Sunday, June 23, 2013

How Do I Handle MY Kids?

I've made several references to them, but I've never actually spoken about them directly.  In a general sense, I love most children. In that vein, I think that my kids are the most fascinating people I have ever met.  I have two sons.  As a personal preference, I do not want to put their names on a public site, but I can comfortably call them "E" and "J."

E is 11 and at the end of grade 6 while J is 7 and at the end of grade 1.  E has a comprehension problem with numbers and J is very emotionally reactive which can lead to significant physical components to his behaviour.  So, while I was in university, I was also parenting two kids with diverse issues.  It was absolutely challenging.

Early on in my "mothering" life, I decided that I was the parent and that they were going to listen to whatever it was I had to say, or was instructing them to do.  It was non-negotiable and not flexible based on who whined the loudest.  In all honesty, the number one thing I hated as a parent was whining.  As soon as the whining started, the answer to every question became a unilateral NO.  The louder the whine, the more adamant the "no."

Because both children have an "issue," I learned that the best way to deal with them is to be as consistent as possible.  Anything less than consistency resulted in children who were out of control and who behaved as though the rule of the day was anarchy or chaos.  Part of that consistent attitude, manifested itself in set bedtimes, set wakeup times, and very clearly articulated acceptable types of behaviour in public.

In some form or fashion, I think that all parents end up teaching their kids the standard of behaviour that they are comfortable with.  I just chose to do it directly (actually telling them everything that is reasonable in public and everything that I will not accept) with both of my boys, because they understand the purpose better.  I have spoken to a few  psychologists in my time (that's what my degree is in), and there are various opinions on how effective it is to explain the logical outcome of something a child has done or said, to that child.  E has a greater grasp on nuances at his age, so I generally have to explain less things to him.  J seems to be more of a concrete, or hands on child than his brother is, so he needs more explanation.

I often use myself as the model person because it avoids blaming the child (even where he may be wrong), and since I have two delightful "Mama's boys," if the end result of the child's action is a negative one, and I present myself as the person who receives the negative effect, then it does have an impact.  They never want to see anything bad happen to Mama, even hypothetically.

In situations where it would be logical to use a child, I will select a child younger than they are (a younger cousin), or smaller than they are (a baby they know), to demonstrate how badly their words or actions would be received.  Kids are not stupid and if you treat them with a measure of dignity and expect them to be decent, loving human beings, they will generally rise to the challenge.  They aren't aliens or a sub-species, they are younger, less knowledgeable, inexperienced people.

With me, I've heard that "boys will be boys" expression since I was a child and it is only now as a parent that I understand that to mean; any behaviour that I would not otherwise tolerate from anyone.  For example, running up and down in public.  I expect them, whether they are bored or not, to maintain a reasonable amount of personal decorum.  But that starts at home.  I do not like screaming and obnoxious behaviour at home, so seeing it in public from them is much less likely (or virtually impossible).

The other concept that old adage refers to, is the propensity for boys to physically fight.  For the answer to this one, I have to go back to when I was a child.  Just imagine being a single parent in the 1970s...

My mother was extremely strict and yet, full of love, but very old school.  My brother and I were not allowed to fight at all.  If we even had raised voices talking to each other, she was ready with this old heavy leather strap (that my father had made exclusively for spanking children) and we both got a few good shots on our backsides and she would conclusively end any fight we were having, everytime.  The line was: "There are enough wars in the world; there will be no fighting in my house."

The end result of her corporal punishment, is that my brother and I grew up with an aversion to fighting.  Now, let's revisit my boys.  I have chosen a different route.

Last year in the summertime, I chose not to hit my boys anymore (yes they got spankings when they were younger) because, E was very big (almost my height)  and J freaks out if he thinks I'm going to hit him, even if I only intended to use my hand.  So I had to find another way to convey the same message, without using hitting.

I tried "time-out's" but they don't work.  I have also tried taking away privileges, but that only works some of the time.  Rewards can work too, but they also only work with certain things.  So, what do I do?

I humiliate my kids.  Well, that's not entirely accurate anymore.  I used to humiliate them for a while, but now, the fear of humiliation is enough to curb behaviours that I do not like, nearly instantaneously.  I can hear some people saying: "That's terrible!"  Well, it would be terrible, if it didn't work.  As it stands, my boys understand how to speak to me, at home and in public, what tone of voice to use, that being in a store does not mean that they will get ANYTHING at all, and that if they try to challenge me in public, I will have them standing at attention facing a can of beans as I call attention to any passerby the fact that they are in time out in public because they are not listening to me.

People get so embarrassed when their kids make noise in public (whining and screaming etc.)!  Well, I have no problem making more noise than my kids, so the end result is that everyone is staring at them and THEY get embarrassed.  Strangely enough, when they are causing the disruption, they don't feel embarrassed, but when they are not causing it and they just get to watch everyone staring, they don't like that at all! 

I advocate nothing for anyone to try, but my kids both know, that if they try to act up in public, I will literally ask complete strangers to stare at them: "Look at this child!  He's not listening to me, but maybe if you asked him nicely he might listen if you tell him to be quiet!"  It works like magic every single time!!!

I know there's still someone out there, maybe a few of you who are up in arms at the prospect of embarrassing children to get them to stay in line, but ask yourself this: how many people have you seen in public with kids out of control and running up and down like they are ferrol?  Honestly, those kids are NOT my children now, and have NEVER been my children.  Even when they were toddlers they knew that was not acceptable behaviour.  Children understand very well and from a very young age if you are consistent and follow through with whatever you say the discipline will be for a transgression.

If you are not into hitting kids, and all of the things that "experts" suggest you do, have only limited success rates, then to avoid behaviours that you do not want or to deal with them should they arise, you have to find something that works for you.  With my boys, this works.  They're still kids and cheeky and funny and expressive.  I would never squash who they are, just the actions or traits I do not want. We laugh hysterically far more than I ever raise my voice.

There's an expression I know though: I don't feel no way.  It's origin I'm not entirely certain about, but many people, especially with parents of West Indian origin, will know what it means.  For everyone else, it literally means: I don't care what anyone thinks, but it's more than that too.  It also means; I don't have any problem expressing how or what I feel.  Another expression that works in conjunction with that is: I don't play.

That last one is much more basic, but to be clear, it means: I do not joke when it comes to unacceptable behaviour.

So, between I don't feel no way and I don't play, my guys understand where the line in the sand is in public, but what about at home?  Guess what?  It works here too!  The children are old enough now that they do not like to look foolish in front of each other!  If I draw attention to some bad behaviour; the 7-year-old, who looks up to "big brother" does not want to seem immature.  The 11-year-old, who enjoys being looked up to, does not want to look silly in front of his "little brother".

My little boys rarely fight, are very affectionate with each other and with me and generally are quite good.  Everyday is a new day and presents new opportunities to be loving and kind with one another, and that is what I aim to do.  How do I handle my kids?  The very best way I know how.  And it shows through them.