Sustainably Single Parenting

Making the most of life's journey alongside my three!!!

Negative Attention January 18, 2013

I was raised with corporal punishment, but I don’t believe in using it.SpankingECard

I never wanted my children to respect me because I am bigger than them and I can make them feel pain. I didn’t ever want them to see me as a bully. Growing up, I swore to myself that when I became a mother I would have unconditional empathy for my children. I would never forget how it felt to be a child and get “the look” from my mother or how unjust it felt every time a belt struck my backside.

Having been a mother for going on six years now, I must admit that I see why some parents decide to use spanking as a method of getting their children to behave appropriately. In the end I don’t think that inflicting pain on someone smaller and weaker than me will have the positive outcome I’m seeking, but in the moment it would certainly bring about proper behavior through a physical release.

I’d be afraid to spank my children.  I wouldn’t want to hurt them and I already hate it when they cry. If I have the urge to use corporal punishment I am already pushed past my limit of self-control and I can only imagine what could unfold were I holding a weapon. I wouldn’t chance it. I will not spank.

CalvinHobbsTantrumAmara, my oldest daughter, really thrives on negative attention. It’s extremely difficult at times to not give in, but the more I keep my cool, the more she realizes that making good choices gets her the response she’s truly looking for. Dealing with her negative behavior is the hardest to handle at bedtime; she and her sister share a room so Amara will be purposely disruptive. She’ll jump on her bed, say “Mama!” repeatedly in a loud, comical tone, get down from her bed and bounce a ball, call over to Terra to ask her questions like, “Are you asleep yet, Terra?! Terra!?”

When this happens I feel I have no other option but to move Terra to my bed so that she doesn’t have to be accosted. Though it’s unfair to make Terra leave the comfort of her own bed, the girls see my bed as a sanctuary, and the point I’m trying to get across to Amara is that if she’d behave herself she  wouldn’t have to sleep in her room alone. I hate these power struggles.

If I ask Amara to sit on her bed and use her calming methods (blowing out pretend candles -I light real ones for the major tantrums, using “buzz breath”, scribbling on a pad of paper, screaming into a pillow, etc) she’ll typically refuse and then follow me around the house making odd noises. She follows me so closely that if I stop abruptly she rams my body. I know that she wants me to scold her, so I say nothing.

I know that she wants me to hug her, but I cannot bring myself to giving her a hug while she’s being utterly disrespectful. I’m working on hugging her when I’m upset by her behavior, but it’s very hard for me to give a genuine hug when I’m repulsed by her actions. Also, at this point I’d have already offered her a hug, and possibly have given one, to deescalate the situation when I saw it starting, but she sometimes takes that as a cue to move ahead with more bad choices.

I want her to know that I love her unconditionally. That even when I want to slap her across the face to make her stop yapping and to just think about her actions for a moment, I still love her. I want so badly for her to realize the consequences of her actions because I love her. I would not try so hard to teach her things if I didn’t care.

NoSpankingZoneBut I will not give in to her pleas for negative attention. I refuse to lose my cool when she’s purposely playing me. I will practice what I preach and lead by example. We do not hit people. We do not bully people. When we are angry we do not scream or break things. When we feel bad we have ways to positively deal with things. If we need to take a minute to calm down before confronting someone about something we should find that peace. We should strive to show empathy.

I didn’t know much about handling my emotions before I had children. I was so used to being intimidated and not being validated that I didn’t know how to express myself, especially when faced with something that angered me. It is difficult to teach my children how to deal with their emotions at the same time as I am learning, but it is so rewarding to know that I am providing them with a strong foundation for self-control.This basis will help them to understand more about themselves and have positive relationships with others in the future.

Being loving, staying calm, and providing children with ample methods for handling BIG feelings is time-consuming. Much more so than spanking them. However, I believe that the benefits of teaching children to take responsibility for their actions instead of stripping them of their power will lead to well-adjusted, confident, mentally-stable young adults.


5 Responses to “Negative Attention”

  1. Having a child forced me to face my own negative upbringing and methods of dealing with my less than loving marriage. It never gets easier exactly, but you do start figuring things out.

    • Jet Says:

      Thank you! I recently heard the phrase “Bigger children mean bigger problems” lol. I see how that would be true. The more I figure myself out and find balance and work to remain calm the easier it is to handle the mania of having little ones 🙂

  2. What did you do for discipline when she was younger, like 12-18 months? I’ve started to notice Harper testing me on purpose, like if I tell her “no don’t touch that” she will touch it ever so slightly and look at me like “so what are you going to do about it”… I tried smacking her hand lightly for a week when she would do things I said no to, but she thought that was hilarious. LOL Now I’ve been trying to take her from the situation and face her towards the wall for a few seconds because she hates to be held in a sitting position when she’s in GO mode, but I’m not really sure my “sort of time outs” are working. John and I had the discussion that we are NEVER going to use any kind of belt or switch on her even though our parents did use those on us and we didn’t consider them bad parents. When you put something in your hand as a tool, you can’t feel how hard it hits and I think it could get out of control unintentionally! To me it’s like using a weapon once you take something in your hand to hit someone, right?

