Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What I Learned This Week: Change the Game Plan

After I agreed to play along in Jo-Lynne's "What I Learned This Week" carnival, I kind of broke out in a cold sweat.

Part of the reason had to do with the fact that I was in the midst of the stomach virus that has now plagued each and every member of our family. But the other reason was, I wasn't sure I really had much to share.

I mean, what had I learned this week? That Clorox wipes are a gift from the gods?

But, just when my concern began to blossom into full-scale panic, I was hit between the eyes with the biggest lesson of the week.

It was Sunday night and four of us were laid out in the great room suffering through said stomach virus. Josh (4), who had recovered from his bout a day earlier, was the only one back to fighting form. He comes in the great room and asks if he can go over to my parents' house to play because he was bored.

Earlier that day (before my other two kids got sick), my parents had generously offered to take the kids to Walmart. On the way home, Grace (19 months) began puking in the car. So, I kind of felt like my parents had had their fill of us for one day.

"No, Josh." I said.

"But, why. I'm --"

"Josh. No. I said no. Mimi and Papa have already done enough today."

That's when my husband piped up, "You don't have to holler at him."

"I didn't holler," I protested.

"Yes you did. You just don't notice it because you're always in holler mode with him lately."


Was that really true?

I thought about my husband's comment for the rest of the evening.

Of all three of my children, Josh is the most challenging. He is a debater by nature. He can be stubborn. He has an answer for everything. Something as simple as asking him to put on his shoes can turn into a 15-minute, "But why can't I wear my flip flops when it's 40 degrees and raining?" episode.

Josh's personality is diametrically opposite to mine. I don't like conflict. I don't enjoy debates. I was the type of child who tended to do as she was told, without question. A lot of times I find myself wondering, "Why can't he just take my answer and leave it at that. Why is there always an argument?"

In short, the constant drama exhausts me.

While I still don't agree that I was "hollering" at Josh the other night, I can't deny the fact that my communication with him did have a certain "edge" to it. The more I thought about it, the more I began to realize that every time I talk to Josh lately, I tend to have my boxing gloves on and ready. I'm almost anticipating the fight. Doing so practically ensures an argument every time, while encouraging the same petulant behavior in him (what am I modeling, after all?).

And as a result, I fall far short of the mother I'd like to be.

What I learned this week is that sometimes you need to change up the game plan. Parenting from a defensive position -- particularly when dealing with a strong-willed child -- will not get the job done. The answer doesn't lie in "winning the fight" and forcing Josh to succumb to my will. More often than not, the answer lies in more patience and focus on my part, not more vocal volume. (This post from Simple Kids sums it up perfectly.)

Ultimately, I've got to remain mindful of my own behavior and response. Because, in the end, the only behavior I can control is my own.

If I can master that, I stand a much better chance at influencing the behavior of those around me, especially my children.

To learn what other people learned this week, head on over to Musings of a Housewife.


Anonymous said...

I cuold have written that post myself except that I am as stubborn and argumentative as my middle one. Don't be hard on yourself, it's easy to fall into the trap of constntly anticipating the next fight :-)

jen@odbt said...

Beautiful post and lesson. This is me and my son to a tee. My husband tells me that I have a different tone with him...I don't notice it but deep down, it's there. We butt heads and you're so right, I only have control over me.

Betty said...

This is a really big and important lesson you learned. Something we all need to learn. Thank for sharing that!

Christina Lee said...

so well written and so darn true- I am guilty of this too!

Musings of a Housewife said...

wow. such a hard lesson to learn, is it not? my son has been talking to ME with an edge lately. this morning I brought him over and calmly pointed that out and explained why it was disrespectful and annoying. he's been better. but wow, as they get older, things don't get easier - just different.

thanks for contributing!!! :-) sorry I gave you cold sweats.

Windy said...

I have to keep myself in check with the voice - raising it and the tone! Good to know I'm not alone:)

Vanessa said...

Great post! The tone gets me in trouble too, but I seem to not even realize my tone at time, which is terrible. "The only behavior I can control is my own" - Amen to that!

Tracy said...

I have a Joshua (he is 6 yrs old) who is EXACTLY the same...I feel exhausted most of the time lately. Thank you for this important reminder.

Janel@Dandelion Dayz said...

I am in holler mode way more than I care to admit. Great post here and good reminder!

Eli's Lids said...

I like how you worded that. I notice when I get defensive and have to switch gears.

fortyb4forty said...

Great lesson learned and reminder about parenting. Thanks for sharing.

pinkmommy said...

Oh my word that is SO my Princess! We are constantly butting heads right now. Sometimes I stop and think, "Remember who the adult is here! She is (almost) 5!"

pinkbeary said...

"The answer doesn't lie in "winning the fight" and forcing Josh to succumb to my will. More often than not, the answer lies in more patience and focus on my part, not more vocal volume."

I've been a mom who has been super grumpy and hollering all week. i'm getting over a cold and my 2 1/2 year old is in the "ask a question over and over again until i get the 'yes' answer" mode. sigh. reading your post was good.

mills said...

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Kellie said...

Oh man, I am with you on this one. It seems like I get into a habit of reacting to my kiddos instead of responding...or more recently, when they come to me and immediately start explaining something, I automatically assume the worst, and take-on a cranky attitude.

The good news is your being teachable! Thanks for being so transparent in this post...

Phyllis@Aimless Conversation said...

Great post. Deep thoughts. I have one that gets under my skin too. (isn't there always ONE?)

Thanks for giving me something to think about and challenging us all to a higher standard.

Darcie said...

If it's any consolation, you're not alone. I learned a few mothering lessons this week myself. Mothering lessons are probably the most valuable ones to learn because they really strike a chord (the way down deep ones at that), but they're also the hardest because it just hurts so bad when you feel you're falling short as a mom.

Don't be too hard on yourself.

Jane said...

Parenting is the hardest job in the world.
It sounds as if you are doing a brilliant job.

erika chapman said...

What a great post and reminder! I needed it as I tend to butt heads with my middle joy as well. We just are so so different and it is much harder for me to identify and understand him. i have been working on "Pleasant words are like honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." Prov. 16:24 Trying so hard!