Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The post where I admit I lost my cool

We have officially entered the land of the Terrible Twos. Although my sister A. assures me that really the Terrible Twos extend until three and four. So much fun to look forward to!

It’s not a constant battle with Cameron. We can go for several hours of her being happy and pleasant (typically when we are out doing something which is why I need to find a new weekend regular activity). And then there are the hours where we hit double digits on timeouts. It requires a level of patience I am not sure I have reserves for. DH and I are also not seeing completely eye to eye on how to discipline Cameron. I am pushing timeouts only. His argument is that they are clearly not working (because we have to do so many). Having conducted research through the oracle that is the Internet, I am stubbornly sticking to my guns that timeouts will work. It make take weeks and so many timeouts that we never leave the house, but it will work. DH makes many comments about spanking Cameron and my automatic reaction is to say, “she’s too young for that” or spout the line, “violence begets violence.” Can’t you tell I’ve spent a lot of time on parenting boards?

Our time out chair is in the play room. It is a captain’s chair turned around to face the wall. We count Cameron out and then tell her “time out for X reason,” plop her in the chair and leave the room. We typically leave her there for 1-2 minutes and ask her, “Are you ready to say sorry?” If Cameron isn’t then she stays in time out. She is pretty good at staying put on the chair although she will regularly turn around in it and get up on her knees. Any advice on how to handle that or are we OK as long as Cameron stays on the chair?

I am not completely opposed to spanking but I always thought that spanking would be reserved for major offenses and when Cameron was older (say 2.5) and could understand more. I always thought that DH would be the spanker and I would be the patient mommy. Yeah, right. I went in the opposite direction on Monday evening. I spanked Cameron when she wouldn’t sit down in the bath. I had been battling her for over an hour where she would do nothing but cry and fuss and be a general pain in the ass. My temper took over and before I knew it I picked Cameron up, smacked her on the butt twice and said, “You need to sit down when you are in the bath!” Two deep breaths later and I had regained control and put on my happy mommy voice.

I know I need to be better about passing Cameron off to DH when I find myself getting frustrated and vice versa. While I am not opposed to spanking (obviously, having done it already), I think that it just escalates the situation. Cameron didn’t calm down until after I had engaged her in a completely new activity after the spanking. That’s not always feasible because sometimes we have to get something done (bath, car ride, etc.). I ended up giving her the fastest bath of her life while she cried the entire time. Then it was two more time outs during dinner for throwing her milk and refusing to eat. Gah. Don’t even get me started on the eating battles we’re having. I promise a whole post on that topic soon. And another timeout during bedtime stories. If I had a choice I would have passed Cameron off to DH for bedtime but she only wanted me and rather than endure another meltdown I sucked it up.

I think the hardest part for me is that I do get mad at Cameron. I know she is just being a toddler but she is bright and it gives me unrealistic expectations about what she can understand. Plus, I sometimes want to stay mad! I can’t just turn off the switch after 30 seconds and be happy mommy again. I mean, I do it, because otherwise she would be even more miserable but it’s hard. Finally, she wants me all the time when she is upset. But when I didn’t make it home last night for her dinner/bedtime she had a great time with DH. So it kind of makes me feel like she is saving up her angst for me, you know?

It does get better, right? What did you and your spouse decide to do about discipline? Did s/he have opinions? If so, how did you compromise? And feel free to validate my spanking, even if it’s just to make me feel better. You can also tell me that I'm going to hell for it too. I can take it.


LauraC said...

You are going to hell. HA!
Of course you are not going to hell. Discipline is a personal decision.

Jon and I are both firmly in the no spanking camp, but I have slapped their hands occasionally and/or told them they were making me so mad I want to hit them.

My only concern with spanking at that age is that they learn so much through actions at that age. Their job is to test limits to understand boundaries and it's our job to firmly place those boundaries and enforce them. Time outs give them an opportunity to learn boundaries, not to punish them, while I think of spanking as punishing.

It might be worth a read of 1 2 3 Magic to understand the mentality. We use that as our discipline method starting in the 2s. But there were some crap times in there constantly putting kids in time out! All totally normal! But so insanely frustrating!

Also, for the record, I think 3 is hard because they KNOW better but choose to break rules. 1 and 2 year olds are honestly exploring their world for the first time and learning rules. 4 is hard because sometimes they are such dicks, but there is generally an upward trend.

Amanda said...

