I wish I could stay calm and cool. I wish I was one of those parents who so rarely raises their voice that when they do, kids attend immediately. Their teachers are particularly skilled. Kids will be being kids, unruly and giggly and squirmy, and the teacher will say something like Look at Tommy, sitting so nicely and quietly. Thank you Tommy. Kids, let’s all sit nice and quiet like Tommy, and the kids actually behave.
I don’t for a second believe I will ever have that skill, but I keep reading books and articles and trying.
One of the best resources I’ve come across to date for how not to lose your shit as a parent:
The Hand in Hand Parenting website and book. No, I do not get any money or anything (not even a free book) for recommending these people. But I am telling you, they are The Child Whisperers. Even their website overview is calming:
“Most times your child is calm and sweet. She climbs on your lap for another story; he easily shares his toys. But then there are those other times. The biting, the screaming, the tantrums. The times you don’t know what to do….. Our approach, workshops and resources all build on a child’s strong desire to love and be loved. We recognize that children are naturally good; they want to enjoy their life with you.”
Their whole shtick is about connecting with your kids using kindness, respect, warmth, and play techniques. I assure you, the times I’ve been able to control my rage, not yell, remember and then apply their teachings have all gone well.
There’s not many of those times. But the few I have had are memorable.
Like this week. Babygirl had not had a bath in two days, and she really, really needed a bath. She smelled like a nursing home patient. But we got home from Nana’s a bit on the late side, and then dawdled over dinner, and she got tired. And grumpy. I kept at it, however, arguing with her, listing all the reasons why she absolutely had to take a bath, peppering my completely logical statements with “It’s not a choice” and “I’m going to count to three” et cetera.
I filled the tub with warm water, carried her kicking and screaming into the bathroom, blocked her exit, ordered her to undress and yelled “Get in that tub dammit!”, none of which was at all effective.
She howled and stomped her foot and yelled “NO! I WON’T!”
I found myself tugging at her shirt, trying to get it off, then thinking I would just have to throw her in clothed, with her yelling and fighting against me… and all of a sudden, the whole thing struck me as really twisted.
I did NOT want her to think that adults forcing her to undress or do something she really didn’t want to do was in any way OK. I suddenly felt ashamed that it had got to this point at all. I sort of sank to the bathroom floor and let her sob. “Okay, okay,” I murmured. “Okay. I can see that you really, really do not want to take a bath. I am ready to listen to you.”
I waited as she wiped her tears, and then she stated, all serious: “I DO NOT want to take a bath, mama.”
I sighed, and tried to remember what the book said. “Okay, I think we can figure this out. Can you tell me why you don’t want to take a bath? Like, really?”
Her face scrunched up and she wailed, “Because as soon as I get in the tub, you’ll leave the bathroom to go do other things, and you’ll leave me all alone, and it’s so boring, and scary, and I DO NOT LIKE IT!”
As is often the case when kids speak a really obvious truth, I had to admit, she was right. I did often deposit one of them in the tub, then leave to attend to the other one, or fold laundry, or change out of my work clothes, or whatever.
I nodded. “You are correct, honey. But, I didn’t know it bothered you. What can we do to make tubby feel safe and fun?”
She thought for a second. “Well, you CAN’T leave the room. And, we have to do something fun.”
“Okay then,” I offered. “Let’s think of what may be fun. Playing with your tub toys?”
She shook her head no.
“Um, bubble bath?”
“Uh, listening to fun music?”
Hmmm. She’d been talking earlier about science, how she wanted to be a scientist, and do experiments. “How about bathtub science experiments?” I asked. I had a dim sense that that was a thing.
She shook her head yes! “Like what though, mama?”
I am not a bathtub science expert, but I know how to mix baking soda and vinegar together. “We’ll make a chemical reaction! Maybe things will explode!” I enthused.
“Okay, mama!” she was cheerful. Except that I did not have either ingredient on hand at that time, so we compromised with a good washcloth scrub before PJ’s, and promises were made for the NEXT tubby.
The next night, both kids were thrilled to get right into that tub. We made a volcano, though after my methods resulted in less-than-impressive bubbling, Babygirl grabbed the vinegar and DUMPED it into the recyclable bottle volcano, such that it absolutely and delightfully ERUPTED all over the floor. Which was fine, I was just so happy that they were happy. And clean.
Ever since, Babygirl has been gloating about how HER scientific methods are far superior to mine. Which is fantastic.
I need reminding about the Hand in Hand Parenting folks’ impressively effective childrearing strategies, but I have no time, so I subscribe to their Twitter feed under @listentokids and read their parenting blog posts on the fly. Most of the material is free, and all is useful.
Again, I receive nothing in exchange for this recommendation, so, check it out!