Switching Strategies

This morning I found myself really struggling. Getting breakfast down the girls, making sure they are dressed and at the bus stop on time. Then shuffling a rather reluctant Little Man into the car to run some errands. Even though The Husband is home for the week, Little Man's tantrums escalated to epic proportions. We landed at the library to drop off our old set of books and pick up a new batch for the kids and I found myself wandering through the "Parenting Self Help" section. A title caught my eye, and I remembered it as being recommended to me somewhere along the line, "Have a New Kid by Friday," by Dr. Kevin Leman. I chuckled bitterly. Try and change my kids in five days, Dr. Leman... I dare you.

I showed The Husband my selection and he had the same reaction. He laughed at the byline "Change your child's attitude, behavior, and character in 5 days." As if this was the most ludicrous idea he'd ever heard of. Little Man shrieked all the way home in the car, edging last night's migraine closer to the surface. I told myself his tantrum was my fault, I had forgotten to bring pretzels along for the trip. That is why he was not complying with my need to shop for the in-law's Christmas presents; Should have been more careful.

At home the situation was not any different. Even though I offered him pretzels, a sippie, and Team Umizoomi on the tv, he continued to wail and kick his legs, writhing on the floor. He was barely placated as I placed him in my lap, pretzels in hand sippie tucked under his arm. I blankly stared at the screen, as Millie droned on about cowboys and horses. I was so bored.

Eventually I arranged the kid onto my side and grabbed Have a New Kid by Friday. Figuring if I was tied to this chair, I may as well be some kind of entertained. I got fifty two pages in and had a revelation. I had been reading aloud what I thought to be the most important points to The Husband who was next to me playing Dice with Friends. I came to the question "What is your attitude toward your kids?" I had to ponder on that one. My knee-jerk reaction being "I wish they would leave me be for a while!" I ventured onto question #2: "How does your behavior reveal your attitude." It all suddenly and achingly clicked; My first reaction had been correct. I feel constantly overwhelmed by the kids, because they act up and make every little step into a time consuming behavioral issue. Each day my goal is just to get from point A to point B, dragging the kids along with me. I essentially want them to do as they are told quietly, efficiently  and with as little interruption to my life as possible. I throw some lunch onto the table and anxiously get out of the room to steal onto the internet, chow my own lunch in peace, or catch up on my own television.

It was not an easy thing to admit to myself. And I realize it was a cyclical disaster, the kids drain me with their behavior and I want to get away. They are acting up in an effort to curry attention, any attention be it positive or negative. Negative attention is attention, after all. That's what they are aiming for with us, and receiving it by the barrel full. If one of the kids is acting properly, they are oftentimes eclipsed by the fussing sibling. There is little attention given to the child who behaves in my house it seems, I just sigh with relief at the prospect of quiet. This is the point in which I am assuming this is a unique-to-me philosophy. Sitting on the floor and "playing" dolls? SO BORING. Love my kids, I promise. While I hope I am not the only one who shares this sentiment, I would understand if it's just me. It's a weird feeling.

As The Husband and I briefly discussed this new parenting strategy I'd gleaned from fifty two pages, we noticed that after the show had ended, the pretzels consumed, Little Man had become a puddle of misery once again. In a surprising move, The Husband put down what he was doing and offered to play with the kid. I watched as they played nonsense games with shovels and toy ponies. The baby was giggling, eating up the attention. It came time to pick up the girls from Kindergarten, and as I announced this, Little Man began to protest. We gave him a choice to either stay and play with Daddy or go with Mommy to pick up the girls. He chose playing with Daddy, and I walked out, waiting to hear his screams revoking his choice. I didn't hear it. So I booked it out of the house, nervously mulling over the new ideas I had just read.

After picking up the girls, I started making lunch. Usually by this point I have three children crying over the meal I have decided to prepare. However, Bunny had started throwing a fit about... I can't even remember what. We followed the protocol from the book, ignoring her tantrum, focusing on getting lunch ready and giving attention to the two children who continued to miraculously behave. (They usually do this, smugly being good while the other gets punished) We sat down to lunch all together and, after Bunny had decided to join us, had a lovely lunch. We did have to remind the girls to toss in a mouthful of food during the non-stop jabbering over everything from Kindergarten to Thanksgiving dresses. After eating, I got down under the table with them for a short (mindnumbing) while before nap time. There was a small kerfluffle with Little Man, but everyone went to their own beds almost elegantly. A couple reminders to stay on task were met with "Oks!" and "Oh yeahs!" instead of the usual harumph and stomping.

As we closed the last door, The Husband and I just stared at each other in disbelief! Tweaking our actions had made such a world of difference! I must admit I am none too excited at the prospect of playing some really boring-to-me-games. But there is more of a connection with the kids and I now, maybe it's all in my head, but I felt it. They were so pleased to have my attention! I realize I cannot drop everything and play with the kids all day; That's obvious. A balance is going to be necessary. However I believe we are venturing into the right direction! Which is promising! And scary!


And yay!


  1. I have read this post at least three times. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience. It is HARD to recognize those unpleasant things about yourself (Bart and I just had a long conversation about our own unfortunate tendencies last night).

  2. I kept this post unread in my reader until I had time to really digest it. I have seen that book since you wrote this, and I'm going to check and see if my library has it. I think I have a lot of the same feelings and tendencies you do--I am bored by most kids' toys and games and have a hard time making myself get involved in them. I have also noticed that when we are busy or rushing around to get somewhere, those are the times the worst behavior is likely to emerge. If I can take just a couple of minutes to focus solely on the girls, attitudes improve all around.

    As a side note: Do you think the twin aspect has anything to do with our resistance to joining in the play? It's pretty easy for me to sit back and watch them playing their games together, thinking they don't need me to intrude. I imagine it's a lot different with Little Man, being that he has no one interested in his current activities to play with?