Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Slow parenting

My kids started off this morning like in a scene from a barroom brawl. Words were spoken, insults were tossed and it ended in milk being thrown across the kitchen at each other. No, there were no glass milk bottles broken off at the stem, but a quick intervention was needed. As the director of Mission: Sustainable quipped on my Facebook page, it was like "Roadhouse-lite". Indeed.

It's been downhill all day. Needless to say, the short school day didn't help (why do they have off every other day and half-days the rest of the time, tell me?). The afternoon escalated into messing up one person's room and screaming from the affected party. I, on the other hand, was trying to sleep on the couch since I felt like crap. So, in my not-so-finer moments, I barked instructions from the living room to help placate the problem.

The nuttiness has been going on pretty much all day. Approximately 5 Lego sets were taken away for the remainder of the week. I can't say it helped immediately, but it made me feel slightly better.

Parenting can be particularly difficult. We've been trying to eliminate the yelling as it becomes a habit that is not only hard to break, but one that is the only effective method that works. The kids tend to escalate and can't hear or respond to anything except outright screaming. I hate it. I don't think any parent in that position likes it or feels good about it.

I've been trying to employ more "slow parenting" techniques. I really have no idea what that actually means, but the intent is to slow down and not get too overwhelmed by the craziness that is having children. So, while I may not be totally successful in my interactions with the kids, I am certainly more mindful of my responses, even if I don't always achieve optimal success.

What about you parents out there? Have you found a happy medium in dealing with the kids? Or do you fantasize about putting them up in a listing on Craigslist?


mudnessa said...

bar room brawl but with milk in a kitchen with kids. sounds quite eventful. one of the shows i watched on tv tonight, the middle, dealt with the kids and mom always yelling at each other so the mom decided to stop yelling and let her kids do their own thing on their own time. it didn't end up going well but that's because it was in a sitcom. hope you can find a happy medium that works for you guys.

Megami said...

If you can find them, the 'Buddhism for Mothers' series by Sarah Napthali are amazing. You don't need to be a Buddhist (or want to be one) to get something out of them, but the approach is more a 'being kind to yourself, and your kids' than a how-to parenting book.

Anonymous said...

One of my psych nurse cohorts suggested whispering when screaming got out of hand. I have tried it a few times and it does tend to decompress things. But I am usually so exasperated at the moment the Last thing on my mind is being calm.

thesimplepoppy said...

I think if someone finds a sure-proof way of dealing with kids without yelling, they'd be rich. I don't believe any one parenting philosophy works for everyone. Mine are only 1 1/2 and 7 and they still manage to be at each other's throats. I know that spending a lot of quality time with the older one (obviously I have to spend a lot of time with the younger one) kind of puts her in a place where she handles things better and is more willing to let things go. Naturally that can't always happen,though, and well, we yell around here too.

Fleecenik Farm said...

I have a 17 year old and a 3 year old. One would think that because they are so far apart in age that the sibling stuff would not be too great. Surprisingly at moments it is like having 2 three year olds.

Yes, I can be a crazy mom..sometimes. But having already done this for 17 years, this is what I have learned.

Give them work. If problem solving doesn't work, if reasoning and redirection doesn't work. If I give them some one on one time but it doesn't quell the beasties within. Then chores will. With two kids you can get twice the chores done. Depending on the offence, will depend on the chore. If it is just to separate them so they can cool down, then sweeping and taking the garbage out. If it is serious like serious dis-repect, violence then it is mowing the lawn or cleaning the bathroom. It has to be something beyond their usual chores. Something that will give them time to think, something they will not glean too much pleasure from because it is a consequence. When it is all done, if they did a good job, you praise them for a job well done ( with the understand that they are kids). You discuss what was going on that lead them to do what they did. You help them to offer alternatives for the next time.

And you don't use it as a threat that opens you up to negotiation. You just do it.

Jenni said...

Great post, and great comments! I like what Simple Poppy said, about spending quality time with your kids individually. This is something that is hard, but I need to work on! My middle boy has the Peter Brady middle child syndrome, so I could really use a date with him! I try very hard not to yell, but occasionally just getting them out the door makes me weep!!

inadvertent farmer said...

Lol...hadn't considered craigs list, ebay had crossed my mind though!

