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Go to Your Room

We are a blended family. That is, my mother remarried when I was 9 years old, and with that marriage we earned a father (yea, since my dad was MIA), a sister, and a brother. That means, our small family of 4 (mom, sister, brother, me) became a family of SEVEN! We had enough for a starting line up for a basketball team, plenty for 3 on 3, and the infield of a baseball game. It was amazing. Now,  I was a part of a large family, naturally, since that’s what the Maternal side is all about. My grandmother had 10 children, many of whom had more than 3 children themselves. Yes, I have more than 40 cousins on one side.

There are many neat things about having a big family. There are many neat things about getting a new, involved dad. But, then, when you’re growing up, there is the downside – the discipline factor.

I was a very angry kid. There were things that affected my childhood that I am still not over, to this day. Biological father leaving when I was five has left a scar that will never be fully healed, no matter the relationship I have with him now. As a child, it contributed a lot to my anger, loneliness, and frustrations that I felt. When I entered the  (pre)teen years, I became even more irritable. I would act out, lash out, be belligerent, and just plain rude – to my mother. So much so, that I dread Levi become a teen and all that teenage angst that comes with it. I suffered it. I’m sure my husband did, and I’m not looking for the “turn about is fair play”.

So, how do you deal with a belligerent teenager? I was grounded a fair amount, but one thing my step-father did has stuck with me to this day. When I would back talk to my mother, he would firmly grab my arm. He would instruct me that I do not talk to my mother like that. And, I was to go to my room until I cooled off.

When I was first sent to my room, I think I was there for hours. I don’t remember very clearly. What I do remember is getting bored. I remember learning, from this, to take a breath, step back, to clear my head. I’ve learned as an adult to better articulate my feelings. Those lessons were good to get me to calm down. I used to brag in high school that I would never hold a grudge – just give me 15 minutes and I’ll be over “it”, whatever it was for the time.

Now, I am a parent. Now, I have a child who I send to his room.

Levi was 18 months old. He started a temper tantrum. It was instinctual at that point. I simply said, “Go to your room until you calm down.” He didn’t. So, I walked him to his room. Sure, we’ve done time outs since he was 9 months old. Again, taking solace in Jo Frost‘s methods, and utilizing the one minute per age guideline. But, there are some things I don’t want in our kitchen (our time out space) – and that is hollering and caring on.

“Go to your room” was popular with my husband too. He has described every other place in our house, specifically the living room, the “Happy Zone.” The idea is, Levi is upset, cannot gain control of his emotions, he is sent to his room until he can gain control of his emotions, and then he is allowed to come out. Sometimes we shut the door, but not always. Sometimes he shuts it! He has his animals in there, so he can cuddle with his Rabbit if need be.

The first few times, he was in there close to a half hour. Our home is small, so we can hear everything that goes on, but we would and will check on him to ensure everything is okay. If he is really upset, I often check on him after the initial fit has calmed. Progressively, his time in the room has shortened. Usually, he comes out now and says, “I’m all better now.” We’ll talk about or try to talk about what was going on. I’m hoping Levi will tell me what prompted the fit.

The other day, I said, “Okay, time for bed.” He had been warned beginning 30 minutes prior. The last warning was the 5 minute warning. He was coloring on the floor with his new markers and coloring book. He started screaming when I said the 5 minute was up. So, as we sometimes do, I picked him up over my shoulder, like a sack of potatoes, and brought him to his room. I set him down, gave him a hug, and asked him what was going on. He said, “But! I still want to draw!!” Finally! Levi told me what was going on! I thanked him for telling me, and told him he could draw for 5 more minutes after we got him ready for bed. And he did. And bedtime was fine.

After 2 years of being sent to his room. Almost 3 years of time outs, Levi is now beginning to articulate how he feels. I know that’s what attachment parenting aims for – we have done it in a different way and yet have achieved the same or similar results. This too gives me solace that we are doing at least what’s right for our family.

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Attachment Parenting as Paradigm Shift

Rousseau complained in his First Discourse how, in the wake of the Industrial Revolution, we relied too much on specialists to answer our problems and too little on our own reasoning. He complained that we have Mathematicians, and Scientists, and Chemists to solve our problems, all commodifying humanity.

I had a discussion today with a friend, and advocate of Dr. Sears Attachment Parenting, who described attachment parenting more as a means to get in touch with our intentions, desires, and how we really want our children to grow up. Then, recognizing these things, making conscious decisions in our parenting to reflect those values. She bemoaned folks who have a desire to check things off a list and call that attachment parenting because it took the feeling out of it. Attachment Parenting, from what I understand of her view of it, is taking conscious goals and relaying them to situation-specific moments within the big picture.

I argued that attachment parenting, worded that way, was more a way to engage a paradigm shift in our society where we move away from these roles (as Rousseau described) into more holistic thinking and living.

What do you think?

