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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Kindergarten Kids: Discipline Fail


Sometimes even the gentlest of parents yell, and I am by no means anywhere close to the gentlest of parents. I yell. A lot.

I yell because no one responds to me.
I yell because shit is falling apart everywhere.
I yell because no one listens to me.
I yell because to my kids, fighting with each other is more important than whatever I have to say.
I yell because there is a general lack of respect for my authority.

There's a lack of respect for it because I've worked hard to show my kids that their opinion matters, that I value fairness and that I am reasonable when it comes to good debate...even with toddlers.
So, I'm not really going to fix this by going authoritarian. I'm trying to do something here, and I'm hoping it will pay off in the long run.

Still, enough is enough, and I have about, oh, NO patience at all, and so I yell.

And sometimes when I yell, my kids cry.

I had liked this, not because I like my kids to cry, but because I mistakenly assumed they cried because they realized the enormity of fault in their behavior, and had finally decided to correct their ways, and that they were so sorry for pushing me to that point.



Recently, one of them started practicing a stonewall face, which, above all, could drive me into a rage (which I don't give into, because just like above where they're not getting it like I thought they were, here, she has no idea that this is a mark of disrespect and honestly,  even though crying says to me you listened and responded and stonewall face says you didn't listen and didn't respond, in neither case are they listening or responding.)

In a fit of what I can only call parenting genius, I asked the kid calmly what the blank face was all about. And she told me.

"I'm doing it so I don't cry."

And my heart broke a little. I remember this. I remember this. I remember crying when people yelled at me, and not getting the words at all, just giving in to the emotion of the situation, and then working, practicing, working so hard, on a stonewall face. Because they yelled to make me cry. And I didn't want to give them that satisfaction anymore. And maybe if I stonewalled, they'd stop yelling, because they'd no longer be making me cry.

But notice, nowhere in my list of admittedly bad reasons why I yell is "to make my kids cry."

That is not not not not not not not the point.

The point is to convey importance of subject matter, irritation at repetition, and to change behavior.

Only it hasn't worked in five years, so I really doubt it's going to happen now.


While no one is going to be a perfect disciplinarian all the time, it's important to remember to talk to your kids after the incident.

And not just talk to them about what they did and why they need to do something else, but also talk to them about what you did. And what  the point of that action was supposed to be. I told my daughter that I absolutely wasn't trying to make her cry when I yelled at her. It wasn't a game where I won and she lost if she cried. There's not a power struggle here (my kids live for power struggles, being twins). I already had the power, and I didn't feel any better about myself for making her cry.

Long story short, that it wasn't the point.

And that it was okay for her to blank her face out, and maybe it would remind me to talk to her instead of yell at her, but when I did talk to her, she had to listen, repeat what I said back, apologize for specific deeds if necessary, and give me a plan for the future.

By involving her so much in the discipline process, I automatically get the engagement I was looking for with the yell, and she feels empowered to make a change. Not to mention, it gets a clear explanation--what was unacceptable and what she needs to change. That hadn't been as clear as I'd thought it was before.

This is a better way to discipline. Not only because I don't yell as much, but also because it actually accomplishes the goals I was trying to accomplish through yelling in the first place.



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