The Gift of “NO”

I have had heard from many this week through email and comments (always welcome!)  saying how much they’ve enjoyed the humor posts lately about my struggle to regain control of my children.

As much as I have made light of this situation, it’s truly been troubling me. What happened to my sweet kids? I witness them hitting each other,  saying unkind things to one another, acting entitled, disrespectful, rude, ungrateful and oh,  did I mention ungrateful?  They feel that everything is a negotiation and that they should be the center of attention at all times.

I have put my mind to researching every book and text I can access on the subject of discipline lately and as I poured over excerpts, essays, and entries online and off line the term “family values”  comes up repeatedly. This has brought me to an interesting crossroads…..

What ARE my family values and have I ever communicated them to my children?

I think back to my own upbringing, and all of the ways i undermined my mothers techniques with my internal dialog vowing  never  to repeat her words, mistakes, or measures …. OH YES I WOULD BE DIFFERENT- BETTER . We all do the BEST we can….


For instance…

1) I KNOW that letting my children watch three movies in a row so I can get some work done and allow them to scream “MOOOOOOM I NEED A SNACK!” as i distractedly talk on the phone and fill yet another snack bowl and bring it to them so as not to disturb the catatonic state i have going for me is NOT THE BEST I CAN DO.

2) I KNOW that giving in and opening the yet unpurchased bag of oreo cookies in the grocery store and saying “maybe” while being peppered with the “can I get a toy?” questions to avoid a scene in the grocery store  while finally rewarding them at the end for not acting like ANIMALS with some form of additional treat or bribe is NOT THE BEST I CAN DO.

3) I KNOW that negotiating with my five year old as he turns my own words on me telling me “Mom, it’s your choice, a popsicle or a cookie” as he deny’s my pleas to eat something healthy, while I whine “how about some proteeeeein”?  Is NOT THE BEST I CAN DO.

4) I KNOW choices of chicken nuggets, pizza, pasta with butter, cheese quesadillas and gogurts as a family meal each night in order so I don’t have to deal with the “YUCK!” comments, dinner table fights, prolonged whining and remaking something they will eat all the while hoping I do not dirty another dish I will have to wash for the umpteenth time IS NOT THE BEST I CAN DO.

Now- these are just four examples and trust me, I can go ON and ON but what it really comes down to is

What the hell am i teaching my children and who wears the pants in this house anyway?

The fact of the matter is that I DO KNOW what i should be doing to illicit the proper behavior in my children but I have let my own agenda, self doubt, fatigue, and countless conflicting messages in the media cloud my vision on a minute by minute basis instead of simply DOING what MUST BE DONE.

I know I have GOOD children,  AND that they REQUIRE direction, support, and limits at all times at this stage in their development and that I am the best one for the job.  If I bungle this NOW…what will that mean for their future? In my excavation on the subject I re-read this little gem:  the gift of NO, (If you click on this link this article pretty much sums it up). I love this article…. it makes sense to me and I think it will make sense to you too.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and I truly appreciate all of you who are also exploring this conversation with me it makes me feel somewhat normal and not so alone!


Five Tips on Discipline

Last night I attended a parent gathering at school to discuss “discipline” at home – a subject I find both fascinating and haunting.   Fascinating because It’s something I’d love to be better at, and haunting because of what i’ve stooped to thus far. Sometimes I forget that the goal NOW is to parent in such a way that the RESULT is that my children are well adjusted, compassionate & competent adults.

Here are a few things I learned I learned last night….

1) Sitting on my small child’s chest while yelling “who’s da man?” is only going to cause resentment and require a hefty investment in psychotherapy later in life ( yes, I’m ashamed to admit, he has pushed me this far)

2) Negotiating with your child is a bad habit and if you do it – you teach a child NOT to accept your limits. Most of the time there is NOTHING to negotiate.

3) Stop making empty threats: you will lose your power and your credibility.  Have a few rules and enforce them regularly with realistic consequences that actually work  (I remember i once took away Halloween like three times before we went out trick or treating! )

4) Discipline *as much as possible using natural consequences: for instance ; If dinner is served and your child makes the choice not to eat it, he or she will go to bed hungry.  Choosing NOT to eat the dinner causes the consequence of going to bed hungry.  It’s a guarantee this behavior will not persist for very long and your child will stop fussing when you put dinner on the table ( imagine? – this is going to be a hard one for me)  This does not mean, however that you allow your child to go outside without a coat and become cold if they so choose, but instead a natural consequence might be that they lose out on another privilege that might be important to them or that they be required to sit by themselves inside while everyone else play outdoors.

5) Your child is not your friend.   Children need a competent adult who loves them without strings attached. When you try to be their best friend you rob them of their parent.  Don’t make this mistake.

No matter what – discipline with consistency ( not consistently inconsistant) so that your child has a firm understanding of what his or her limits are. This also allows them the opportunity to self regulate later in life when you are not around.