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    On Bad Attitudes {Part III}

    March 17, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    I realized after I wrote my last post, and ended by saying, “Next time, we’ll discuss discipline and habit training,” that I was actually skipping something: Dealing with Mommy. So I’m going to put off disciplining and habit training until Part IV, and today we’ll talk about Mommy, and also a couple other variables.

    It’s not that I am a discipline-as-a-last-resort person. I’m not. It’s just that, in my own experience, I have learned that I have to tread carefully. If I overlook the root causes, or even contributing causes, I am not parenting wisely.

    Indulge me in a personal example.

    I have a toddler. A rambunctious, energetic, get-into-everything-because-I-have-absolutely-no-hand-control toddler. I noticed that this little one was consistently getting into trouble after lunch, all the way up until naptime. Naps start around 1:30pm here, and lunch was finishing up around 12:30pm. That is an hour of disciplining, folks. An hour of scolding and training. An hour of crying on the toddler’s part, for he despises being told “no.” I have always loved reading to my children during that hour after lunch, but it wasn’t happening. I spent all of my time running from dishes to discipline and back again.

    Now, the toddler needed discipline, for sure. I said, “Get down from that table,” and he looked me in the eye and climbed higher. He was purposely defiant.

    But the situation didn’t begin and end with discipline. What I needed was a better plan. What I was doing was not working at all.

    This is why we are considering everything else before we consider discipline. Because though discipline works, sometimes a better plan circumvents the whole situation.

    In our case, I learned to give a slightly bigger morning snack and postpone lunch until 12:30pm. I read a chapter or two of our read aloud while the children are finishing their lunches. The toddler begins falling asleep during the meal, to be honest. (This is why he was in so much trouble, by the way. He was simply exhausted, and his self-control had no energy to fuel it.) Instead of ending the day with a battle, I gather up a sleepy guy and, while the older children do the dishes, I rock him and sing to him and put him to sleep.

    We went from a daily hour of chaos to a sweet and peaceful naptime, all by shifting when we do lunch.

    All of this taught me that sometimes wise parenting has more to do with controlling the variables than disciplining more consistently or using a better technique.

    Thoughts on Mom

    Unfortunately, our children are watching us. I hate this fact. I have been known to say that our children have all my faults and none of my husband’s, and it’s true. This is likely because they spend fifty to sixty hours each week more with me than with him.

    My husband says “more is caught than taught,” and I hate that phrase because it’s true, too.

    But when I see a child with an attitude problem, the first thing I check is me. First, was I grumpy all morning? Did I act irritated because we had to do school (again)? Though I firmly believe that children naturally love to learn (and also naturally shirk challenges), I also think that children imitate adult attitudes.

    All of this to say, we need to watch our own attitudes.

    Other Variables

    I already explained that my toddler really was getting in trouble for an hour because he was exhausted. I also have a daughter who hates school…if she is hungry. There is no reasoning with that child once her blood sugar plummets. We have regularly scheduled protein snacks (such as cheese or spoonfuls of roasted almond butter) to keep up her love of life and learning.

    Tired children are going to be hard-pressed to muster the energy they need to Do Hard Things (like math or obeying).

    I agree that children eventually need to learn to work hard even when circumstances aren’t perfect. I’m a mommy, and I have to press on and do what needs to be done, even when I’m tired and hungry, right? Even when a child kept me up all night? Even when something is going wrong in my personal life? Yes, yes, and yes.

    But children need our mercy. They are still learning to handle their appetites. We teach them to moderate their passions over time, not all at once on Wednesday because they are annoying us. Because of this, we do well to control the variables which incite their passions, which, in turn, helps them form a habit of even temperament (some children more than others, of course).

    For Real

    Next time, we really will finish up by discussing habit training and discipline.

    More Posts in this Series:

    Part I
    Part II

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  • Reply Mystie March 17, 2011 at 10:33 pm


    “Deal with yourself first and always” was a quote I just wrote down from Rachel Jankovick’s new book. I have been having problems with one child’s tone lately, and I’m afraid it was my tone that went sour first.

  • Reply Pam... March 17, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    You have said it well, momma. 🙂

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