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Thursday, August 07, 2008


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Oh,'re not the only one! I definitely struggle with this too. With four little ones running around (well, three running and one crawling as fast as he can to catch up!) I do my very best to be consistent in my discipline but it's nearly impossible some days. And my DH is harder on them, too. It's a hard issue and I don't have any words of wisdom just chiming in that you're not alone:)

Oh good Lord, you are living my life and thinking my thoughts. Big issue in my house lately, especially as my 3 1/2 yr. old has discovered the temper tantrum as response to boundary-setting. I am at home with my son, and if I were to set AND reinforce all the boundaries that my husband sees as important, my entire day would be spent on discipline ... and often on discipline that I just don't see as important. You're right, when you're the sole parent for 50 hrs. a week, you learn to pick your battles.

Furthermore, I'm sure our perspectives differ because a key component of my job is being patient, which is easier for me than it is for my husband because I don't have other demands that would provoke impatience. It's a capacity I've cultivated over the course of 3 1/2 years. So it honestly doesn't bother me to let my son have a few extra minutes to line up his Matchbox cars before going upstairs to bed, rather than stress that he must come NOW.

Fortunately, my husband took care of my son for much of the day last Sunday and, I think, began to get some of this after an extremely frustrating morning together. I think he also began to see, after we discussed it, that there were patterns to the tantrums/defiance, and that a certain amount of respect for my son's needs could alleviate some of the problems. (Example: need for order and closure, as in Matchbox car instance above. I'd estimate at least half of our supposed "discipline problems" arise when we attempt to rush our son through a task or divert/distract him from something he perceives as disordered. Let's face it, how many of us like to be interrupted?)

Anyway, I guess this is another one of those areas where spousal communication is key, but I do think it helped when my husband was able to see things more from my perspective.

I so get what you're saying--especially being too pregnant and tired to be a perfect disciplinarian.

Hey: she's not yet at the age of Reason so the only thing that works is consistent physical discipline (you know, physically enforcing the good behavior and/or stopping the bad behavior). And you can't do that on every issue because being pregnant you'd um, drop dead. (I still might.)

Pick a few non-negotiable issues (I like your Safety and Violence guideline) and the rest is Avoid (keep things she shouldn't have away from her) and Ignore (don't react to provocative behaviors).

You simply CAN'T do it all right now. That's life. You know. Limitations. Encourage positive behaviors. Give little energy to negative ones. Distract.

She's not in irreparable moral and physical danger when you feed her yogurt on the couch. Save the energy for when she's climbing the counter tops and heading for the butcher knives.

Let Bryan be the parent he wants to be, back him up when he's home but don't expect yourself to muster consistency for HIS discipline as well as your own. He's building his relationship with C and you are building yours--and yours includes some physical limitations now.

You can save some disciplinary issues for later--true you'll have an infant, then, but you'll have more energy and less nausea.

I'm just entering this phase... Phillip has all these Grand Disciplinary Ideas and I'm sitting there thinking, "He must be joking." And I haven't said anything because I feel like he's right, we should be doing all that. But if I just kind of do the in one ear out the other thing with him, then I don't really have to deal with it yet. Right?! I am totally picking my battles right now and honestly that's the best I've got in me.

Oh, that all sounds VERY familiar.

I'm the same way. I think sometimes the not-home-all-the-time parent gets some unrealistic expectations. Also, when it's your first child, sometimes you lose sight of the fact that they will not always be a senseless toddler. You're choosing your battles. I think you're doing fine. What is really so wrong about eating yogurt on the couch? I do that myself. What keeps me honest, though, is that every once in a while, it turns out my husband is right.

I'm a full-time SAHM to my 4 lovely girls and my hubby is only home about 2 waking hours on weekdays (but home all weekend.) Our parenting approach has been to let me take the lead on discipline issues and he'll enforce my rules when necessary. We try to work out consequences ahead of time, but that's not always possible. When in doubt, I'm right because it's my job more than half of the time. If he doesn't like it, we'll discuss it later and deal with it. However, in my world, I'm always right anyway.

Although we are just entering this phase in parenting, it seems that this is how things are going to be in our home. It is nice to know that I am not the only one.

Oh my goodness!!! Yes! Yes! Yes! I am ALWAYS choosing which things to enforce. I , like you, have committed myself to follow through EVERY TIME with whatever "battle" I choose. Therefore, i choose my battles very carefully. Not only is hubby working full time, but as a pilot doesn't even come home at night. It is very frsustrating to have him come waltzing in and start laying down new "rules" that I am now bound to enforce as he waltzes back out the door in 48 hours. Such a catch 22, because we are also totally committed to a united front. No one said parenting is easy. I suppose that nothing rewarding is easy, right?

