Thursday, December 26, 2013

Parenting Beyond

Sometimes all you can do is sit with yourself. And think. Sometimes all you can do is be honest and hold yourself accountable. Specifically, for the things you haven't been doing well. That's where I've been lately.

My kid does not have good parents lately. And by "lately" I mean for the last year. (At least.) Reading this blog post by Hands Free Mama the other day really drove home this point for me. And then, when I re-read this post of mine, well, I just felt awful.  I know that I am sometimes a bully to him. I know that both his parents sometimes bully him. It's simply unacceptable. The parent I've become is not the one my son (either of them) deserves, not the one I want them to have.

The whole birth-5yrs age range is one I'm good at. I totally know how to deal with it. Now, I'm not saying I'm perfect at it, because lord knows I'm not. But, I'm knowledgeable and feel pretty competent even in addressing and overcoming the inevitable bumps in the road.

However, since the kid has surpassed that age range, well, I've been grasping at straws, fumbling along, and overall sucking. Now, it's not like that's a completely new realization for me. But, reading that blog post made me really face that what I've been sucking at has serious and long-term implications for my son and for our relationship. And that was like a punch in the gut. And, hopefully, an impetuses to change.

Unfortunately for the kid, baby E was born just before the kid passed out of the range I'm good at. And, had E not come along at that particular point, I might have managed this all better. But he did. And I didn't. So here we are. Two, almost 3 years later, my poor boy with a crappy momma.

Now, I have my moments, when I'm not so bad, moments when I feel like I've hit the nail on the proverbial parenting head, but I feel like those are few and far between. I don't expect perfection - from either of us ("done is better than perfect" is one of my favorite sayings), but I do want to be able to look back at the end of a week and not think, "aw crap" when I review the parent I've been to him. I find myself often frustrated by, impatient with, and overall pissed off by what I*know* are typical behaviors for his age. We're talking, lying, sneakiness, being inconsiderate of others. (Also, please know, these are not behaviors my kid does all the time; most of the time he is such a good, kind, sweet boy. But, when these behaviors do pop up, well, ugh.)

I think my frustration is mostly because I don't know what to do to address those behaviors. I know all about 123 Magic and we use it with varying degrees of success (it works for stopping a behavior already in progress, but not in preventing those behaviors). I know about behavior charts, but, and I'll be honest here, hubby is not on board with these (in that he lacks the consistency to make them work. Which is an issue in and of itself, I admit). Also, I don't find that they again help in the preventing of the behaviors. Lots of techniques we've used work in redirecting him mid-behavior. Not much works (thus far) in preventing.

I don't know where to start. I feel like there are tons of books, blogs, and other resources for the littles, and for the teens. (Funny enough, those are the ages I feel best at, either end of the spectrum.) But, I can't seem to find anything for this age (the kid is 7, almost 8). Perhaps this is the "easy" age for everyone else and I'm just the oddball.

So, here's where you come in. What are your best (concrete!!!) tips for parenting school-aged kids? What books, what blogs, what resources do you suggest? Throw 'em at me. Please.

I will be a better parent this year. It's my I-don't-make-New-Years-resolutions resolution for 2014. And I need you to help me and to hold me accountable.

Today's Lesson: It can be hard to admit you are wrong. It can be hard to admit you need help. Certainly both are also humbling.


Al Coates said...

It is refreshing to read such an honest and heartfelt blog. As for advice, well who knows. We're all just doing our best. Sometimes i have to hi five myself cos I'm so good then two minutes later I have to give my head a shake as I've just been so rotten.
Hey ho, the idea of "good enough" parenting has changed my outlook. I do my best, sometimes. I do rubbish, sometimes. But mostly I'm alright. That in itself is a lesson for all children.
As for reward charts, we're crap at them so we gave up.
And Supernanny can go and jump, I could be fantastic with a TV watching me.

Hold fast.

Motleymommy said...