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Kids Just Being Kids

What's it all about......351/365
Image by AndYaDontStop via Flickr

Did you ever see that late 80s flick Parenthood with Steve Martin? One of the parents in the movie was obsessed with ensuring their kiddo had a good start to life. So much so that he had her memorizing multiplication tables at 4. Most of the parents in the flick didn’t obsess over their children in such a way, as if in some ways the other parents got it.

My mother gets it.  My grandmother certainly got it. They get that kids need a certain amount of freedom and play. (My mother the classic, self-identified, “worry-wort.”) The farm, where she lives, is the one place where I feel it’s safe enough, despite the farm equipment and falling down barn, for Levi to run free. So, why did we collectively, as a society, forget that kids need to be free range?

As stated previously, I’m reading The Trouble with Boys. I am amazed at the number of stories she lists where authoritarian rule prevails over actual learning. I am surprised that we actually have to study and think about linking kids failure to thrive in school is linked to their inability to run around in school. When I stop to pause over this, I only think, “Duh!”

On one hand, I shouldn’t be surprised, as it seems an extension from our days of old. I’m thinking of the image of a Nun teacher wrapping children’s hands with rulers when they don’t behave or act in a predictable manner.

But, kids had recess then. Kids could run to the end of the block and play in the woods, behind the housing developments, away from parents – for hours. So, if many schools are taking the authoritarian position, and removing recess, our pendulum has swung, and not for the better.

I remember sitting in school when spring broke free. I remember staring outside at the sun, peaking behind the clouds, and how the air just looked warm. I loved school learning, but that was the last place I wanted to be on those warm spring days. I wanted to be outside, sitting under a tree. My brothers would have rather been running around, playing games, or riding their bikes. Anywhere but school. Anyplace other than one that required your butt be nailed to a chair.

Are we, as adults, so far removed from our childhoods that we have forgotten what its like? The cross-hairs between wanting to grow up, not knowing full responsibility, and just wanting to play? Are we so far remved from childhood, as adults, that we have forgotten what its like to be a kid, and let kids just be kids?

We grow up so fast. I heard a story on NPR the other day that was talking about how the human brain doesn’t become fully developed until after 21! We have girls going through puberty at 8 years old (another topic, another time), a full 13 years before their brains reach adult maturity!! And, those pre-pubescent problems are not alone with how we push kids in preschool, fast tracking maths and other studies. What are we doing to our children? Add to that the safety-obsessed society we are… I wonder how much we our robbing from todays’ children and how we are making them grow up well before their time. Does it differ greatly from wars and when girls would marry at 14?

I’m perplexed by this need for daycare. I’m reading The Trouble with Boys and thinking about my bouncy boy in an all-day kindergarten. I’m thinking about recess and play time and full time jobs and homemade snacks when he comes home. I hope my husband and I continue to remember to let Levi be a kid because he has this one chance and its our job to preserve it as much as we are able.

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The Parenting Pendulum

If you’ve been reading this blog, you probably have gotten the idea that I like to discuss ideas. (Come on people, comment more!) Relationships, in their myriad forms, are at the crux of many of these discussions. Whether it be politics, religion, love, friendship, parenting, sibling rivalry – relationships are the basis of discussion. How we work together, how we decide together, how we live together. In a recent post, I discussed my skepticism of attachment parenting. Getting Levi in daycare, these past two weeks, picking up The Trouble with Boys, and just thinking more about how we raise our children makes me wonder about how we raise our children.

I was in kindergarten. We were living in Iron Mountain, Michigan. My school had two floors. We lived at the top of a hill. We lived there during winter. I would slide down the hill and climb back up (no fun), when it was covered with ice and snow. School was maybe two blocks away from home. There was a small main street, and I think the laundromat was near school, although that recollection is much fainter.

I remember having to sit with my head down, arms folded on my desk, the standard punishment when something bad was done. I remember my name being written on the board, the clue to how you knew you’d been bad. I remember sitting out recess and not being able to play with the toys. I remember being confused because for the life of me, I had no idea what I had done wrong.

I have asked my mother about this, and she rationalized that I was simply a brat at that age. So, what would make a 5 year old girl such a brat? Well, my father had left. I think that would have done it.

So, why do kids act out, and what do we do as adults to deal with it? 27 years ago, my name was put on the blackboard in the bad corner, and I had to sit at my desk (the ONLY kid) with my head down wondering what the hell I had done wrong. My adult brain wants a rational reason for being put in time out. My adult brain wants to discuss this bad thing, and certainly, simply know what that bad thing was.

Now, I am a parent. Now I employ timeouts and sometimes spankings. The frustration I feel when Levi doesn’t listen (something that is quite typical for the 3 year old) says talking out feelings doesn’t work all the time. Why? Because the kiddo isn’t listening. Watching Levi’s teachers and they patience the consistently employ is amazing. (The State of Oregon and ridiculous school policies will be expanded on when I have more energy.) I don’t have that kind of patience, day to day. I have patience, but I don’t have that kind of patience. There is a difference, and the reason why I haven’t explored teaching as a profession. Sometimes, as a parent, I need a quick, “STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND LISTEN TO ME.” So, I warn, sometimes I raise my voice, and sometimes I yell. It’s not that I’m angry, per se, it’s an attention getter for kids. This is what I don’t understand about attachment parenting (or rather my understanding of it).

