I can’t begin to explain how many mothers I’ve heard expressing how fed up they are with needing to discipline their kids day and night. I also went through it. It is an insane time but when I found myself shouting at my kids all day long I knew I had to do something. I called a few people and it did take some time but eventually my dad referred me to a wonderful lady who had been working with people and families through generations.
Because she worked with families for so long she could see the effect that different behaviours had on children and the far reaching consequences thereof. Of course I was embarrassed because I wasn’t coping. I am such a capable person! How come I can’t handle this? Shouting at my kids became a daily and hourly thing. Anyhow, long story short, this sounded like someone I could listen to. I gave her a call and I’m going to share with you what she told me because it worked like a miracle and our home became a peaceful haven again.
Little children between the ages of 2 and 6 are quite a challenge as any mom will know.
Of course there are different personalities and tendencies but they are all a huge challenge. It is during this time that many moms just get fed up because they are constantly trying to get these children under control while shouting at them all day long. They end up in a total frazzle and their poor husbands don’t really know what to do either.
These little ones get up to all sorts and as if that’s not enough, when they get sick they end up vomiting all over you, or wetting the bed, or even getting pooh all over you, it’s just a nightmare to say the least! I remember a time when my two little ones had upset tummies at the same time and I was so exhausted one night I literally fell asleep with my hair in vomit and didn’t notice. haha. Yes that is funny I know. My dear husband found me and kindly woke me so I could go and have a bath while he helped me clean up. Goodness gracious, can it be this hard to be a mother?
I called my “fairy godmother”.
Ok let’s get back to shouting at my kids. When I called my “fairy godmother”, as I ended up naming her secretly, she gave me her advice. Little did I know that it would be the best advice I could ever have wished for and this is what she said I should do.
Pick 4 things that are completely unacceptable behaviour, propose a punishment that you always follow through on, and turn a blind eye to the rest. Sit them down and explain to them what your intention is. They are way more clever than you will ever believe.
She explained and I understood these things to be specifically things that are dangerous or destructive. Like when they hurt others or themselves. Or break their toys on purpose. And maybe when they challenge you by looking you straight in the eyes while they empty their bowl of rice krispies and milk on the floor just to try and show you whose boss! You know that one? 🙂 I wondered if it really is trying to show whose boss or if they just want to see what the effect is … I learned that it probably is the latter but boy it made me mad! Anyhow that was it!
- Pick 4 things.
- Follow through on your reprimand.
- Turn a blind eye to the rest.
It’s like everything they do just gets on my nerves!
Whaaaat? I thought! Only 4 things? How can I only pick 4 things? It’s like everything they do just gets on my nerves! And will they really understand me? From what I had experienced … NEVER! But things had gotten so bad I just had to bite the bullet and do it. These were the ones I picked. Yours may be different of course.
- Don’t hurt, hit or bite each other, your mom and dad included.
- Don’t put yourself in danger by not listening when I call you, especially when we’re out on the road or in the shops.
- No tantrums, period.
- Don’t break things on purpose, especially your friends’ toys. (Some embarrassing ones there.)
While I decided what to pick I couldn’t help but think of all the irritations I have to live with every day. What about food messed all over the place that I constantly have to clean? What about destroying their clothes with all the crazy stuff they get up to. And getting the bathroom wet from ceiling to floor during bath time. And, what about throwing their shoes away or flushing things down the toilet. And what about blah blah blah blah…
When you’ve reached the end of your tether you just have to do what you have to do.
So here goes, I thought. I sat them down and as simply as I could I explained to them that for these 4 things they will be punished. They seemed to understand. We sat and stared at each other for a while and suddenly off they went. Ok, I thought, here we are, on our way to this new kind of living, I hope.
This was probably one of the most interesting experiences I had ever had. I was fascinated with the results. It worked like a charm! It was weird in fact. Like they had become different children in a surprisingly short time. As in days! Consequently I was more relaxed and patient. I was happier to spend more time with them. I even let my hair down and enjoyed messy games with them outside. I worried less. I wasn’t angry all the time. I started building a really great relationship with them and we laughed so much more. I learned to value our family relations more than stuff. I sort of just resigned myself to the fact that the house, furniture and many clothing items will probably be destroyed, and they were, but I took the plunge and decided not to care.
My back was against the wall and I had a high regard for my “fairy godmother” so I knew she would not have given me this advice if it wasn’t going to work. I was determined. Shouting at my kids day and night was no longer an option.
Of course there were many judgements from all directions. I just learned that it didn’t matter. The house was messy but I understood that it would only be for a time. I could accept that they grow up so fast that these things won’t matter pretty soon. I knew that my relationship with my kids was more important than anything. (It was during this time that I bought the wonderful book by Hettie Britz that you can read more about here.)
Things got better and my relationship with my kids got stronger. I couldn’t believe how well it worked until I figured out that my mood and my state of mind affected everything. The minute I let go, it all changed. When I look back now it was so obvious. When I was tense, everyone was tense. When I became relaxed, everyone became relaxed.
Yes of course I had to endure a lot of cleaning and tidying up and so many other things I can’t even think of now. All that was important was that I had stopped shouting at my kids and that peace had entered out home again. And guess what! They started participating and enjoyed cleaning up the mess with me because I wasn’t an old witch anymore! All because I let go of all my pre-conceived ideas that children must sit still and behave, be neat and tidy and do as I said.
I realised in a big way that children need to mess, play and be noisy.
They need to dig in the ground, eat mud and bake cupcakes. They need to climb trees and scream and shout with joy and glee. They need to laugh out loud and chase the dog around the house. They need to bring in strange creatures and keep them in a box till they die. They need to graze their knees and bump their toes. They need to cry themselves to sleep sometimes. They need to experience the wonderful rejuvenation that water can supply and certainly need to feel the different states of matter like clay, blocks, sticky glue and “cooldrink”. How else will they learn, measure and gauge. There is so much more I can share about this but I think this is enough to paint the picture.
This is the meaning of life. The joy of experience. It is the reason we exist.
Sometimes we forget. I did. I wanted everything to be clean, perfect and neat. I wanted my children to be angels with pretty frilly spotless dresses and socks! How insane I was. My children set me free from the bondage of materialism. No wonder they are called a “blessing”.
Now my children are becoming teenagers and they are the most beautiful, impressive and gorgeous young people ever. Had I continued with the trend I started with, I’m sure they would have become insecure and fearful creatures. Shouting at your kids all day long can be seriously harmful to their personalities in the end.
Thank you “fairy godmother”! I hope that by sharing this process that I can enthuse many other mothers to use this method to shift their engagement with their children from hell to heaven because it certainly was hell to me when I was deep in it.