With 5 kids (4 of which are boys) the noise level tends to be rather high around here even when none are fighting...sigh.

My slow parenting is a long bath when the kids are at grandma's!

Billie said...

don't we all get exasperated and yell? I try to keep my yelling to a minimum and mostly I manage to accomplish that. I don't have the kids full time so perhaps that helps in keeping my sanity.

I can also pretty much ignore anything and everything going on around me if need be. If the kids start fighting then I tell them they need to sort it out or quit playing together. I have enforced separate playing when they have gotten out of hand and they hate it.

The kids tend to act out in the same ways all the time and the consequences of that acting out are always the same. You do this and this is the consequence. I don't need to yell when they act out assuming I haven't already lost my cool. I just tell them that their punishment will be enacted. After several years of this... we have come a long way in taming the temper tantrums and correcting a fair bit of their out-of-control behaviour.

I always think the explanation sounds cold-hearted. I am not cold-hearted. I stick up for them if I think Papa is unreasonable. I kiss their boo-boos, deal with their bloody noses, hug them, tickle them, engage in snow fights and all sorts of other things. But the kids know that acting out comes with consequences and it really does seem to make my job easier to have that constant in our household.

And yes... sometimes Craigslist seems like a valid option!

Aimee said...

craigslist, hell - I fantasize about just tossing them out the window.
Thanks for coming out of the closet about yelling. I am a yeller, and I do hate it. Everybody hates it. Makes me feel like a total monster. It doesn't help that I'm married to man who has seemingly never raised his voice in his life.
I'm working on it. My current tactic when I find myself starting to yell is the good old fashioned time out - for me, not the kids. There are very few crisises that can't be put on hold for five minutes while Mommy locks herself in the bathroom to de deep breathing exercises.

Farmer's Daughter said...

Not a parent yet, 5 weeks and counting... but I've got 8 years experience dealing with teenagers! I rarely raise my voice, and my kids know that if I do, they've done something very, very wrong. For the most part, I have relatively lenient rules (well go to the bathroom if you need to go, don't ask me!) and it creates a relaxed atmosphere most of the time.

I'm hoping to be easy-going with my children as well, but of course we'll see.

Greenpa said...

ooooo, cheap blogging, Crunchella! Anybody got any advice on parenting? Are you kidding?? We're all about to explode from holding it IN!


My advice- make them laugh. Something about what they're doing is really ridiculous- if you can make them see it, they'll crack up, and half the battle is over. Tell them a story that mirrors the situation, but with elephants, or something, so they can see it from outside- they'll understand.

It's huge fun to watch their faces, when they're trying to hang onto their mad, but about to start giggling. Then you can poke them in the tummy or something, and they're off.

lene said...

In retrospect, I realize I was probably blessed with secondary infertility, although at the time I felt quite depressed about it. I've come to believe I was lucky to have just my son to care for, because I'm not sure I'd have handled the sibling issues with any measure of grace at all. As a mom to an only child, I did fine. He's going to be 24 this year, still is at home with us and we're all happy and enjoy living together.

I feel for you, being ill and having to play ref to the kids. They may be grouchier than usual themselves since they're coming off this cold, too. Slow parenting sounds like a wise approach, if you can muster the strength to focus on it. I was never that collected when I was sick, though, and I always regretted the fact that fatigue and illness made me grouchy.

BTW, I got my wonderful new Glad Rags recently, and proceeded to cut up the old flannel rags I'd been using into cloth TP. Only to be used after peeing, for now, as we're just not quite ready to tackle the equivalent of poopy diapers again at this stage. If it ever comes to it and there's no good choice, then so be it; I've still got the know-how to handle shitty cloth and I'm not too squeamish to do it, but neither I nor the guys feel like handling it right now. Still, one more step, eh?

Hang in there and try to get some rest. I hope you'll be feeling better soon.

Julie said...

Probably too late to suggest this now but just having one seems to solve a lot of the fighting problems ;-) (although I certainly remember raising my voice occasionally, I think it's unavoidable when mothering)

Brad K. said...

I got too long with my suggestions, so I put them up here.

In short - try "Tools for Teaching" by Fred Jones, and try what works for the teacher - walking within three feet every five minutes, looking for a passive but positive effect. And take a calming breath immediately when you feel irritated, so the adrenaline rush doesn't build to full strength.

