This chapter is entitled, “Everyday Madness” and opens by talking about the anger that can occur in parents over everyday, ordinary things such as children not brushing their teeth or cleaning their rooms, whining, dawdling, fighting with siblings and how guilty parents feel about feeling that way.
But why do parents feel so guilty about this? From page 25: “Having skills in the way we respond can make a difference and make us feel less at the mercy of our impulses. Most parents think they should be able to handle the every day stuff automatically, but why should they think that, since no one ever taught them how? On the contrary, I can imagine that most of us were raised in households where the dynamics were very similar to the ones described here, in which we were told repeatedly that the things we wanted were not worth making a fuss over.”
The author talks about her experiment regarding leaving a “tape recorder on during breakfast or dinner, to record what you say and how you say it. When my children were younger, I tried it, and I got a terrible shock…”
What would your tone sound like to your children if you did that experiment in your household? If it would not be what you would want to hear, how could you change this?
The authors talk about changing our parenting language, something I have written frequently about on this blog. The follow-up to this, for older children, is to have them take responsibility for themselves.
The authors say on page 28: “When, after these well-meaning reminders, our children fail to respond or continue to be forgetful anyway, we’re angry: “I reminded you! How could you forget? Are you deaf? Stupid? Trying to drive me crazy?” But often after we have vented our disgust and anger, we may then rush to bail them out, so that they won’t have to suffer or be unhappy for having been forgetful, irresponsible, or careless. We want our children to become more responsible, but how often do we really give them the chance? We forget that the best way children learn is by experiencing the consequences of their actions.”
Part of what we need to do as parents with our older children is to not blame or attack, but to be gracious and kind without bailing the child out. The child may be angry or wail or cry, but that is really okay. All feelings are okay! And children come to us with their own destinies, their own work, and sometimes they have to rise up and do this work without you getting in the way.
This chapter also points out scenarios where the parents were proactive and set the rule in their home – see the scenario on page 33 for an example. If we don’t set down the rules, the children will not know. You cannot get angry at your children for not knowing! Rhythm is your most powerful ally in this regard. Rhythm is strength and helps with discipline!
The authors also point out normal developmental stages – see page 34 – where between ages three and six, children do interrupt and whine, seven and eight year olds daydream and don’t do chores, etc. The point is NOT that this is acceptable, but it is normal. If you know what is developmentally appropriate, that can be the first point in planning what you will do when this behavior will inevitably occur.
And most of dealing with normal developmental challenges is LESS WORDS, MORE DOING. Help your child move away from a sibling that is putting their feet in their face before they start hitting each other. Hand your child a sponge to clean up the milk he spilled. State rules clearly and impartially: “This is what happens” for older children; for younger children it should all be part of the daily rhythm. Use verses, rhymes, singing and movement whilst you are singing to get the job done. Humor can go a long way!
I would love to hear your thoughts on this chapter if you have the book.