My friend Clea shared this on facebook the other day. I quote it here, with her permission, because it so perfectly captures where I’m at myself.
So I think I’ve named the crux of my challenge here at my little homeschool. My kids think “homeschooling” equals “do whatever I want” and when that isn’t the case, whether we’re talking chores, errands, academic work, or speaking to me, they turn very unpleasant very fast. So my job isn’t so much to teach them academic whatever, or even “how to learn” but a) self regulation and restraint and b) how to not be a brat when you don’t get your way. Right now that job description isn’t working for me.
We are in the thick of it here these days. The toddler is finding his two-year-old voice. The brand new five-year-old is taking “strong willed” to new heights, and my 7-year-old, while mostly “good” can display some amazing attitude when asked to do something as simple as clear his plate from the table. Add in the usual sibling spats and the tiny daily stresses that is simply life with three small children (you know, sleepless nights, ear infections, tummy bugs, and seriously do I really have to feed you all again???) and I’m just feeling, well, challenged I guess is the best word for it.
Feeling challenged is an improvement. I was feeling utter despair. An afternoon to myself spent shopping, reading and praying helped turn me around a bit. So I’ve moved past despair, but I’m still a long way from joyful.
I am very clear that self regulation and restraint and how-to-not-be-a-brat-when-you-don’t-get-your-way are at the top of what I’m supposed to be teaching my kids these days. Perhaps just a tiny bit behind not-bullying-everyone-in-the-house-with-your-unreasonable-and-impossible-demands-and-your-temper-tantrums. And I have started these lessons with a renewed energy.
And I hate it. I hate being the bad guy, the heavy, the “worst mom in the world.” I do know moms who revel in these labels. They hear these epithets as assurance that they are doing a good job. Not me.
Somewhere along the line I fell for the story that if you just love your kids enough, if you reason with them, let them know you’re always on their side, breastfeed them until they’re 20, sleep with them, wear them, and do everything “right,” you will have an endlessly happy relationship with your child.
Let me tell you something. I know a lot of people who have done the attachment parenting/gentle discipline thing, and not one of them is having an easy, blissful time with their child. Neither are my friends who took a more conventional route.
Because this parenting thing is hard. It presents new challenges every. single. day. Because children (like adults) are prone to selfishness, impulsiveness, irrationality, and a deep inner distaste for being told what to do.
And it is my job to tell them what to do. Even as I write that I’m arguing with the voices in my head who say that’s not really necessarily the case. But it is. Because if I don’t teach them to bathe themselves, to treat others with kindness and respect, to clean up after themselves, to feed themselves, etc., etc., etc., then they will be people who cannot take care of themselves and whom no one wants to be around. And that does not serve them well.
So I am embarking on a stricter discipline regimen. Which means I am no longer tolerating the wicked back talk (“aaaarrrhhh! I don’t want to! You’re mean!”) or the imperious demands (“You get my shoes and carry them to the car for me!”) or the refusal to comply with the fundamentals of self care (say, brushing one’s teeth).
It’s exhausting. The ups and downs. The screaming tantrums followed by the giggling snuggles followed by imperious announcement of how many pieces of birthday cake I will or won’t be permitted at my darling’s next birthday party.
I’m worn out. I have to constantly remind myself that being a “good mom” doesn’t mean my kids are always happy. And yet, I really did believe that if I just did it all “right,” my kids would be charming, agreeable little people at all times.
That’s when I have to remind myself that Our Heavenly Father, in all his goodness and perfection, does not have children who are always charming and agreeable. Heaven knows I’m not. A
So I’m charging forward. And I’m seeing some benefits. It’s kind of two steps forward, one step back, but it’s progress. I feel like there are more good moments now than there were a week ago. And less yelling from all of us.
We still have a lot of work to do, but I think we’re moving in the right direction.