Wednesday, November 4, 2009

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Parenting is hard. I've written that before, but this time is different. We're having a really hard time at the Sharp household right now, and I'm struggling. The big boys have started fighting, which I know is normal for siblings, but it's aggressive and ugly and makes me so sad. They refuse to clean up their toys. They talk back. The last couple of days I've been standing there looking at them, scratching my head and thinking, "What has happened to my family?"

Yes, I know we're in the midst of major life changes. The baby should be here any day now (the doctor said on Monday she'd be surprised if I lasted another 10 days), and that alone is bound to cause some ripples in our usually still waters. Aaron is outgrowing the baby stage and becoming both a playmate and a real nuisance to the big boys. We've started homeschooling, so our days are no longer full of free play (although we do still get plenty of that). So, I know that there's a lot going on in their worlds, and I've tried to be understanding. But enough is enough.

I got really strict about time outs. I started using a timer and had very specific rules about what constituted a successful time out. I was consistent, for the most part anyway, and tried to be calm but firm when sentencing. Aggression was a non-negotiable time out, as was talking back and acts of defiance. And they just didn't care. 5 minutes later they came bounding out of their time out spots, offering a half-hearted apology only because it was required. Nothing changed.

The other day I did something I thought I would never do. I spanked my child. Ei bit Jackson on his face, leaving a nasty looking bitemark next to his eye. I asked him why he would do something like that (not that there is any good reason, but I needed to know if Jackson also deserved punishment), and he said that they were playing ball and Jackson got to the ball first which made him mad. I wanted to cry when I realized that my sweet little boy had the potential to be so very mean. So, I spanked him twice, while Jackson watched, and thought that this would surely put an end to this recent streak of ugliness. Afterwards I felt like throwing up. I'm not judging others here--just being honest. I just can't figure out how someone can spank a child and walk away feeling good about her parenting skills. All day I wanted to grab Ei in a big hug and tell him how sorry I was, that returning violence for violence was a terrible thing to do. But I talked to Mike about it, and we decided that it might be good for him to see that parents do have bigger ammunition than just time outs and that he better get his act straight. We agreed not to use this particular method of punishment on a regular basis (in fact, I think I'm done with it), but we thought maybe some good might come of it. It didn't. He has bitten Jackson 3 times since then.

Today I walked into the bonus room of our house and took a good look around. There were toys (so many toys) on every inch of the floor, despite my pleas that they clean up for 4 days in a row. I walked the boys into the room and showed them what I saw and asked if they thought it was acceptable. They said no. They asked if they would still get their allowance this week, but they made no effort to pick up their toys. I wanted to bang my head into the wall. What have I created?

And so, today begins a new experiment in my parenting career. We skipped our regular trip to the library for storytime, and instead I emptied the toy room. I gutted it. While the boys screamed and begged for me to stop, I loaded up all their toys into boxes and took them to the garage. Afterwards we had a discussion about how they are not entitled to a room full of fancy toys, dessert after every dinner, and fun outings every day. I told them very calmly that they've become spoiled brats, and that I'm accepting part of the blame for what's happened because I'm the one who buys all the toys, gives them treats, takes them for outings, and doesn't expect an ounce of respect in return. And I told them that today things change. They will earn their toys back by keeping their room clean, respecting others, following directions, and refraining from acts of unkindness. Time outs will continue. Rewards (treats, fun outings, etc.) will be just that--rewards for good behavior, not a part of our regular routine.

Yes, this is poor timing. The baby will be here before we know it, and all of this will be put on the back burner while we just try to survive those first few weeks. Yes, it's going to be hard on all of us to change our old habits. But it's a good start, and I feel hopeful about things for the first time in weeks. Parenting is such an incredible responsibility. I have such a short amount of time to teach these little people to be responsible, compassionate, KIND adults. There's no room to be wishy-washy, even if it's more fun and seems to make the moment easier. I get it. I know this. Now, doing it is the hard part. Prayers, please.

3 comments:

Jennifer Thompson said...

Kat, I want to give you a big hug right now. Not just because it sounds like you need one :) but because I think you did the exact right thing and I love it. It sounds like something my mom might do, and I mean that in a very good way.

R and K Marsh said...

You can do it!! I wish we were there to help! You are such a good mother to those boys, and they are lucky that you love them enough to make hard decisions in their best interests. Lots of love, and our prayers are with you as always.
xxx

Becca73180 said...

Good for you! I see a lot of kids every day who don't have that kind of parenting at home, and trust me, it's not pretty. You're such a good, smart, mom, and I'm sure glad I get to watch and learn from you before I have to do it myseslf :) Love you guys!