P.S. - be careful to choose your "consequences" carefully really stinks when you end up punishing yourself as much or more than the one you punished! Took me a while to make sure I thought carefully and spoke slowly and not just blurt out what seemed to be the most obvious consequence.

I'm the opposite. I try to be consistant during the day and then if my husband comes home and lets the kids do something I wouldn't (drink anywhere but the kitchen for instance) I tell him, "If you let them do this, they're going to try it during the day when I'm home." So I'm always on him to follow *my* rules.

YES. I hate discipline. It's my least favorite thing as a parent. Why can't my kids just be good ALL BY THEMSELVES?!

We are opposite, probably because I am a control freak and my husband is not. He backs me up but doesn't take as much initiative to be an enforcer. My theory is that since he is around less he doesn't want his presence to be equated with "no fun." And that is a challenge for me because I feel like the meanie and after all he appreciates that we have a reasonably well behaved 4 year old. That said, we agree and work hard together on the main objectives of our approach: 1. Be consistent, 2. Back each other up.

Yes, this disciplinary juggling is a challenge!

With us, though, it is mostly the opposite of what you describe. We have two boys who are 4 and 6. I tend to be the stricter one, and my husband is more relaxed. I think this is because I, too, tend to be a control freak. And my husband reasons that since I'm the one who has to live with the kids all day, I get to make the call. He does a pretty good job of following my lead and backing me up. Sometimes we disagree, and sometimes he lets the kids do stuff that starts to drive me crazy during the week, but we usually work that out to something we can both live with.

I think communication and patience is the key. Don't overwhelm yourself with it while you're pregnant and exhausted. Discipline isn't a project that's accomplished in a month or a year or even six years (sigh! how I wish it was!), so there's plenty of time to work on it when you're not as nauseous.

I'm chuckling because I understand. I don't find myself as a wuss when it comes to parenting but I also let a lot of things go that my husband doesn't. We of course are on the same page when it comes to the BIG things, but the smaller ones I have to sometimes soften the husband up a little bit about. It's about picking your battles. Particularly with two children in the house. That's when you really have to decide what it is you want to be consistent with. Is it really worth it to tell your toddler s/he can't climb on the coffee table every single time you sit down to nurse a baby when they just know you can't get to them and won't listen, or is it? Well, at least that was my situation. It never failed the things he got into just as I sat down to feed the baby. After a while I decided to stick firmly to the things I knew were a safety issue and let the others go. And the funny part about it was the things that weren't really a big deal, he ended up not doing them anymore since I didn't keep after him about stopping. Anyway, the old cliche of picking your battles is very true. A united parental front with children on the big issue is key and it sounds like you and Brian are on the same page there, so your situation sounds normal to me!

When you first start to work on discipline with a little one, never having done it before, it can be so demoralizing! And it is the rare couple in which both husband and wife have exactly the same standards and expectations.

My oldest (of five kids, with #6 on the way, God willing)is now 11. And looking back, I realize that dh and I expected far too much of ourselves and her, when she was a toddler and preschooler. Discipline for that age group now seems so much simpler than it did then: now it seems just to be teaching every moment of the day, but mostly by positive example.

And when it comes to those socializing behaviors (where do we eat and drink? when do we get to be noisy? what is a toy and what is not to be used by the child? how do we treat others? what is meant by obedience?) we parents need to be on the same page about what to expect, and then simply expect it, remembering that although they are mobile and talkative, they are not reasonable and must simply be led. The time for in-depth explanations and reasoning comes later, when they can understand.

My dh and I are much more relaxed and confident about discipline with the toddler and preschooler we currently have than we were with dd#1. We just kept talking, and frankly, even though I am the staying home parent, I have had to adjust so that my dh's discipline and my own correspond. He also had to listen to me as to what expectations I felt were realistic. Seeing that I was willing to compromise where he felt very strongly made it easier for him to bend on other matters.

I do it. I let them play with the Tupperware and open the pantry, etc while I'm cooking. He hates it.

I'm not a stay-at-home parent and I still do this. I figure that some things just aren't worth making an issue out of, and the less of a deal it seems like to my kids now the less likely it is to be come an issue later. Hopefully that makes sense, it has been a looooong day...

Oh, you're not the only one! I think sometimes the working parent forgets that there may have been 4-5 hours of deliciously good behavior (or 1-2, depending on the day) while they were at work, and when they get home they walk into a maelstrom of toddlerhood. At least, that's what happens at my house.

And then there are the absolutely ridiculous expectations (in our particular case created by dissimilar situations growing up). Like when I recently allowed Eamon to paint outside and Mike said to me, "I don't know why you would let him paint. You KNEW he would get dirty!" Ummmmm....yes, I knew he would get dirty. He's 2.5 years old. If I ruled out every activity that might involve dirty-getting, then I'm not entirely where I could store the bubble he'd have to live in.

