I am trying to be honestly transparent in my posts, making sure every word is Godly and Biblical. But as I have been working on my parenting, I realized that a lesson about anger and temper is a wonderful tool to help our walk become more Godly; however, some practical tips may be more helpful at times. Like when your child is smearing her somehow naked body with soap in front of the sink when all you asked was for her to wash her hands. . . those are the moments I need real answers about how to parent without getting angry.
I wrote about Temper Tantrums just a couple of entries ago, about the power of letting go of our selfish nature and choosing not to be angry in our discipline. I can honestly say that nothing has changed my household more than refusing to get angry. Getting angry was about my kids, dogs, cat, husband being stumbling blocks to getting my way. Putting aside what I want and simply serving God has gentled me tremendously, but I am still working on practical solutions because in the moment of disobedience or stress, I need a plan so I know I can stay on track with controlling my temper and yet not allow her to rule the roost.
My daughter has had very little regulated schedule for the past two years. We have enjoyed that freedom (between my endless stream of doctor visits), but preparing her for more structured activities is important. Teaching her to follow rules, be on a schedule, and be able to work independently on a task are some of the skills we worked on today.
Didn’t that sound fancy and formal? When I say skills we worked on, let me translate that for you, I mean I attempted to get my child to behave in any kind of appropriate way. Today the struggle was our daily routine. Getting her to eat breakfast has seriously been a struggle for years. I’ve been dreading her first days of organized school because she eats so doggone slowly.
Rather than wait for school bus days, I decided to start adjusting this behavior today. A year from now when it is her first day of out of the house school, we all will be better prepared.
Our day started off with a bowl of dry cereal (milk makes it too mushy to consume, apparently) and a handful of blueberries with her glass of milk. None of these foods are new or different or weird, but handing her breakfast food has traditionally been a battle. She hems and haws. She takes a bite or two and sits there. She stares into space, wants to watch TV while she eats, she talks incessantly, so we end up spoon feeding her just to get her to eat. If we take it away, she is starving ten minutes later.
After spooning two bites into her mouth, I decided that this was it. I wasn’t going to do this anymore. She is FOUR for-the-love-of-pete! I prayed to God and asked for some idea to change this behavior.
“Eating your breakfast is important. Food makes you grow healthy and strong. This is what I am serving today. You have 15 minutes to eat this cereal and drink your milk. When the timer beeps, if your food isn’t gone, you will have a consequence,” I said.
I was quiet and firm. Walking over to the microwave, I set the timer so she could watch it ticking down and went back to washing dishes and cleaning out coffee pots, etc. She didn’t say another word. She ate. At 9:18 to go, she shouted, “DONE!” I praised her and kissed her. “Good job! You worked really hard to get your breakfast finished quickly. I hope you eat like this all the time.” Beaming with pride, she hugged me.
Then I sent her to brush her teeth, which she did for two minutes, then came back for her next set of directions. Going to her room to make her bed took awhile. She was in there playing (imagine that!). After a few re-directions, I told her I was going to set the timer for five minutes. She started crying hysterically, jumping up and down. God grabbed me and told me to listen to her emotions, not ignore them.
I brushed away her tears and asked her what was the matter. She was afraid she couldn’t do it in that time, so I doubled the time, assuring her I believed she could easily make her bed. I kissed her and sent her running laughing to make her bed. She came and tagged me at two minutes. Then I sent her back to pick up her toys, she was back in another two minutes. She even told me not to reset the timer, she could get it done. In a total of four minutes, she had picked up all her toys and made her bed. It was like magic. Amazing.
I gave her clear expectations that were developmentally appropriate for tasks that were not new. I made racing the timer fun, giving her pride in her accomplishment. She felt empowered instead of over powered. Mommy WIN!!
Discipline is crucial, not to create automatons, but to create children who are respectful of authority, kind to others, empathetic, loving, obedient, and ultimately self-sufficient and confident. Learning how to use calm, consistent discipline in my home has been a game changer for me, but sometimes the day-to-day issues that arise take some ingenuity to solve without resorting to the negative behaviors of my past, especially when her temper is still wildly in play. I have to remember she is 4, that her coping skills need guiding so that someday she can deal with her emotions just as easily as she made her bed today, a skill that four months ago was new. Maybe in a few more months, my ability to be quiet and calm will be second nature to me as well.
At least today, God ruled my heart which allowed me to deal with her attitudes and issues appropriately. Using the timer even helped her eat more quickly at dinner when she wants to talk so much that she ends up not eating, which made daddy happy, too.
Update – day two – she ate, made her bed, picked up without actually having to set the timer, just had to ask her if she needed one. I recognize all children aren’t motivated the same way, but most children will respond to something fun. Seek out how your child has fun and use that to motivate him/her.
Setting a timer, making a task feel like a game, can be a tremendous motivator for us too. Have a task you’ve been dreading? Set a timer or stopwatch to see how quickly you can get it done. I will do this with dishes or laundry sometimes to help me get through it quickly.
Like Mary Poppins once sang, “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” We like to use music and a timer to make unpleasant tasks fun. Any ideas that have worked at your house?