Back in Control

I am the mom of least resistance.

This is to say, I’m pretty hands-off with my kids. I’m a bad helicopter. I embrace the philosophy of “free range” childhood.

Maybe to a fault.

(Bad Helicopter would be a kick-ass band name.)

I don’t think it became a fault until Michael was born, because then it became less “free range” and more “benign neglect”.

Three-on-one is hard, yo.

And that’s what it is most of the time.

But I’m tired of not being the one in charge. My older two children act without asking. On Saturday morning, that’s okay. I’ll take that extra half hour of sleep, thankyouverymuch. But every single day, especially in the evenings? And mornings? Oy, mornings are fusterclucks of the highest order.

(I gave up swearing for Lent. I vowed to put a $1 in the swear jar each time I uttered a curse word, including Lord’s Name In Vain, and I’m going to donate it to charity. So far Animal Friends is getting $12. Which I guess isn’t too bad — for me — but this Lenten sacrifice is making it hard to write this post.)

It’s just not cool anymore. I’m so tired of yelling — and I yell A LOT. So much so that Michael is learning to yell. Not good. So I am reconstructing boundaries, and installing schedules. This is a work in progress. Here are some of my goals.

1. To get Flora to calm down. Because I am such a reactive parent, she is a very reactive child. I need both of us to be able to step back and take a deep breath instead of losing our sh– I mean, crap. I, obviously, have to lead by example here because she’s 7.

2. To get into a groove. I have schedules for the girls, for mornings and evenings during the week. I typed them up months ago, and I showed them to the girls. And then they ended up in the piles of paper that spring up around my house. Dan dug them out and laminated them, and bought grease pencils. And they ended up in the arts & crafts drawer.

So they just got posted (on Wednesday), and as the girls do the steps, the they check off the boxes. Again, to be obvious, Kate needs a little assistance with this because she can’t quite read on her own yet. The thing is, though, Kate is actually a little better about these steps. Flora gets distracted. Easily.

3. Ask before they act. Flora knows how to turn on the TV, Wii, Blu-ray player, and even surf through streaming Netflix. She has a DSi that she enjoys. My children know where snacks are, how to open the refrigerator, and pour their own beverages. If they are getting a yogurt or some cheese for a before-dinner snack, that’s all fine. But when they are raiding the candy stash instead, it’s not fine. And the screen-time restrictions are tough, tough, tough to enforce. But Flora is not allowed to watch TV, play Wii, or play her DSi unless she is done with her homework.

4. A cleaner house. My children know how to clean up after themselves. They know how to make their beds, put away their toys, clear the table. They need to be reminded to do these things, quite often, but night time treats and/or TV time is on hold until they do them. Heck, they even had to help me sweep up the kitchen floor the other day, and then we went upstairs and read three books before bed. Honestly, they didn’t seem to mind.

5. Follow through. I have thrown out candy (because they didn’t ask), turned off the night time show (because they didn’t ask), and started bedtime early (because they aren’t listening). It is hard when they whine and cry because I don’t really like the whining and crying. It gets on my nerves. But they are (slowly) learning (again) that there are consequences to their impulsive actions and/or not listening to mommy.

Did you ever find yourself in a place where the lunatics were running the asylum? How did you retake the reins?

(Aside: I want to make clear I’m not here to disparage my husband or despair that he doesn’t do enough. He does plenty. Do I wish he were home some of the evenings he’s seeing patients until 8 p.m.? Sure, but that’s not the situation right now.)

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12 thoughts on “Back in Control

  1. I didnt realize I was such a pushover until my mom pointed it out. While I do say “no”, often, I apparently give in after repeated requests just to stop the whining. This of course leads to spoiled brats and a significant increase in the buying of “squeezy” yogurt.

    So now I am following through. “I have answered you, repeatedly. Ask me one more time and you go in time out/get something taken away”. Mine are also old enough now to finally start putting their toys away. 2 nights ago I bagged up some toys and hid them. You don’t clean? You dont get to play with them for a while.

    Let’s hope we can both stick with it!

    • I have to do the same thing with the girls: I said no. The answer is no. Please stop asking. The worst is when they are like, “But I said PLEASE.” I think they’re taking that “magic word” thing a little too far.

  2. Our dogs are going through some of that. Lately the only walks they go on are off leash at the dog park so when they are on leashes they’ve forgotten how to behave. Katie actually yanked out of my hands on a walk the other day! Not cool. They also are too rambunctious when new people visit. We need to remind them of the rules. More leashed walks, consequences, etc. Sigh.

  3. This happens in our house PLENTY. They’re less inclined to sneak treats without asking or turn on the TV without asking, but they DO neglect to do the things they know they should (like clear the table, pick up toys, follow bedtime routine, etc) without a crapton of prodding. Liam is especially bad about this. He can be the dawdliest dawdler that ever dawdled when it come to get getting ready for bed. It takes multiple reminders at eat step and it makes me crazy. A couple of nights ago he poked around so long he lost his bedtime chapter of Harry Potter because there wasn’t time before bed. He was distressed and I hope it drove the point home.

    Cleaning his room is a special kind of torture but we refuse to do it for him. So we have to go through the whining and screaming and yelling (on our parts) to get it done. We, too, set rules that we forget to follow – like making L do 10 min of room picking up every night or making the kids pick up the family room before heading up for bath/bed routine.

    It’s hard as a parent because at the end of the day you’re exhausted and the last thing you want to do is fight another battle with your kids when you’ve been doing it all day. All you can focus on is the blessed, wonderful *silence* that accompanies the children being in bed – more arguments before that is infuriating. So, it’s hard to make myself fight those kinds of battles at that time of day.

    In other words, I feel your pain.

      • I will say that yesterday we needed Liam to clean his room. It is usually torture. We sent him up to get started and I told him I was going to go for a walk. I made him a detailed list of all the things to do in his room, told him I would be gone for about 45 min, and that it was a contest to see how much he could do while I was gone. (FTR, Scot was home).

        I got home and he’d made a real dent. I sat with him while he finished up and he did a really fantastic job without tons of yelling, screaming, or whining. We praised him to the high heavens.

  4. I love your goals – totally appropriate and not overreaching. I agree with Cari’s comment about “at the end of the day you’re exhausted…”, sometimes it all seems like a battle. Something I read recently by Margurite Kelly who writes a column “The Family Almanac” really hit home with me. She wrote – ‘If you don’t want yelling in your house, don’t yell. Often we need to tell little ones things over and over because they are little. That is why we call them children.’ While we don’t want to ‘baby’ our older kids, patience is never a bad choice.

  5. I think it’s absolutely imperative that actions have prescribed consequences, which are followed through on every time. Giving in even one time out of 4 means the children learn that it’s always worth a shot to whine and pester. I know it’s hard when you’re tired and just want the noise to stop, but it will, in the long run.

    Signed, Another Childless Douche (that used to be a step-father)

    • What I am learning is that the whining and tantrums do actually stop, even when I don’t give in. I just have to wait out the children. Some times that’s harder than at other times, that’s all.

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