I'm sorry . . . my perfect Camilla EVER needs discipline?? I simply cannot believe it! ;-)

(Seriously, I'd be in danger of giving that adorable girl anything she wants, all the time.)

I am with Petroni...the adorable Camila needs discipline? :-)

I haven't quite reached this stage yet, E. is just now, at 11 mos, pushing a few limits here and there, and the funny thing is she KNows it b/c she'll turn back and look at me before foraging ahead with her mischief :-)

Am a great believer in allowing children to make requests, then - as a parent - taking a moment to seriously consider them, and respect that their desires should be met when possible to build trust and cooperation.

I think of these things not as eating yogurt here vs. yogurt over there, but a balance between direction such as "you must follow our directions when we give them" and "we'd like to open the discussion up to your ideas, and see how you would like to do this".

So, by not directing her to a high chair to eat something there, then you have opened the door for her to make a request. By letting her make a request and accepting her request as a valid and viable one, she is learning to trust that she has a voice that is valuable, and she has a choice in how things run within your family structure.

And by adding some guidelines to her request, or compromising with her, you work together with her to come up with something everyone can be happy with...such as, OK, we'll eat ice cream cones on the couch, but we need to keep a kitchen towel on our laps to catch the drips. See? Everyone wins! From this she learns compromise, and that guidelines and rules do not necessarily quash her personal wishes. She will learn that you will work with her to make her wishes a reality.

Similarly, when you make a request of her, you will come to trust that she will honor that request and do as you ask. Back and forth. Such as, dinner time is together-time, and we eat at the table.

I don't see this as negotiating away your parental power. You still set the limits. You still call the shots, and one shot you can call is giving her a choice and letting her make some decisions as a valuable person who is part of the family.

It's baby steps in the parent-child dynamic, I feel. If you take the yogurt out of the equation, I don't see why each parent's way can't be valid, acceptable, safe, normal, and healthy. She is learning both to follow a stated direction promptly and to be vocal about her needs and wants. She also learns to trust that she will be given choices and her desires will be heard and honored.

I get what you're saying, I do, but you are building her character here, and after the first few years of life, no one else is going to NOT ask something of her so they don't have to follow through. You have the chance to build up in her an amazing child/future woman who can and does do anything, and I think that not asking her to do something because it's hard work for you is maybe not the best approach. (I say this with love and respect.)

I am not a mom, and I am certainly not trying to criticize you. I am a teacher, however, and I have nine special needs students that I am going to have to be following through on these words(and at times, eating my words) with. I guess I am just saying that no, you're not the only one, but instead, be the one who is choosing to enforce PBAtT and build up and reinforce amazing character in your amazing little girl.

(And check in with me in a week and see if I am still standing wih my students.)

(All that said - I do say you pick your battles, one or two at a time, until she's mastered each skill and they aren't issues, if they are now.)

My husband is pretty good about not laying down a ton of new rules but he is an enormous neatnik; at times when he's home with Daniel (weekends/I have a doctor's appointment/etc) he keeps trying to keep *everything* straight all the time and it wears him out. It isn't that I don't have Daniel help me clean up, but I don't mind leaving it until we're getting towards the end of the day, whereas with my husband if a toy is out of place it needs to go back into place right away. Of course, this happens about 40,000 times a day, so ... yeah.

I get what you mean and feel torn all the time about how much discipline, too much discipline, not enough discipline? I just asked my DH at lunch today, "Do you think we have too many rules around here?" Tells you something about us, I guess!

Our foster-to-adopt daughter needs more boundaries than most kids her age (she'll be 4 in December) because she's so darn impulsive and highly spirited. Mostly the discipline is for her safety.

We do have a few rules that are enforced all the time, all day long. I swear she'll get them on her own someday!

Hang in there. I know how tough it can be to "stay on top of things" with a young one running around and trying to stay healthy during pregnancy. Trust your instincts. And when in doubt, offer up a prayer to our Lord and Mary. They'll give you the strength and guidance you need.

And it's not a bad thing to have your husband take the reigns when he's home. It'll give you the much needed break. It took me awhile to come to terms with letting my DH take over when he comes home, but I welcome it now. She often listens better to him. And even if I think he's nitpicking, I try not to discuss it until he and I are alone in the evening so that we can work it out together--figuring out if it's a behavior that can be ignored or needs to be paid attention to.

sounds like you've got a case of pragmatism verses idealism.