    • Jet Says:

      I apologize for it taking me so long to respond to your comment/question. I totally agree about the tools of corporal punishment being likened to weapons. I don’t want my children to think that just because I’m bigger and stronger that means I can inflict pain upon them to make them behave. I feel like that would turn them into bullies, or condition them to accepting abuse. I don’t even use time-outs anymore (I went along with it for awhile when my husband was here and insisted on using them; I always hated them and felt that they were counterproductive, but I had little say back then). I don’t think facing the wall is very effective, no matter the child’s age (but especially not when they’re under two). Now…to answer your questions, lol…

      When my children were that young and basically just trying to explore their world/understand their boundaries, I tried VERY hard to never use the word “No.” I saved “No” for REALLY big things, like them climbing up a fish tank, or touching the stove, or playing with the outlets. If you overuse “No” it loses its effect and they start to think it’s funny or insignificant. I relied on redirection when they were that young. Instead of, “No, don’t.” I’d say, “Uh-oh, we don’t do that, but we can do this.” I always tried to give them another, appropriate option, which allowed them to perform the same task (banging, squeezing, shaking, tearing, eating), but in a safer way. My oldest liked to eat paper. Yuck! I would tell her, “Paper is for writing and drawing, but you can have this for eating,” and I’d give her a Nori wrap (seaweed) because it’s flat and crinkles like paper, but it’s really healthy for her too. To this day she still eats and enjoys them 🙂

      My oldest was really well behaved though. I pretty much only had to explain to her logically why we didn’t do something once, and she wouldn’t do it again. My (at-the-moment) youngest, OMG. She was trouble, lol. She didn’t care to listen and thought it was hilarious when people tried to redirect her. She didn’t care if she got hurt either. She’d do the same thing twenty times and fall off or topple over or whatnot every time and still go back for more. She really needed distraction over redirection. I would say, “Yes, that’s really fun! But that’s dangerous (or something similar),” then I’d say, “Let’s go do (X,Y,Z), it’s safe for us!” When all else failed I’d hug and kiss her, blow bubbles (which we still use as a calming method), or start doing something silly. I don’t like to leave her feelings unvalidated, but depending on the situation we might need to nip it in the bud a bit faster than usual, lol.

      For times when they’re being unsafe, I mean like, REALLY unsafe, I don’t wait around or use too many methods. I’ll pick them up if need be, but that’s the only time I physically remove them from the situation. I want them to feel like they’re in control of their bodies. I want to teach them how to handle their BIG feelings. I want to validate them and show them safe ways to accomplish their goals. I don’t think removing them from the situation really does that. Sometimes, now that they’re older, I’ll have them sit on their beds to wait to talk with me if there has been a BIG issue or something. Like, if one of them hurt the other. I’ll console the victim and ask the “wrongdoer” to sit in a safe place while she waits for me. They are never locked in or forced, but if they refuse to go and sit and wait quietly there is a consequence. Every minute that they spend off of their beds is an added minute to when I’ll come in the room to talk with them. This typically makes them go to their beds ASAP, because they’ll be able to get off and play again ASAP. Sitting on the bed gives the “wrongdoer” a chance to think about what she has done and what she’ll say when I come to her, and during that time I give the victim her necessary consolation and reassurance. When I address the “wrongdoer” I’m typically greeted by an apology. We discuss what happened, what we could’ve done differently, and then the “wrongdoer” apologizes to the victim. Again, my kids are 3 and 5 now, but this has been the way I’ve done things since they first started interacting. It’s really important that I show/teach them empathy. I apologize when I’ve done something wrong as well.

      Have you watched Happiest Toddler on the Block? I watched it recently and a lot of the ways I treat my kids were highlighted as highly effective. That made me happy, lol. I’ve never read any books on Attachment Parenting, but I know that my style is along the lines of that practice as well. I just…love them to pieces, and want them to always feel understood and feel safe and be open to communicating with me. It starts when they’re babies and if they learn early on that you never validate them it’s downhill from there.

      Oh! One other thing I’m thinking is that maybe the space she’s in isn’t suitable. If you’re having to say “No” all the time then maybe you’re putting her in an inappropriate environment to begin with? It’s a tough decision to redo your entire house to be baby-safe, and you cannot redo other people’s houses, but maybe designate certain areas for her where she can touch anything, anyplace you go, or don’t take her those places, or…expect there to be trouble? Lol. At least she’s growing/learning/exploring her world 🙂 I’d try to make certain that she knows your aren’t against her trying to figure things out, just that you want her to do so safely. I think you’ll find your balance. It’s hard to give them space to learn and give them boundaries simultaneously, but it’s possible. Good luck mama!!!

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