You know how a kid can totally suck at baseball and make like ten errors in one game and start to feel completely hopeless and dejected, but then out of nowhere he can make an amazing catch that no one ever thought was possible? And even with all those errors in one game, that one awesome catch has him riding a high and feeling like there is hope for him as a baseball player after all?
This past Friday I was that sucky baseball player, but in the mom department. I made a thousand errors. I couldn’t do anything right. I was feeling like a complete failure.
And then this afternoon, I finally made a really good play.
And I am still riding that high.
There is something I’ve been trying SO HARD for my kids to “get”.
But they have not been getting it.
I know I’m not the only parent whose kids are constantly bugging the shit out of each other.
It’s one of my biggest pet peeves. The kids just needling each other until someone eventually explodes.
Then they are either screaming at each other or beating the crap out of each other, and it pretty much always ends in tears.
It drives me insane.
And I have been working very, VERY hard to teach the kids how to resolve this issue without my help.
Because when I intervene, they don’t learn how to solve these problems themselves, and I put myself in the position to always be the referee.
It’s infuriating and exhausting. And it’s monotonous and boring.
This happens very often when the kids are in the kitchen.
We have a counter/bar area where the kids eat most of their meals.
And inevitably the kids are looking at each other or touching each other or chewing the wrong way or doing any other number of things that annoy the living crap out of each other. This turns into them yelling at each other and then them pleading for me to make the other person stop.
So I’ve really been working to teach them that you can’t make anyone else do anything.
You can politely ask them to stop doing whatever it is, but you can’t make anyone other than yourself start or stop doing anything.
The kids very often get so frustrated with each other that after they ask whoever is bugging the crap out of them to stop in as civil a way as possible. When they refuse, the next move is to yell at them, and then when they reach the boiling point, they will progress to a push/shove/smack/whatever.
That’s the thing that pushes me over the edge.
Their response is typically, “BUT HE’S JUST SO ANNOYING!!!”
I assure them I feel the same way very often each day, but if I hit someone every time they annoyed me, I’d be throwing punches all day long. Plus, when you’re a grown up and do that stuff you go to jail.
So we’ve been working on solutions to this problem.
As I explained earlier, the kids usually eat in close proximity to each other at the counter in the kitchen.
The dining room is right around the corner from the kitchen. And there is a nice table in there at which to eat.
We have talked about alternatives to the arguing/bickering/fighting.
We have talked about how even though it’s frustrating and annoying, it’s your job to either accept the situation and ignore the behavior or remove yourself from the situation when you’ve politely said something but the other person refuses to stop and/or change.
This afternoon at lunch, the bickering began.
I felt myself getting extremely agitated.
I took a deep breath, clenched my teeth, and prepared to ask the kids what they thought would be a good solution to the problem, and before I even opened my mouth, Number 6 stood up, pushed in his seat, picked up his plate, silently left the kitchen and sat down at the dining room table.
HE GOT IT!!!
And I didn’t have to say a word.
I couldn’t believe it.
I didn’t feel like I had just made an amazing catch. I felt like I had won the whole damn World Series!!!
I know this doesn’t mean everything has clicked permanently, but my six-year-old son is learning how to regulate his emotion and how to keep his cool, and I didn’t have to intervene at all.
He did it all by himself. And he didn’t learn it by being punished, by having something held over his head, by having a carrot dangled in front of him, by being threatened, or by being singled out.
He learned it because we’ve been practicing, we’ve been talking, and I’ve been consistent.
That is a major life skill, and he’s getting it at six years old.
YES. YES. YES.
I ran into the dining room and high fived him.
I yelled “GOOD JOB NUMBER 6!!!” and gave him a hug.
He squeezed me back, looked straight up at me, and he said,
Mommy? I LOVE YOU SO MUCH.
It wasn’t just a great play today in the parenting department.
To me, it was more like a grand slam.