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    On Bad Attitudes {Part 3}

    June 21, 2013 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.

    Once upon a time, I had 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 1:30 pm here, and lunch was finishing up around 12:30 pm. That is an hour of disciplining, folks. An hour of scolding and training. An hour of crying on the toddler’s part, for he despised being told “no.” I have always loved reading to my children during that hour after lunch, but it was no longer happening. I spent all of my time running from dishes to discipline and correction and back again.

    Now, the toddler needed correction, 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 12:30 pm. I read a chapter or two of our read aloud while the children were finishing their lunches. The toddler began 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 he had no energy to fuel his self-control.} Instead of ending the first half of the day with a battle, I gathered up a sleepy guy and, while the older children did the dishes {freeing me up, by the way}, I rocked him and sang 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 mostly true. This is likely because they spend fifty to sixty hours more each week 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} and what I really wanted to do was tackle my to-do list? 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 had a daughter who hated school…if she was hungry. There was no reasoning with that child once her blood sugar plummeted. 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}. Pushing bedtime back to 7:30 pm solved that problem for our family. {Yes, I even put my 11-year-old to bed at this time. He wakes at 5:00 am no matter what; the only way for him to get enough sleep is to go to bed early.}

    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. 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}.

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  • Reply Amber June 23, 2013 at 10:41 pm

    Excellent series, thank you! I am looking forward to more. We went through a toug period awhile back and I realized a lot. Of it was my attitude rubbing of on everyone. Sometimes I think we still haven’t totally recovered from it… Or maybe my attitude isn’t as good as I think it is!!

  • Reply Patti June 23, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    Wonderful insights!! Thanks for sharing! Patti

  • Reply Mystie June 22, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    Yes, whenever kids are particularly cranky and uncooperative, I have to take a step back and realize they are mirroring back my own bad attitudes. It’s humbling. I am much more quick to give my crankiness a pass (lack of sleep! so much to do!) than theirs. But I should be holding myself to a higher standard and be giving the grace to them.

    This was a timely rerun for me, actually, even though we aren’t doing school. Thanks.

  • Reply Dawn June 22, 2013 at 11:53 am

    You have mentioned this early rise tendency in other posts, Brandy, and you are beginning to make me think I am doomed to waking up before 5 am for eternity in order to get any alone time. It is paradoxical that the later my children go to sleep the earlier they rise, but it never fails to be the case. Only mothers understand this. As I type I have been listening to my 2 yr olds fight enemies in his room for the past 30 minutes (ie 515) despite being in bed at 7. And he hasn’t napped in over a week. Overtired anyone? This post resonates with my current life. Thank you.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 22, 2013 at 2:47 pm

      I hate to say it, but you may very well be doomed. I have mentally prepared for something to change with puberty, but recently my friend told me that her early bird husband didn’t even sleep in in his teens! {Or, sleeping in just meant until 6 instead of 5!}

      I really think that their early tendencies are convenient for the sake of school. My oldest has part of his school done before most children are even out of bed! But the downside is that as parents my husband and I don’t really have the luxury of sleeping in EVER, even if we had a hard night. Well, I say that, but that is slowly changing as we do not have toddlers in the house. Unsupervised toddlers are dangerous! 🙂

    • Reply Dawn June 22, 2013 at 10:41 pm

      Sigh. I fear that you are right. At least I’ll know I’m not alone.

  • Reply Anonymous June 21, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    I really love this post!
    Julie in St. Louis

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