Monday, August 27, 2012

Stubborn Children and Frustrating Consequences

I think I have the most stubborn children on the planet. I must. I must because I can't believe the choices they make! I know children try to exert their own independence and buck authority when they can in order to claim some kind of control over their own lives --I get it. I mean, I majored in child development in college. I know the stages and the patterns...but...and yet... I've never imagined how hard it would be.

I usually re-work chore charts and go over what kids should be doing at what ages --I don't want to give them more than they can handle. At the same time, I don't want to patronize them or give them too little, because they need to be learning how to work. Therefore, I know that what I ask of them is not overly-demanding, nor is it too difficult. And yet at least two of my children continue to plague me with incessant whining, stubbornness, and absolute refusal to do what they know they need to do.

This morning was awful, awful. One child went to school on their own late, without having finished chores OR eating breakfast. The only positive was that just before they left, I hugged them, crying, telling them how much I loved them (despite my awful, angry, ridiculous, stoooooooooopid outbursts). And now I get to feel guilty all day for sending them to school hungry.

But how do consequences hold merit if they are not upheld? This is the most frustrating part --watching a child choose what they choose IN SPITE OF the consequences.

For a while I soothed my self-pity in telling myself I'm the only mother who has felt this way and I'm the only mother who has stubborn children...until I remembered: EVERY mother goes through this. I mean, we're talking all of history, here, of mothers watching their children make horrible choices --in spite of the consequences.

I imagine Sariah, seeing Laman and Lemuel treat their brothers with contempt and murderous hatred. I see Eve, knowing Cain had literally killed his brother. I'm sure Alma's wife was as mournful as her husband when their son (Alma the Younger) chose to fight against everything they believed in. And, good heavens, what about Heavenly Mother? I'm pretty positive she wasn't thrilled when satan decided to wreak havoc and take 1/3 of his siblings with him into everlasting damnation.

I'm not the only mother who has been frustrated, eh?

But oh, it's so hard. So raw. So overly... mortal.

Here's hoping tomorrow is better. I think I'll up my game and be sure to get them all to bed earlier and make yummy muffins for breakfast. (It's hard, though, since Brandon is out of town on business --I tend to get lazier when he's not around. But I'll just "woman up" and do it!)

How do you deal with your most stubborn child? Any tips or tricks on how to dole out the consequences while keeping my anger in check? Besides repentance? I'm looking for abstaining rather than fixing!


Susan M said...

I always tried to never get into a battle of wills with my most stubborn kid, because the truth is, he always cared more about whatever we were fighting over, and he'd win.

I'm a very lazy mom. I tried to set up the household in a way that would mean I seldom had to say no to anything. It was a very kid-friendly place. Nothing breakable around, etc.

I never cared much about chores. When my husband was home with the kids he had a system that seemed to work for everyone, I think it was dishes/laundry/garbage, rotating every day, or something like that. Kept it very simple.

Different people have different parenting styles and remember, your kids were sent to you for a reason. You're the mom they need.

Stephanie said...

Never threaten something you're not fully prepared to carry out. For example: "If you don't pick those up, I'm going to take away all of your toys!" Totally not going to do that, so if the kid doesn't do what she's supposed to, I've got a problem.

On the other hand. "If you don't stop that, I'm going to put all the barbie dolls on my shelf!" I'll totally do that, no problem.

I also try to pick consequences that don't cause me more stress. Keeping a kid in her room for hours at a time just causes fighting, but taking away a toy that drives me INSANE actually helps my stress level. :)

Good luck!

The Wright Family said...

It was a big day when I realized that I didn't have to get angry to dole out a consequence. I sat the kids down, told them that I would give them an extra job if they broke a rule or were unkind with each other. Now, when one misbehaves, I look them in the eye, smile, and thank them for volunteering to take out the garbage/empty the dishwasher/wipe down the table and chairs- if they complain I thank them for volunteering to... It's not long before they get the picture. They get a consequence, but they also have a peaceful mother, and hopefully they won't feel like my love comes and goes with their obedience and disobedience.

Cheryl said...

Thank you for the reminder that they were sent to me for a reason. I sometimes think it's more for me than for them, but it's probably both.

I know! Oh, how I know --the consequence MUST be followed through. My problem is knee-jerk reactions with all the chaos surrounding me. I need to be better about thinking things through before doling out unreasonable consequences.

The Wright Family -
This is exactly what I need to do! Thank you. I'll go make a list of extra chores right now that I can memorize (hopefully before they get home from school??).

Amanda D said...

I had a friend who's daughter was supposed to empty the dishwasher before school. One day she left for school with out doing it so my friend went to the school in her pj's and pulled her daughter out of class, made her empty the dishwasher and then took her back to school. The girl was mortified and always did her chore before school after that. I don't know if that would work, but maybe???