Enjoy! Soon enough you will send them out dating, and have other things to worry about!

equa yona(Big Bear) said...

I was so fortunate to have a boy and a girl who almost never fought! What I did if behaviors got rowdy was speak in a deep and scary voice, not too loudlythe first time. If that didn't fix it I physically intervened without saying anything until I snatched them up and sent them to time out.

Katy said...

I only have one child and she never fights with herself.

Seriously though I grew up with a sister who was only 15 months older than me. I think my mom tried to keep an eye out for when we would start getting on each others nerves because it was always right when we were about to start a fight that mom would ask us to clean something up or get her a glass of water or tell us we needed to go out in the garden and pick some herbs for dinner.

Of course, you aren't always there so fights will start and you will yell, but just know that your kids aren't going to be tromitized for life. Unless you are a shadow parent who follows them around and yells at everything they do, but you don't strike me as on of those.

Ecodea said...

This blog has worked wonders for myself and my 5 year old!

Holly said...

It's like your oxygen mask on the plane. When there is turbulence, put yours on first before assisting those around you that need help. If you are sick, take care of yourself, because if you don't your not much help to those around you. Pick the battles to fight when you are back to yourself. Until then don't cry over thrown milk and keep yourself on the couch. Good luck.

dee dee said...

One time when my kids were fighting and I thought I would lose my mind, I started to cry. I don't think my kids had never seen me cry before. I told them that their fighting made me feel so sad that I just couldn't help crying. They stopped fighting for awhile. I never did it again. And they fought for years. Now they're in their 20s and, though they still have their occasional noisy disputes, they love and care for each other.

igrowkids said...

I am SO going to try Slow Parenting! I love this concept. For everything, not just discipline. I am always saying 'come on' 'hurry up'...and the pressure starts from there!

Thanks for the inspiration!


cindy24 said...

I have 4 and I yell. I was shocked to see friends yell at their kids before I had my own. I don't like it..., but many many times they don't listen until my voice is raised. They tell me (or actually my mother) that I yell at them and I ask why they can't listen the first time. ages 10, 9, 5 and 4. I did go to a parents night at my church that dealt with this. I bought a book "when no gets you nowhere" perhaps I should pull it out since I bought it a fews years ago.

Surviving and thriving on pennies said...

I admit I yell at times too. As we speak, my 5 yr old twin girls had 80% of their toys taken away and they are in the garage. Serious. All they have is their beds and a few remaining toys left. You think they would clean their room to get them back....but no. How long have they had their toys taken away?? A month now. Yep, a whole month and they still wont budge.
Parenting-the least paid job in the world

The Nurturing Pirate said...

I often say that raising kids is like raising dogs. You have to be immediate with feedback. And you have to find out what motivates them. For some kids, losing toys or priveleges is not an issue. But take away their freedom to play outside, and they're ready to listen.

Just this morning, dd had a rough time, dragging her lunchbox on the ground & finally throwing it onto the grass in a fit of rage. I said, "Fine. You've lost the privelege of having a lunchbox today AND you don't get to walk to school. Get in the car." Oh the howling! "What am I going to have for luuuuuuunnnncccchhh???" Since sending her to school with no food didn't seem to be a wise idea, I put a few things in her backpack. It's all about creative solutions & discipline. It drives me nuts! I've also done the "speak *very* softly" trick, and that does seem to work to get them to at least stop yelling long enough to hear what I have to say. Sometimes it's so loud, I have to be very animated to get there attention though. Acting like a crazy person does seem to work though. Diversion worked when they were babies; why not when they're older too?

Since they're only 3 and 6, we're also practicing taking turns talking. Nothing makes me lose my mind faster than when 2 people are talking to me at the same time(sometimes *3* when dh talks at the same time! I wonder where they get it...).

Laura said...

I second Greenpa's make them laugh. :) it has the added benefit of making your laugh too! ;)
For fights between kids I'm thinking you could get excited and start narrating the bickering like a wrestling match or boxing match or something. Give out points for silky stuff, use a silly announcer voice, give them over the top wrestler names, etc.
Also, say yes whenever is humanly possible. Instead of the answer always being no, have a yes in your mind and only change it to a no if you think they will lose an eyeball or something.