As you know we are in the same boat. Verdict is still out on the spanking front but I almost did it a few days ago. But I think I agree with Laura, I don't think Holden would understand what the spanking was meant for and he totally understands what timeout means. The funny thing is that it seems like as soon as I reach a real breaking point, he is a good kid again. Go figure

Anonymous said...

I highly recommend reading the book Parenting with Love and Logic. It's all about using enforceable statements and natural consequences. It sounds like many of the issue your having are more about you showing your daughter who's boss than anything else and she's trying desperately to assert some independence. That is appropriate for her age. Giving a kid a time-out for refusing to eat dinner is completely ludicrous. No dinner, kid goes hungry = natural consequence. If you avoid getting into a battle of wills on things that you can't control, your life will be much easier and then you can assert your authority on the things that actually matter, like safety. Using natural consequences allows kids to learn to think for themselves, instead of just follow the rules. It's important to instill these critical thinking skills now, because when kids become teenagers, they will no longer be following our rules, but their friends. Peer pressure without the ability to think for oneself is a dangerous combination.

Stephanie said...

I agree with Anonymous. There came a time for us (DS is 2 1/2) that putting him in the time out chair just didn't work. I'm firmly in the camp that "I am the boss" and it is DS's job to learn that we will not rearrange our lives for him. If he doesn't like what we're having, he can pb&j or he can go without. He'll eat if he is hungry.

DH and I do spank, but only for things that are/will be harmful to DS. Such as, opening the front door by himself. Pulling a chair up to the stove, trying to plug/unplug stuff.

There are days when I am SO TIRED of cleaning up purposely spilled cups that I will put him in his room for 10 or fifteen minutes because I need to calm down. I know he knows better, but he still does it - right in front of me. Asserting independence? Yes, but he's learning consequences, too. Mess it up, clean it up, etc.

Some days are easier than others, Stacey. I keep telling myself it'll get better, too. It's "just a phase". :)

Anonymous said...

Another thing to keep in mind (as LauraC said in different terms) is that toddlers and preschoolers have very poor impulse control. So while they may know certain rules, they may not be able to control the impulse to break them. While I agree that children need to learn boundaries, I try to keep my sanity as much as possible by removing the opportunity for my kids to break rules. That's why there are so many child-proofing products, because we can't expect that saying no, giving time -outs, or even spanking is going to actually teach our kids not to splash in the toilet. It's too tempting for them. Not that I don't get mad and frustrated with my kids. I get stern more often than I'd like. But a lot of times I find that I'm not actually mad at my child, I'm mad at myself for either carelessly creating a situation where my child is too tempted to misbehave or for entering into a battle of wills that ultimately isn't important and then feeling obligated to stick to my guns for the sake of consistency.

Actuary Mom said...

I don't know if it gets better... but i have the same feelings. I get so mad at Graham! We do timeouts too, but they are hit or miss with effectiveness. He won't sit in a chair, so we put him in his booster seat and lock him in facing the wall. I constantly repeat to him what he did that he wasn't supposed to do.

Drew said...

I am glad that you wrote this, and for everyone's responses, because I was worried it was just me. Being almost 8 months pregnant, I have a very short fuse these days, with daddy AND the little guy both- so when Joel Andrew is acting up I now see hwo my temper easily escalates the situation. I have since learned though (and this is a continual learning process), that I need to walk away, take a breath and think beyond the incident. If he is throwing his food and not eating what I gave him, then I ask him if he is all done. I warn him if he throws again he will be all done. He totally knows what I mean, and if he is really being the devil he will look at me and throw the food. I (now) calmly say, all done then and remove him from the high chair. Tantrum ensues, but he has got to learn. No food then, the kid won't starve this one night. I love what anonymous said. But like you - husband and I differ. He is a sucker and will sneak Joel Andrew food after the tantrum. I am a "mommy nazi" husband says. Nice. But, I feel like certain things just have natural consequences. Whenever Joel Andrew stood up in the bath, from the beginning, we have taken him right out. He gets held up to the shower for final rinse if he is still soapy (he really hates that) and he is done. Still dirty? too bad. We will get it tomorrow. Still 20 minutes before bedtime? Too bad, routine continues. Sometimes he is in bed at 7:05, (when it is supposed to be 7:30 after all the routine) - but that is fine with me. I figure if he is being that difficult and I am getting that frustrated, then we do not need to do the routine and both of us need to go to our corners sooner. Longest response to a post ever. I am worried though when Deuce comes along, and others are watching Joel Andrew, no grandparent will be as tough as me... What will happen? We haven't tried timeouts yet - can't get him to sit still for anything. What books have you read about that? I would like to learn!