I hope it wouldn’t surprise you that I am always trying to figure out how to be the best mother I can be. I know I don’t have all the answers. I know that there are some ways I have parented my children that probably aren’t the most ideal (for them or for me). There are lots of moms out there that have learned and shared along the way. (One of my favorites can be found HERE
When we first started having babies, the furthest thing from my mind was how I was going to discipline them. I had that ever-present denial thing going on that told me my children would be perfect and wouldn’t need discipline.
Okay, not really.
But you know what I mean.
When you look at your love of your life and you decide together that you’re ready to procreate, let’s face it: your brain is not necessarily focused on the fact that should you be successful in procreation, about 3 or 4 years in the future, you’ll be battling pre-school battles and about 8 years later, you’ll be working on conscience formation with regards to right and wrong and then about 10 or 11 years later you’ll be on the cusp of those dreaded “tween” years. (side note: TWEEN? really? I suppose they came up with something to call 10, 11 and 12 year olds for marketing purposes, right?)
I didn’t think about whether I would spank or not spank my children. Looking back, I think I was of the opinion that spanking never hurt me. As a matter of fact, I knew some kids that I thought probably should have been spanked.
Honestly, before I actually had flesh and blood children standing before me making me cringe with their whining or their hitting or their back-talking, I thought it would be easy to “put the hammer down” so to speak and keep my kids in line. Yup, I knew it all before the kids came along.
Nothing humbles you like raising children.
Even when my oldest got to the point where I needed to discipline her, I didn’t think much about what I was doing and what the long-term repercussions of my actions would be. To be fair, she has always been a fairly obedient child. Discipline wasn’t needed frequently when she was little. Sure, she was stubborn at times and her fully-clothed bottom was on the receiving end of an open-hand spank, but all in all, discipline wasn’t something I was forced to think about with her.
My second-born was a little different. Since she and I didn’t bond with each other until she was around age four, the terrible-twos were…well, terrible. She would do everything her father asked of her and openly defied me (as much as a two- or three-year-old can).
As far corporal punishment goes, my second and third-born children got the worst of it. But from what I’ve read some places, there are families out there that would claim I was way too lenient with my children. Whenever I employed a spank, it was almost always just one spank, it was always open-handed and always on a fully clothed bottom. I have never taken to striking my children with an object (thank God for that Grace!) even on their bottoms.
I probably have not spanked in about three years. Helen pushes me to the point the most often where I want to spank. But I know it’s not going to work the way, ideally, I would want it to. So I don’t do it, anymore.
This summer, I was holed up in the house during a hot spell with a new baby and four other children ages 2 to 10. And I struggled with yelling. Yup, just good old fashioned, “shut up!” and “you kids need to CLEAN YOUR ROOMS!” and “I HAVE HAD IT WITH YOU KIDS!!” I realized right as school started that I had spent an awful lot of my maternity leave up to that point yelling at my children.
When I observed this about myself, of course a change was on its way. Oh my. I really struggled with how to do this. Because if I didn’t have a yelling outlet and I didn’t have a physical outlet, just how WAS I going to express my displeasure with my children over their disobedience/behavior/fighting with each other/whatever.
Then one night, when Sarah back-talked and sassed me, I engaged her eyes and looked at her quietly. She stopped with her snark momentarily, but then resumed with an exasperated “What!“
And I asked her, “Sarah, do you hear yourself? How do you sound?”
She was shocked into silence. I hadn’t returned her snark. I hadn’t yelled at her to speak to me with respect. I hadn’t even reminded her of the fourth commandment as I am wont to do when she is disrespectful.
“Well,” I asked her. “What do you sound like?”
And she thought for a minute and her face sunk into a resigned apology. And she said, “I’m sorry, Mom.”
I have been using this tactic for about six weeks now. And my house is a bit quieter. It’s not A LOT quieter because, let’s face it, there are seven people living here and one is a newborn and three are rambunctious two-, five- and eight-year-old. But the noise is different. It’s not a tense noise, it’s a fun noise. It’s kids being rambunctious and not a stressed-out mom who’s lost control with her kids.
I’m not perfect. I still yell at my kids on occasion. But the fact is, more often than not, I am taking a deep breath and pushing back gently on my children to evaluate their own words, actions and behaviors has brought on a different atmosphere. I don’t know if this is THE answer to my discipline woes as a mom of five kids.
I know that right now, at this time and place with my family, this has made our house a bit more livable amidst the chaos.