Ah Becky, I couldnt sleep last night, Thinking similar thoughts. I too want to be a better mommy, a better wife. Somewhere I have lost my patience which I have always prided myself on and often been complimented on....
Tips....I dont have any for right now... But I promise that if I do, I will bring them to you.... Good luck mama - lets do this together.

Thrift Store Mama said...

I wrote a similar e-mail to my mother's group 3 weeks ago, saying, in essence that our family was in a terrible rut.

It's hard to give parenting advice because there is such a huge gamut out there. But I will offer some advice because thanks to my friends' advice, I've seen improvement in the last 2 weeks.

1. Let my kids get away with some stuff: sneaking a piece of candy, not washing their hands and lying about it, shoving stuff in their closet when they are supposed to be cleaning. I pretend I don't notice or I smile at them and pretend to believe them when they lie to me.
2. Easing up or cancelling some of the less important rules.
3. Enforcing the other (remaining) rules even more.
4. Our kids are largely independent (at ages 6 and 8 they walk to/from school by themselves, as it's about 100 yards door to door) but I need to look for more ways to increase their independence and autonomy within acceptable limits.
The issues may be different in your family, but I hope these will serve as examples for things you could try.

I hate using those stupid behavior charts, but I love using this "gem" system - we've been using it for a good year or so and it really works.

Finally, the husband and I had to have (yet another) come to Jesus meeting with him about our relationship, the way we speak to each other, etc. We had both gotten lazy in using good communication styles and I had gotten lazy on holding up my end of household responsibilities which makes him cranky. We were contradicting each other in front of the kids, and arguing about how to handle it when one of them acted up. So, the husband and I also reduced the time we were co-parenting, i.e., if he is handling the after-dinner bath, bed, stories, then I am downstairs cleaning up the kitchen.

Hang in there - be gentle with yourself but also be willing to raise the bar.

Parenthood for Me said...

Becky, Thank you for visiting and commenting! My oldest is almost 7. I feel your pain on both counts. Don't be so hard on yourself. The fact that you notice a problem puts you ahead of the crowd in many cases. We all have room for improvement.

Was Living Down Under said...

I can totally relate to this post. I'm hardest on my oldest and it's worse if I am stressed or tired. Recently I read "How to talk so kids will listen and how to listen so kids will talk". It is amazing and I started implementing the language they suggest we use and almost immediately I noticed a difference.

Also I recently saw a Ted Talk by Bruce Feiler on Agile Programming. He talks about family meetings and how to make your family work better together. I had read other books (Positive Discipline) that talked about family meetings as well. I read someone else's blog who says they have "family huddles" because "meeting" gave the impression that something was wrong. They're a team and so every Sunday night they "huddle". I really liked that too.

Good luck! You can do it. Parenting is one step at a time. I look forward to reading about your journey

Jenny F. Scientist, PhD said...

Lord knows my kids drive me completely crazy - the only suggestion I have is something I just did with Bug (which is what made me think of it) - if he's annoying me, I sit there and count out five seconds before I speak to him again. Some days it takes ten seconds. For me, it prevents that automatic snapping-at-children response. And I say a lot, after those five seconds, "Please try again."

The only other thing I have to say - and again, I have a hard time remembering this myself sometimes - is that your kids are not going to grow up into psychopaths just because they're having a moment of being lying and inconsiderate.... you know, kids. And it's going to take my kids years to stop whacking each other in the face, lying to me, and grabbing things from other people. Also, kids are !@$$ing annoying no matter how much we love them, and you are not alone. I love my kids and they irritate the everloving daylights out of me. As I sometimes say to people, adults who act like children do would be locked up for FOREVER.

Camille Griffiths said...

My cut off date for feeling like a good mom is around 3 years old. I love the baby and toddler stage; even the newborn stage comes easily for me. So I wish I had some advice for you, but I am just fumbling along myself! Good luck, and don't be too hard on yourself. No one is perfect. Not a single mom out there never loses her temper!