Saturday, February 2, 2013

Swords, Satchels, and Psychology

I periodically have panic attacks (discreet ones) about parenting. When this happens I usually end up buying child psychology book only to be told what I already know, or told things I don't agree with (like "spanking is the only way to get through to your child"...but I do spank frequently on occasion. Is this illegal?)

A week or so ago, this happened again, and since it was after midnight, I decided to scour the books in the closet in the playroom. Somebody had dumped 5 or 6 parenting books on me a few years back, and I had carefully tried to avoid getting super offended by it, and promptly put them in said closet. Now I was ready, however, and browsed my growing collection of books.

I found one that looked promising, and lugged it off to bed with me.

Now, when I read a book, especially a psychology book, more specifically a child psychology book, I expect some hard facts and straight forward solutions. Otherwise, why buy the book?

And knowing the author of this particular book to (supposedly) be an expert on the little rug rats we young people seem to produce on a regular basis, I was fairly positive that I would be able to glean quite a bit of helpful information.

Now, let's back up a little....

The reason I was looking for all this helpful information was because I was (and am, to a certain degree) dumbfounded by my children's behavior.

Example 1: Every time Jeremy and I ask Joshua to do something he starts screaming "NOOOO!!!!!!!" at the top of his lungs and stamping his feet, and when we insist insistently until we were blue in the face and are forced to enforce a punishment, he screams out (as we turn off his lights and close his door) that he will never be our friend or have fun with us ever again (to which Jeremy has taken to reply "I'm not your friend anyway! I'm your DAD!" Yeah, we're super good at this parenting business.).

Example 2: Lily has figured out how to climb out of a bunk bed that had wooden boards screwed onto it (to prevent her from climbing down the side rungs), which were covered with blankets (and no ladder of course), and has decided that sitting on Eva and throwing things at her and/or hitting/biting/causing-general distress-etc towards her is super awesome, and tops it off by playing with all the wet wipes in the closet, leaving little bits of cottony wetness all over her floor, to which Eva responds with incessant weeping, that grows louder and louder, even after Lily has finally gotten tired of this game, and satisfies herself by sitting on the top bunk, occasionally whacking Eva with her blanket (probably because she wants Eva to stop). Our general response to all this is to remind Eva that it's Lily's room, too, and the best thing to do is ignore Lily, and, for pity's SAKE, STOP CRYING. And she takes this advice about as far as she, with her twiggy arms, could possibly throw it, if you could, indeed throw advice, and weeps bitterly, no doubt fancying herself as some sort of romantically tragic heroine.

Example 3: Eden discovered she can, indeed, scream rather loudly, and has decided it's a great idea to use this new talent when she wants more food, and will keep screaming and whacking me with tiny, colored tupperware cups until I fill them with more cereal. And she'll do this about 80 times until she is satisfied all the cereal is gone, and then keeps screaming because I don't magically produce Kix out of any gland in my body. She then, very carefully, lays down, very slowly, onto the ground, and, once she is safely on the floor, all stretched out, continues screaming until she is distracted by the cat, or one of the other kids, or the Kix swell up in her tummy making her feel full.

So, needless to say, I was ripe for the plucking when it came to book advice from the experts.

I read the book from start to finish in less than a week.

As I approached the last chapter, I began to suspect something. Well, a few somethings.

One: This guy just liked to hear himself talk.

Two: My kids aren't that bad.

So, in thinking about kids, and how to deal with these hiccups, I looked back at my week, and thought of the high points, and some valuable lessons I learned without some stupid book.

Jeremy, being all sorts of insightful, thought it would be super fun for Joshua to sew his own satchel. I think, despite all his protestations that he hates "Tangled," some of it has leaked in, since he made his own paper satchel, and has been carrying it around, looking rather stoic. The only problem with paper is that it's paper and it falls apart, and the contents of Josh's satchel end up on the floor and at the mercy of his two littlest sisters who enjoy ripping things. The project was awesome. Eva made one, too, and they both were happy and content all afternoon while we worked on them. Score.

Lesson learned: Children are their happiest and most compliant when their parents spend time and make an effort with them.

Joshua, while being super strong-willed, is extremely kind to his little siblings (Eva is an exception, since she is competition). He spent a good part of a morning fashioning swords out of paper for everyone (Eva included, since he needed someone to duel with), and came up with a cute tiny one for Eden. She then became the monster of their game, and Josh, Eva, and Lily spent a great deal of time laughing and running away from her, while she followed, completely oblivious to the fact that she was "it." She was just happy to have company, and, while I don't approve of sword violence, watching her grip that tiny sword was darling, and I was grateful that Joshua took the time to include his baby sister.

Eva also takes a great interest in Lily, and the two of them are frequently secreting themselves into their room to conspire about girly things and will often include Eden. They make some pretty elaborate girl games and it warms my heart to see them bonding, even though I know that come bedtime they turn into sworn enemies.

Speaking of Lily, while she has a fiery streak, has started coming up to me, asking me if I feel okay, and then will lay her tiny head on my belly and say, "I lool you!" It's super cute that she can't enunciate "love" yet. I'll miss "lool" when she figures out how to use her tongue.

And Eden, when she sees someone's distress, will go find their blanket for them. It's really cute, and she glows happily when we praise her for her good works.

Lesson learned: Focus on the positive with your kids. Seeing the good they do will make you less likely to freak out when they do something less than appealing. Accentuate the positive, as President Hinckley said.

So, there are lots of ups and downs. But nothing is so bad that you can't find the sunbeam somewhere in the cloudy skies. And, we have to remember...

Clouds eventually float away.

P.S. I suppose I should give the dumb psychologist some credit...Here are some of his vague points I liked:

1. Make sure that you take care of yourself. Exercise, read a book, sneak away in the closet and eat some chocolate. Do something NON kid related so you don't end up going crazy.
2. Kids are different. Some are strong-willed, some are compliant, but that doesn't mean one is better than the other. This was super helpful to me since I have at least one of both, and that explains why they don't get along all the time.
3. Make sure when you say no, you mean no, and you kindly stick to your guns. It worked with Eden, and she stopped her cereal tantrums. Mostly.

If you would like to read the other-wise abysmally unhelpful book for yourself, it's called Parenting Isn't For Cowards by Dr. James Dobson. 


FINDING PEACE IN 2012 said...

Dobson does have a book that I do like (though admittedly I haven't read the whole thing, but my mother swears by it) called "The strong-willed child". My mom gave me a copy before I even had kids so I could get a head start since, she did after all, curse me with the "mothers curse". Yeah, she thinks she's sooooo funny!

My all-time favorite book is "how to raise a boy" which is helpful with girls too. It's old and I'm not sure if its out of print. It's not a child psychology book, but well-written and funny. It helps me realize most of the things my kids do are age appropriate.

It's hard to remember as a parent that we are usually doing better than we think. But boy can it be overwhelming!

Les said...

I totally understand!!! I have been going the rounds with Mark this past week, he is frequently loosing his temper and hitting/kicking myself or James. After almost a very bloody accident which involved an exacto knife I picked up Love and Logic and watched a bunch of you-tube videos. The thing which I got out of all this was basically the same things you did especially play with your kids. That has been a New Year's resolution of mine, hopefully I can do better than I did this week.

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