Calm down, Mindy.
It feels like the 100th time I’ve talked to him about hitting today. It’s probably the 10th.
Intellectually, I know the advice around positive discipline. Talk to kids about what they can do,
not what they can’t. Focus on what you will do. Remain calm. Assess what they are really telling you with their behavior.
Emotionally, I’m fraying at the ends. My toddler refused to nap and pooped on the carpet. It’s 2:30 and I’m not sure what to make for dinner and I haven’t showered yet. Their sister is coming home from school soon and she’ll want to know if I’ve made a special snack (I haven’t). I’m tired and I just don’t want him to hit anymore.
But he doesn’t know these things. All he knows is that his brother annoyed him, crowding his space or taking his toy. These are minor things to me, but in this moment they are everything to him.
He strikes again and I swiftly react, separating him from his brother, reinforcing We don’t hit! He looks defiant and unapologetic. I feel my frustration rising. I decide he needs to cool off and have to carry him up the stairs. I am now the bad guy and he tells me so – loudly. He will cool off, but it will feel like a punishment, not a tool to help him calm down, like counting to ten or taking deep breaths.
Later that day, little brother erupts in tears and his sister rushes to his defense. Chaos ensues and I take a deep breath because now it feels like the 500th time we’re having this conversation.
Stay Calm, Mindy.
|Those moments we hope for.
This time I listen. I surprise him by kneeling down, touching his face softly with my hands and asking gently, What are some nice ways we can use our hands? Can you show your brother how to be kind with his hands? If you hit, he will hit. If you are kind with your hands, he will copy you. Understanding shows in his eyes. He apologizes and I file this away for next time.
It’s not perfect, but it’s a start. I manage it about half the time, but positive discipline requires consistency. It’s not so much about calming down as it is about deciding in advance what I will do. And it’s difficult when I’m tired, frustrated, or interrupted from productivity. But I have to believe that consistency on my part will make a difference in the long run. I’m the adult, but it’s hard for me to not get caught up in the moment, my heart tugged by someone crying or my anger riled by defiance.
It’s partly my fault, Mom.
I wasn’t sure I’d heard her correctly. Saturdays mean more play time and, often, more fights. He rushed up the stairs screaming, defending his actions, and I tried to talk him down. He opted to cool off. His sister, witnessing this, stopped the line of defense on the tip of her tongue. She admitted her part in the fight and we talked about things.
I learned that if you tell the truth, there won’t be consequences.
She told me this later and I thought not exactly.
But in a way she is right. The goal isn’t to be motivated by consequences but, to use a phrase that drives my kids crazy, be a problem solver.
I want my children to learn the tools to step away, talk it through, and solve the problem without me intervening all the time. I want them to think through their words, to not automatically react to the world around them, and to prioritize kindness.
I want them to be able to do as I do.
Take a deep breath, Mindy. Count to ten. Stop to see what’s really going on here. Avoid taking sides. Stay consistent. Decide what you will do. Express it calmly and clearly. Stand by what you say. Use loving hands and words.
It starts with me.