My two cents. :)!

Hippy Goodwife said...

That's a great idea, slowing down. I am a yeller ( I do try not to yell...) It never helps. You would think I would learn already. I have a friend who makes warring sibs sit on the couch and hug until they can calmly restate whatever the problem was. Sounds a bit creepy to me, but she swears it works.

Anonymous said...

Well . . . I was raised with a LOT of yelling and I HATE it. I hate hearing it and I hate doing it. So I have always been highly motivated to achieve complete yell avoidance. And I've actually been pretty successful, and also, I think, lucky. I have two girls, 2 3/4 years apart. Having girls helps, but I also know a single mother of three boys between 5 and 9 who is an even more peaceful parent than I am. I call her the "boy whisperer."

Some things that have helped me--

I believe that (at least on a personal level and absent true psychopathology) all problems, whether practical or interpersonal, are solvable with the application of calm analysis, empathy, reason, realism, good will, creativity, and understanding. I really believe that. It has been my experience throughout life (and I'm in my early 50's), and this belief is at the foundation of almost everything I try to teach my kids. What does that have to do with yelling? Well, if you have faith that you can solve a problem, even if the solution is at first unclear, you can relax a little. No need for tension, stress, or anger. So no need to yell.

I don't do a lot of overt "discipline", but I run a tight ship and expectations for fairness, respect (by which I mean true respect and not mere subordination to authority, which is what many people actually mean when they insist on "respect")and good manners are very high and have been from a very early age. When they do bicker, it's usually related to a lack of courtesy or respect, so we focus on that. We sit down. We calm down (which is possible because we KNOW we can solve the problem). I facilitate while they negotiate whatever the problem was. It's almost always worked.

Another thing that has worked very well is, when they are just too "hot" to listen to each other and negotiate their way through a problem, I send them to their room together and tell them not to come out until they are ready both to give and receive a hug from the other.

One reason I don't have to yell is that from a very early age my kids have known that I MEAN WHAT I SAY. It's very helpful when your kids know this. I don't have to threaten, I don't have to repeat myself. Our rules are very few (really -- to the schedule bound our basically unschooling household looks thoroughly undisciplined and unstructured. It's not -- but the discipline and structures are so fundamental as to be essentially invisible), but the rules we have are clear and consistently applied. They know in advance that "No" means "No" and that unless they have a very clear and rational counter-proposal to make, they are to drop the subject. (The best way to eliminate whining or nagging is NEVER to reward it.) They know in advance that if they X, the consequence will always be Y, no excuses, no bargaining, no exceptions.

Another yell-avoidance aid -- When I am in the kitchen (when am I not?!) and need to summon them, I don't call them, I ring a bell. The bell "depersonalizes" the summons, so it's not Mom interrupting their play or whatever, but the bell (which is a much more pleasant sound than my raised voice anyway). And since I trained them to respond to the bell (when they were about 2 and 5) using chocolate chips, and since even now at least 60% of the time the bell is summoning them to a meal, or meal-related chore, they still, at 11 and 14, come running quite happily.

(too long, sorry, continued next comment)

Anonymous said...

(continued, sorry for the length)

I strongly recommend that anyone, who wants to train themselves not to yell, and to train their children to respond positively and consistently to something other than yelling, read "Don't Shoot the Dog" by Karen Pryor. Its title notwithstanding, it is not about dog training, but about how to encourage and develop improved behaviour in oneself and one's family, coworkers, etc. It is a truly life changing book and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Wow. This got very long, and I sound a little priggish and maybe a little superior. Sorry. I don't mean it that way. No time to refine it. It is heartfelt and reflects my experience. The nice part about all of the above is that it adds up to a very happy, peaceful household. We laugh, and sing, and have fun every day. We tease. We tell dirty jokes. We watch R-rated movies (and TALK about them). We have homeschooled since the very beginning and not once in 14 years have I ever wished my kids were in school. Clear boundaries equals contented kids. (Works with dogs, too. I was a dog trainer before I had kids, and I’ve always been grateful for that..) Good luck to everybody.

P.S. When do I yell? I yell when we're running late and having trouble getting out the door. Once we're in the car and on our way, though, I always apologise, and we try to figure out how to smooth the process in the future. Then I yell the next time we’re running late!