Here, school starts so early that if we tried chores before school we would have to get up at like 5.

I try to remind myself of the ways that stubborness can help my stubborn child. I tell myself that someday the stubborness will make her always say no to bad things, etc. There has to be a positive to that, right?

With one child, I have to remind myself to let him have the last word. I always want the last word, but it never ends that way.

Good luck my friend!

Judi said...

I know you have a lot more kids then I do, and so you need chores to help the house to run smoothly.
I'm not a big chore fan. I figure they are only kids once.
My boys had the regular clean room, bathroom, dishwasher, garbage, help put laundry away, dust and vacum rooms. There wasn't a set time or day for some things...just do it when it is needed. My home is small so needs to be picked up all the time.
They didn't/don't go out until things get done.
I don't make them do much before school, because I want them to be happy and have a good day and be ready to learn while they are there. And I personally would never say no breakfast, or any meal, until a chore is done...but that is just me..
I don't think there is a right or wrong...but you need to be consistant in what ever you say you're going to do....if you don't do it, then you have lost the battle.
Maybe instead of changing things up all the time, you just keep it the same...that might help them out...
good luck with whatever you decide...xoxo

Becca said...

These have been fantastic ideas. I especially love the bringing the child back from school to do the chore.

Seriously, that's a good one. I am a big supporter of teaching children to follow through and keep their word, and if that means taking them out of school to do their chores, do it! It will probably end up making them better students at school anyway :)

The hard thing for me about extra chores is that it means MORE work that the stubborn child may not do... which means they will eventually end up with a list of not-done chores, and I'll just be exasperated.

Sometimes when a child is refusing to do their chores I'll say, "Here, I'll take the garbage out of the can and tie it up, and you carry it outside." Or "I'll pick up the books on this side of the room, and you do the ones on the other side." That usually works - especially with mine because they are so little sometimes the job just seems overwhelming. One thing I try to do (and I don't always do - I need to be better at this) is take my own "time out" when I get frustrated. Especially with a stubborn child. Especially when I don't have time (or energy) to deal with said child. I go to my room and BEG Heavenly Father to help me figure out what on earth to do with my child. Then I sit quietly and listen and try to keep my mind open. Usually a thought will come to me, and sometimes it's counter intuitive - for example, once I was having a hard time getting my 3 year old to stay in bed. I usually have an "after lights out, no mommy in the room for snuggles" rule (we snuggle before lights out, and lights out is a cue that it's time to sleep, so if I go back in it's to pick up the child and put them back in their bed, without a word), but this time I got so frustrated putting her back what felt like 100 times so I had my little time out (I was tempted to tie her to the bed!) and I listened to HF, and I felt like I should go in a rock and sing to her. It went against all my "rules" but I did it, and within a few minutes she calmed down and went to sleep. My husband had been out of town so much the past few months before that, I think she just needed some extra comforting that night. It didn't make a habit (which I was worried it would) and she was back to her independent going-to-bed self the next day.

I learned from that experience that sometimes we have to scrap "our" rules to follow a prompting from HF. Maybe our kid needs something and we don't see it, but I have faith that Heavenly Father will help us be good moms. And I think it's good for our kids to see that we are willing to yield our will to the Father's (interesting... since we're talking about stubborn kids...) And sometimes we need the "time out" because we can't receive the prompting of what needs to be done when we're in the middle of what feels like a hurricane of emotion.

I also loved the reminder that I don't have to get angry to dole out consequences. Reminds me of MMM's anger post story about the police clearing a drug house. No one is angry, but it gets done with ruthless efficiency. I have to remember that.

Cheryl said...

My kids have very minimal chores during the week. Make bed, practice piano, unload dishwasher, set table etc. I figure school is their work. On Saturday we do many more chores. And in the summer they have more daily chores.

My kids have a spread sheet where they check off their jobs, each job has a dollar amount attached to it (not much, likr .25). At the end of the week if they did their jobs and checked it off they get their "salary". I don't say a word except I do make sure they did them. It has taken the power struggles out of it. It took one week of not getting salary and things improved significantly.

Cheryl said...

And I don't know if her going hungry was part of he consequence but one of my human development professors taught us to not use food as a reward or punishment. I have adopted that philosophy as well.

The Wright Family said...

One thing that I've found helpful too is to take note of any problems with their job, like if the mirror was streaky after they washed it, and not saying a word until the next time they have to do the job. I don't do this if they are being lazy, but while they are learning. Then it sounds constructive to say "please make sure that you use a clean cloth and wipe the mirror until it is all the way dry". No nagging, no making them come back, but there is still accountability and learning to do the job better. Clear as mud? I love how honest you are in your posts. It's refreshing to read honesty. We all have slumps when things get a little out of our hands. It sounds like you are doing everything you need to to get on top of it. You are amazing!