๐Ÿ”ฅ 10 Differences Between an Insufferable Family Life and a Challenging One ๐Ÿณ

Lately my 4 year old has been pushing back hard, it’s been over two years, but for one year I was pregnant and too tired to mentally fix the problem, then I was guilty that we had a new baby and I was trying to make sure my daughter had a good relationship with her brother by not making changes that made it seem like the baby’s fault. Now I’m shifting towards being available and accepting of her feelings more, trying to hear her out instead of putting her in her room more often, but not being accepting at all of her breaking rules, but dropping as many unneeded rules as possible.

Things weren’t working well the last four years, so I’m trying to adjust them and taking notes about what works. Now I’m trying punishing harder, but less often and more affection during non-punishment times. I hate that being a parent is kind of like playing mind games.

The Ted Talk I watched yesterday that separated like and want is helping me untangle my feelings about parenting. I don’t “like” parenting, but I “want” to do a good job at it. It’s so uncomfortable for me to open my arms to a child throwing a fit over something stupid to come get a hug… but I “want” to give my kids that option to always have a lap and hug available to go to, and I’m the only one here…

My son runs into the floor with his face and the wall and then cries, I give him a choice of getting cuddled or not cuddled, he does both.

I see that he did something stupid and got hurt and I just comfort him.

With my daughter it’s harder, because I expected her to stop doing stupid things, but she hasn’t, so it’s a very unhelpful expectation.

Also she hurts herself emotionally rather than physically.

I was doing a diaper change, I did a bad job, I got poop on the clean diaper, and a blanket, I just admitted it, I knew I was frustrated and didn’t beat myself up for needing to take care of the mess before answering the questions my daughter started asking at the same time.

But that’s physical sh*t.

When I have mental sh*t to deal with, for some reason I beat myself up for needing any time, from five minutes, to one minute, to six seconds, I don’t give myself a break to recover from accidentally being head butted, or with a toy, or insulted ext, I expect that I can power through any kind of mental or emotional problem, or if I can’t I really beat myself up for not being able to.

Yesterday Cyrus said, “if this worked, don’t you think things would be getting better already?”

It wasn’t meant for me, but it struck me like an arrow to the heart.

I’ve always worried that if things don’t work, it’s my fault, that I quit to early, but looking back on many situations I didn’t quit to early, I just followed the wrong recipe for too long.

I have an authority bias, if I see a recommendation on a parenting article or in a book written by a professional, I think they know better than me, even though they have absolutely no way to see my kids.

It’s like a professional race car driver writing a book, that says left turn, and me trying to take a left turn on my street that doesn’t have one, over and over and over.

And part of the problem was in my mind I was not aware of how strong an authority bias (a professional said so, so it’s right!) I had.

I need to adjust that. A professional said so, so maybe it warrens consideration, does not at all mean immediately or irrefutably right for this situation.

I should have known that since there are always experts on both sides of every situation, doctors that say smoking is healthy, ones that say it isn’t… but what color are the lungs? Which people get cancer… the evidence tends not to lie as much as experts.

So, I made a personal note of 10 ways I want to change my real everyday family dynamic and knowing the specifics will change also the reasons behind the specifics.

LIVABLE BOUNDARIES FOR ME
1. Box up toys that are out of their allowed zone rather than discussing the zone over and over.
CLEAR EXPECTATIONS
2. Discuss disobedience and challenging behaviors openly and immediately, “If you challenge me you will lose every time, because I’m much older.”
TRAINING
3. Teach vocabulary, I say “if your toys are on the floor they will be taken away.” She says “no they won’t.” I say “if you mean “you hope they won’t” learn to say it that way.”
BOUNDARIES – DON’T RESCUE/ENABLE
4. Don’t feed bad behavior, if she is being punished for breaking the rules, no treats to help her feel better during that interlude.
TRAINING – KINDNESS
5. Do mention she is good and bad, and can make good choices and in what ways she is good when she eats lunch nicely, helpful carrying the laundry, fun to dance with, sweet to let her brother join in her game ext.
ENGAGING HER PREFERENCES
6. Play on her identity as “Blue” the good dinosaur.
RESPECTFUL COMMUNICATION
7. Walk away if I’m not calm, I can come back to the discussion calm in 5, 10 or 15 minutes. My anger scares her and she doesn’t learn, I have to be calm.
NOTICING WHO SHE IS
8. My daughter learns from pain, like the pain of losing Legos left on the floor, if I try to rush her through that pain or minimize it, she doesn’t learn. Shame and pain teach her. She had an accident at the park in front of her friends and that was the last major one. I didn’t shame her, but the shame of the experience was what taught her to stop bullshitting the universe that she didn’t have to go potty when she really did and was lying to herself to avoid interrupting her play.
RULES – CHOOSING BATTLES
9. Get rid of non-essential rules, because each one will be a pain in the ass to enforce and all require enforcement, keep everything that matters, but realize they will all need enforcement.
EXPECTATIONS BASED ON REALITY NOT FANTASY
10. Think of her like an animal, a dog doesn’t come unless trained to come.