In Attachment Parenting, it’s as if the prophesiers of the theory forget about kids not listening. As the adult, you are supposed to be calm, all the time, kneel, look the child in the eyes, and talk about your feelings until the cows come home.

As a child, I wished more people would have sincerely asked me how I felt. As a child, I didn’t feel listened to, and I am sure thats why I acted out. But, not all children act out out of frustration. Some do, and it’s not paid enough attention to (enter The Trouble with Boys). But, as a society, our pendulum has swung, and we’re missing some links in our chains.

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Parenting Styles – Skeptics Please Stand Up

San Galgano, Church

I am including San Galgano as a bastion of simple Catholicism. Beautiful, authoritative, long standing. Image by Michelle Lasley via Flick

I’ve written previously about my skepticism towards magazines that give advice. Given a magazine’s typical audience, I think this was sound advice. I’ve done enough research papers to want to see the studies behind a given claim or something attributed as fact. I may not understand the tables and techniques used to devise one study over another, but I have enough sense to be able to figure out the gist of what the panel of authors is trying to tell me.

As parents, we are given a lot of advice. It comes from non-parents, grandparents, our parents, pediatricians, general practitioners, OBs, chiropractors, teachers, clergy, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, friends, foes, strangers at the super market! Some days it’s enough to make me feel a little batty.

There seems to be one (set of) Doctor(s) who appears to be the leading sage on kiddos: Dr. Sears. He advocates attachment parenting, has an answer for everything, and goes against “mainstream” parenting ideas. Warning bells ring in my head.

OK. Many (many) of my friends like Dr. Sears. They find what he’s saying to fit their needs as a parent. I am glad they have found something that works for them. Please, if you are reading this, know that I am. I have seen your parenting style, and you are firm and affectionate, and I respect, appreciate, and admire that.

View from Church

But, I am a skeptic. A self-identified Catholic, I don’t agree with the church on many things (Hello? Women? Priests should be defrocked for thinking of ordaining one of us? Seriously, get with the times). And, I get really skeptical when another human is held up on a pedestal where upon he cannot be struck down – well – I get really skeptical.

AttachmentParenting.org has my skepticism on their FAQ. Remember my frustration in Momma Bear? When parents don’t do anything to “teach” their children that a behavior is wrong? Attachment Parenting apparently advocates this approach when addressing toddlers who hit:

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you let him hit other kids. By remaining close by and engaged in his play, you will often be able to intervene before your son lashes out at another child. In the event that he does hit another child, you can model empathy and issue an apology to set the example for him. You can help your son put his feelings into words and continue to work with him on sharing (or “taking turns,” which is sometimes an easier concept to understand). By staying calm and comforting his distress, you help regulate his emotions and model empathetic behavior.

Frequently Asked Questions 3rd Principle: Respond with Sensitivity, Attachment Parenting International

As an adult, I have difficulty expressing how I feel to many, including my closest loved ones. I have always been this way, although I am closest to my mother and my sister whereby my difficulties are lessened dramatically. I trust them, implicitly, even if I don’t agree with their decisions or advices for me. For others, I generally start off guarded and slowly get to know folks, treading carefully to see if I can fully trust someone. My mother was an authoritative parent. She was raised by authoritative parents. My husband is an authoritative parent who was also raised by authoritative parents. Part and parcel of being authoritative, from how we were raised, was being shown consequences for our actions. The simple idea behind this philosophy was to get us to think before we acted. If we pushed our siblings we likely would have been spanked and/or had something taken away, a favorite toy, to show there is a consequence for our action. Again, the idea being that repeated demonstrations of actions and their consequences would lead us to think before speeding, for example, as a young teenage driver. We would have been told as we got older that speeding could lead to reckless driving which could lead to death. Our deaths would cause sadness and grief for our families, so please think before putting the pedal to the metal.

The above example is a demonstration of articulating feelings. While I appreciate the attempt, it is short sighted and one sided. It only asks the hitter, the child acting out, to display his feelings. It says nothing of the child being hit. The child being hit only receives a half hearted apology because how sensitive are those 2 year olds (yes, I have met some who have genuine, real feelings, but many seem quite underdeveloped).

This half-hearted parenting actually does a disservice to our children. This type of parenting is the type of parenting teachers complain about when they get into schools. First, the parent modeled the apology but didn’t ask the child to respond. This would only teach the child that their parents will fix their problems for them, which is the problem many of my teacher friends complain about. The child received a poor grade, for example, on a test because they goofed off in class and didn’t pay attention. The consequence for their action was the poor grade. The angry parent demands the grade be fixed because their child couldn’t possibly have received a poor grade.

This example highlights my skepticism of attachment parentings. It sounds like cuddling without the consequences. If we just cuddle, everything will be all right. Well, you may have a nice time cuddling with your child, but my kiddo was just pushed by your attached child.

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