messed up? Apologize and try again! And that's where I'm at yet again. Eventually it gets to be too late to try again, but we can still apologize. If nothing else, you would be setting a good example.

I haven't been very consistent with my discipline. I have made empty threats, forgotten rules I've made, and overlooked bad behavior too many times. I was not 100% perfect. Does that mean my kids are ruined? No. It means we have to work together and try again. We've been here before. It seems to happen after every baby I birth, illness in the house, or other blip in the normalcy of life (as if anything is normal about our, or anyone's, family life).

And while it may sound like all my kids are horrible, it's really not THAT bad. Roger and I figure that everyone has a certain amount of chaos they can live with. Let's call it your chaos-ability. That chaos-ability gets divided up by the number of children in the family and each child gets his/her portion of chaos that he/she can create. So if you have 1 or 2 kids, they get to create all or even half of the chaos around you, then you'll settle things down before you snap. Well, when you have a lot of kids, each kid gets a smaller portion. The trouble we're having right now is that a few of my children are each trying to grab the whole share. So I am overwhelmed because we've surpassed my chaos-ability.

I'll try to keep you posted on how/if we settle things down around here. So far we've determined that Joy is currently the biggest chaos creator and that spankings don't work for her. I've tried time outs a bit, but she doesn't stay put and/or I forget I put her there. That can be a problem because either she doesn't get any time out or she gets way too much. (I've mentioned to the kids that a good Mother's Day gift would be a watch with a timer. A girlie looking one that their dad won't "borrow.") Taking privileges only works if you can remember things--like that you grounded someone from something. I can't. So then it becomes an empty threat. Right now I'm working on praising her for everything good she does. So far so good. She seems to be responding quickly to that. And it puts me in a much better mood to be focusing on the positive not the negative.

So we'll see how this goes. Sam is next. So far it seems that just tapping his bottom or even looking at his backside causes him to want to be good. They're all different and it's all about getting to know them.

Melissa

2 comments:

Shannon & Jodi said...

Melissa,
I'm a fellow MOMYS, and I can relate so much to your last few posts. I just wanted to let you know you're not alone in this struggle!
Jodi

Mel said...

Wow, you sound like me. Granted, my chaos-ability is only bounded by 2 kids right now.... but this struggle with consistency vs. mercy, dealing with a child for whom "spanking" has no desirable effects... May God equip us!