There is a pretty new kid’s series Jon Klassen’s Shape Trilogy with a sneaky triangle, a hard working, yet confused square, and a well liked circle. I loved the books. My daughter is very much the triangle, she does bad things because it’s fun, it’s funny, to see what happens, breaking the rules gives her a kleptomaniac glee, and of course many children and weak and sensitive now, but she isn’t, she is trying to game the system almost constantly. I hate that I can’t just ask her kindly and respectfully or explain to her calmly and logically to get her to follow the rules, but I can’t, it hasn’t worked. I’m quite uncomfortable being firm, but I can’t keep trying what doesn’t work anymore.

My new plan:

LIVABLE BOUNDARIES FOR ME
1. Box up toys that are out of their allowed zone rather than discussing the zone over and over.
CLEAR EXPECTATIONS
2. Discuss disobedience and challenging behaviors openly and immediately, “If you challenge me you will lose every time, because I’m much older.”
TRAINING
3. Teach vocabulary, I say “if your toys are on the floor they will be taken away.” She says “no they won’t.” I say “if you mean “you hope they won’t” learn to say it that way.”
BOUNDARIES – DON’T RESCUE/ENABLE
4. Don’t feed bad behavior, if she is being punished for breaking the rules, no treats to help her feel better during that interlude.
TRAINING – KINDNESS
5. Do mention she is good and bad, and can make good choices and in what ways she is good when she eats lunch nicely, helpful carrying the laundry, fun to dance with, sweet to let her brother join in her game ext.
ENGAGING HER PREFERENCES
6. Play on her identity as “Blue” the good dinosaur.
RESPECTFUL COMMUNICATION
7. Walk away if I’m not calm, I can come back to the discussion calm in 5, 10 or 15 minutes. My anger scares her and she doesn’t learn, I have to be calm.
NOTICING WHO SHE IS
8. My daughter learns from pain, like the pain of losing Legos left on the floor, if I try to rush her through that pain or minimize it, she doesn’t learn. Shame and pain teach her. She had an accident at the park in front of her friends and that was the last major one. I didn’t shame her, but the shame of the experience was what taught her to stop bullshitting the universe that she didn’t have to go potty when she really did and was lying to herself to avoid interrupting her play.
RULES – CHOOSING BATTLES
9. Get rid of non-essential rules, because each one will be a pain in the ass to enforce and all require enforcement, keep everything that matters, but realize they will all need enforcement.
EXPECTATIONS BASED ON REALITY NOT FANTASY
10. Think of her (but not call her) like an animal, a dog doesn’t come unless trained to come.

Perhaps this is something everyone else knows about dealing with young children, but I didn’t know and it sure wasn’t on baby center articles that really advise a ton of permissive behavior towards children that won’t improve the life quality for the parents or mothers, like if you are getting bit, that’s fine and normal… what? Ok… four years of being bit later, I punish my son very mildly, putting him down a few feet away if he bites me and not feeding him for half a minute and he seems to be biting less… Unfortunately the internet has as much bad advice as word of mouth or even more, but some websites seem very correct with an article written by a doctor or parents with more years of experience than I have. But what no one else has, is a view of what is actually going on here, nor any idea what is tolerable or possible for me.

I tried hugging it out as a punishment, I got kicked a lot and my daughter seemed very uncomfortable having her body hugged against her will… I totally believe it worked for the mom, who said it worked, for that kid. But that kid isn’t this kid.

I think this approach may be helpful for not only my daughter, but also my husband and my dad, the people who hear my politely stated boundary and proceed to step over it as if they didn’t even hear. These are loved ones, they are really helpful, really generous, I want them in my life, but I have no idea why they don’t care to respect a politely stated boundary the way I would.

It seems like for some people the golden rule is non-existent. Not that they are bad people, but they expect their boundaries to be sacred and mine to be adjustable and flexible.

I’m actually not happy with the way some of these things are, but I find that I’ve got to really look at reality the way it is, try something, however imperfect to find a better balance, because I really want to have a family life that isn’t highly stressful. I want to give my kids, a lot of time, love, service, education, but I don’t want to martyr myself for four or five years longer, meaning that I don’t want to endure a status quo of daily boundary testing, which is horribly draining and unpleasant (which is what a lot of articles suggest, the kids being bad is part of normal development ha ha, just enjoy it!). I choose to find a way to tone it down from high stress to medium stress, or at least to try, because I’ve been unhappy with the level of tension, but always kind of one step behind whatever is going on in a way that left me too shell shocked to be a good leader and make a battle plan.

It’s a long-winded way for me to say I’m trying to switch from a calm parent to a firm parent.

I suppose it’s very difficult for me to change because what I wanted more than anything was a calm parent and perhaps I’m stuck trying to give my daughter what I wanted rather than what she needs or wants.

I’m still perhaps trying to create the ideal family, I never had and always wanted, but fate or God didn’t give me the right cast of actors to do that, instead I am a part of a new play that I’m directing poorly due to my lack of accepting what I can do in reality vs what I want to do in my own mental fantasy of a well behaved, calm, harmonious, loving family.

I am watching Ken Burn’s World War 2 documentary by the way, I was inspired by a commander at D-Day, when the Americans were all getting killed in the water by machine guns he suggested “we are dying here in the water, let’s get onto the beach and die there.” That’s what I’m trying to do, imperfectly shift my family out of our less than optimal status quo with the possibility of finding a way out of bad habits between all of us.

“Can’t we do better? At least I can try.”

Anyone have success with those people who hear what your boundary was, understand it, but love nothing more than to either cross it or at least put their toe on the line over and over to watch you squirm? ๐Ÿงจ

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