At least twice per week, I leave yoga class feeling rejuvenated, thoughtful, and clear. At
home, I spend time with my son while my daughter is at school; we play and have lunch before his nap then I will work while he rests. Shortly after he wakes, we pick my daughter up from school and then the atmosphere often shifts, most of the time for good as we all have fun and my son loves having his sister around. I will preface my diatribe that my daughter is a lovely and precocious little girl. She is smart, lively and funny. She loves life and it emanates from her. However, some days, her bear of an opposite comes out.
I picked her up from school yesterday feeling refreshed and ready to spend time with her after we did a couple of errands. The first thing out of her mouth was that she did not get any pink slips. She has never gotten a pink slip so I wasn’t exactly sure why I was supposed to be excited. Next she dove into the story of her and her friend planning a play date for after school. I explained that she could absolutely have a play date with her friend once the mother and I worked out the details for another day. This is the point where the day began to decline. She was angry about not having the play date immediately and then about the errands and whether I did or did not let her carry an item. A car passed us on the street and she asked why they were “cutting” in front of us. I explained that they were not cutting, they were going a different speed and to a different place so there is no problem with it; that it is not like kindergartners in a line and she should not be offended. I went on unnecessarily telling her that she should try not to think people are always trying to offend or hurt her by seeming innocent activities. Of course, this wasn’t what she wanted to hear. From that point on, I had enough and decided to just say “okay” to whatever negative opinions she had.
As the afternoon progressed, my almost 6-year-old argued with me, disobeyed, ignored, and all kinds of other normal 6-year-old indiscretions. I tried too hard to keep my cool so that by the end of the day I practically was growling, firmly and clearly enunciating my words while steam blew out of my ears. I don’t think my attempt at cool worked at all even if I wasn’t a screaming banshee. I finally told her that her behavior had been awful all day and it was unacceptable to which she ran off screaming telling her father that I called her an “awful child”. It was a mess. Finally, I got both kids to bed and I felt completely worn out both mentally and emotionally. Then, the guilt set in as it usually does after challenging times with my kids. How did I spin from a place of mental clarity and rejuvenation down a spiral ending in exhaustion and frustration?
I feel my practice in many parts of my life beyond the mat but motherhood is challenging. It challenges my patience and my abilities to roll with all the changes that constantly present themselves. Both of my kids are growing and changing and what once worked no longer does. Discipline is becoming harder with my daughter; she doesn’t seem to mind any of her punishments and seems to be growing out of “time out” which I am at the beginning of training my son. Yet, he puts himself in time out now so I think he might think it’s fun. I find myself telling my daughter, “If you do that one more time, uh, um, er, then…uh, you’ll be in trouble!” Not so effective, right? It is time to evolve and unify and I think I have learned some lessons to help:
What NOT to do with an almost 6-year-old:
- Argue the reasons why a passing car is not “cutting”
- Argue that the word is “backward” not “backwards”
- Argue that her bear would be embarrassed without clothes on at “Bring a bear” to school day
- Argue that the bear might actually have feelings
- Get into a “no it’s not…yes it is” battle
- Have a power struggle over picking up a sock
- In general, do not argue with a child because they have an argument that you just can’t defeat and it is: “well, that’s how I do/say/spell it!”
What TO do to with an almost 6-year-old to maintain mental clarity:
- Say “okay” to any nonsensical rationalizations your child has
- Focus on your breath as both children run screaming at the top of their lungs through the house
- Calmly give if/then statements with a well thought out consequence…the “uh, um, er…” doesn’t work because the child moves on before you finish the sentence.
- Make your child clean toilets when they’re naughty. (This was my friend’s brilliant idea that backfired because her son actually enjoyed it. Ha!)
- Take kids to the park to burn off energy
And finally, give your child a hug when you feel most challenged. It will immediately defuse the situation. That is what I should have done and what I did today after the park.
How do you calmly discipline and handle your child’s difficult moments?