Thursday, May 9, 2013

Discipline, Tiredness, and Life With Three

Just when you think you have things "innnn controlllll" (as Animal says on The Muppets)...your kid or kids (in my case) hits a new stage and the tried-and-true plan goes out the window.

We've had a lot of struggles in the past few months.

For one, I'm learning (and finally, settling into) to parent three kids.   The other day I asked my husband, "What did I do when I only had two kids?"   I cannot even remember what that life was like, that life that was only 4 months ago.

For another, my second child, who is 2.5, cannot stay in bed.   We've tried everything.  Everything.   So before you ask if I've purchased a noise machine, given her a supplement or special tea, had her iron levels checked, dimmed the lights, turned on the ceiling fan, or let her read books in bed, baby-gated or crib-tented her in....well, just don't.     And her antics keep her sleep-loving older sister awake, and then hysterical.  Bedtime has been a complete circus.

Then the kids, after being healthy all winter, all got colds.   And then Miss E's asthma and allergies flared up (hello spring and all it's allergens) and Baby E got a bad case of croup which meant by day, she was her energetic self and by night, she couldn't breathe, was crying so much she puked all over me, and we had to sit with her in a steamy bathroom reading books until she could finally chill out.

Then by the time we got both girls asleep, Baby Z would wake up for his last feeding, leaving zero time for mom and dad to look at each other for a few seconds, talk about the day, or even breathe.  

We've also been dealing with a few open adoption struggles.

Ok, so back to discipline.

It's so easy to get fed up, frustrated, and just really really pissed off.    For one, a mom of multiple kids is juggling not only multiple personalities and preferences, but new life stages and struggles.   My oldest really wants me to just do stuff with her and just sit and listen to her.  My middle child wants me to watch; additionally, I have to keep my eye on her at all times because she's a daredevil.  (I'm typing this as she inches off the couch to sit on the end table and play with the lamp while peeking at me under her eyelids to see if I'll respond.)   And of course, having a new baby brings about it's own constant challenges and adjustments.  

I'm realizing a few things:

1:  It's ok to have a day that the world would deem "unproductive."   If all we accomplish is getting dressed, playing, and eating----well, that's ok.   If we skip preschool because it's just better to sleep in and have a lazy morning where everyone wakes up well-rested and happy, that's ok.   If we aren't in 20 million activities (like most other kids I know), well, that's great!  More time for free play that isn't directed/dictated by adults.

2:  Parenting is exhausting (and Mommy Brain is a true medical condition).  Having three kids is way harder than two.  WAY HARDER.  I will even get all three kids in the car and think, "Where is the other kid?"  (Yep, there is no fourth kid.  I can't even remember some days how many kids I have or what their names are).    So carving out as many mini-breaks as I can is ok.  It is ok to ignore my kids' antics on the playset while I read a magazine.   It's ok to shush them for fifteen minutes so I can call a friend or check Facebook.    It's ok to forgo doing dishes to cuddle a child and hear what's on her heart.  

3:  Discipline doesn't have to be complicated.   Don't let personal emotions/moods dictate how discipline goes.   Pick a consistent method and do it.   We use 1, 2, 3 magic a lot.   I've also done a bit of reflection/research on parenting.   Two things come to mind.  

---How I speak to my children.    I know I need to get down on their level, look in their eyes, and respond firmly and calmly to them.  Proverbs 15:1 advises to speak gently, not harshly (to avoid harm), and Eph. 6:4 advises parents not to provoke their children which leads to anger.

---How I punish them.   First, I love what my dear friend said recently when I asked her what she would say her parenting style is.  She said, "Parenting with grace."     So here's my thoughts on spanking---that hot button issue that boils blood.  :)    It seems that spanking is less and less popular/promoted as an effective discipline method.    I grew up in a household that occasionally spanked.   Adoptive parents are not supposed to spank their children (saith DCFS...and/or the agency....but that's another issue altogether).  Once I heard a preacher talk about how parents often quote "spare the rod, spoil the child" as their reasoning for spanking, and then he said that the "rod" in Bible times was used as a teaching tool, a guide, a symbol, not a spanking tool or metaphor.   Think about it.  "Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me."   Or think of Moses staff that he carried, using it to demonstrate God's power.

So punishment tends to be more creative.   Slam the door?  You will open and shut it 10x nicely while counting.   (Works like a charm!)    We use standing in the corner a lot.   If there's any physical aggression toward another, we have an apology/forgiveness mini-session plus a talk about "nice touches" well as talking about the appropriate way to stand up for oneself ("Don't do that to me!  I don't like it!" while standing up and looking the person in the eye).    We love the book "Teeth Are Not for Biting."  I've found that short, repetitive phrases work really well.  (We SO often say, "When you make a mess, then you clean it up.")  

I'm also learning to really let some stuff go.   Let the kids work out their issues at times.  Not jump in every four seconds.   (I saw a mom at the library the other day with her maybe 1.5 year old, who said, when her daughter wouldn't share toys with my 2.5 year old, "We are still learning about the word share."  I wanted to laugh and say, "She's your first kid, right?"   Because it's completely natural for a 1.5 year old to be selfish!   Now I'm not saying don't encourage sharing...but the situation reminded me of how far I've come as a mom and how much more relaxed I am now).    No hover-parenting. 

I feel like when you teach good manners and responses in your home, it will come naturally to the kids over time, and you don't have to stand there with your hands on your hips and hover, hover, hover, or praise, praise, praise, or remind, remind, remind.  

A lot of views stem from the fact that I teach---mostly freshman.  And there's an increasing number of students who cannot seem to function without Mommy and Daddy.  They blame the teacher for their bad grades, lack of learning/understanding, and overall, their tough days.   They don't take responsibility for their actions.  They speak to teachers as if they are peers or worse, scum on the floor.    They text or FB in class, leave trash on the tables, and ask, "Are we doing anything in here today?"    

I swear, my preschooler acts better than many of my students. 

And it's really sad.

All this to say----parenting is a big job.  And parenting three kids is a REALLY big job.   And I don't want to screw it up.

So I'm going to give myself grace.

I'm going to give my kids even more grace (because they are dealing with an imperfect mommy).  

I'm going to take into consideration their personalities and stages/seasons.

I'm going to keep changing....bending with the wind....and reading "Shades of People" for the 1000th time, and praying that God grants me more patience with Baby E when she gets out of her bed....again....

because that's what is working.

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