Do you have a microphone in our house?
My husband had them alone on a trip to the zoo on his day off and he remarked he can not fathom what it is like for me dealing with them most of the day. I work a few hours several days a week and even so I'm with them the most. I've asked him specifically not to make rules that *I* will end up having to enforce 90% of the time, at least not without my co-authoring said rule. In return I try to remember and respect his pet peeves, such as finding yogurt smeared on the couch (by a 7 year old, no less!)

I think it's natural for parents to disagree on what should be enforceable and what should not. In our house we both work outside the home, so that takes the variable of time-spent-with-child out of the equation.

I don't see HOW you can enforce something if you don't think it's a problem. It may be that a non-problem now is more of a problem when you have a second child or more to take care of. If so, you will surely re-assess and adapt then.

I've seen this topic addressed on the daddy blogs. Usually they are the ones talking about resenting their wives' to-do list of how exactly to parent in the absence of the mother. Fact: moms and dads are different. That's a good thing.

Regarding snacks in high chair vs couch--the policy around here is no WET snacks on the couch. We bought a child's table and two chairs and set that up in the living room for play and for snacks. It's wonderful because DD could get up and down by herself and yet it reinforces the discipline of eating (ie there are rules) but allows the casual (ie not all eating happens in the kitchen). A booster seat is nice for when you will need the high chair for the younger child, but those require help getting in and out. If you don't already have a little table, this could be a good time to scout around for one. Down the line it's ADORABLE to see a 3-year-old feeding her "children" (ie dolls, bears) at her little table.

Parents almost never completely agree on discipline. We both work so we don't have the variable of who puts in more time with the child; we agree on some things, disagree on others, and just don't care about the rest. ;o) It's important to agree on the big ticket items, but not on everything. You each need the freedom to be who you are as parents. Besides, you can always re-assess at any time. When you have a second child, you may find that more enforcement actually helps in some situation.

Our rule is no snacking of WET things on the couch. There is living room snacking, but it happens at a little child table, which is a NICE thing to use because a 1 year old can get on and off the chair by herself, as opposed to a booster seat at the big table (which has its place, of course). And it's just really adorable to see an older child playing parent and feeding her "kids" at the little table, too.

Parents almost never completely agree on discipline. We both work so we don't have the variable of who puts in more time with the child; we agree on some things, disagree on others, and just don't care about the rest. ;o) It's important to agree on the big ticket items, but not on everything. You each need the freedom to be who you are as parents. Besides, you can always re-assess at any time. When you have a second child, you may find that more enforcement actually helps in some situation.

Our rule is no snacking of WET things on the couch. There is living room snacking, but it happens at a little child table, which is a NICE thing to use because a 1 year old can get on and off the chair by herself, as opposed to a booster seat at the big table (which has its place, of course). And it's just really adorable to see an older child playing parent and feeding her "kids" at the little table, too.

WOW, sorry for the mega-posting!!!!! I thought my first one got lost and that the do-over didn't go through.


I'm more with you. Perfect behavior all the time is impossible to get. I'm aiming for almost-perfect behavior all the time ;-).

at that age, it's pick your battles, set the consequences, and stick to your guns.

oh, wait, that's about my entire parenting philosophy for any age :-). It's just that as they grow up, you get to stop waging war on the "don't throw your cup on the ground from the shopping cart while we're shopping" battlefront, and move on to something else.

obviously that's a bit more simplistic in words than we actually do, but it's the gist.

and you're pregnant. Later, you'll have two children. Maybe more than that. If you try to do it all, eventually you won't be able to do anything because you'll be too run down. and that's my final two cents for today...

Gosh yes...

I mean no... you're not alone...

I too have found that closure (giving them time to finish what they are doing before they come - unless there is an emergency) makes things much easier. Noone likes to be forced to drop everything and come running at the drop of a hat. We as adults don't do it, and we need to understand that children don't like it either. I like my kids to let me know that they have at least heard me though, and that they are coming as soon as...

Also... with five kids to discipline... if I had to work on perfect behaviour, all day every day... gosh... I think my kids would be sitting in corners being punished all day every day and nothing would get done. Also, I am not pregnant, and I STILL don't have the energy to make sure that perfect behaviour happens.

Oh, I don't think you're the only one who's ever said that, or some facsimile thereof. With me, it's tends to sound like, "Avoid the battle of wills before it starts" or "Don't be the one who starts the battle of wills," but the intent is similar, I think. It's not that I don't believe in rules (we're working on please and thank you and may I and excuse me lately, for instance) -- but I also feel that if it comes down to the Boy's will vs. mine, it all ends in tears (from both of us), so better to avoid the fight in the first place. He responds well to redirection, so I try to go with that; he also responds well to being given something to do rather than being told to simply stop a certain behavior. So, we try to capitalize on that. It doesn't always work: the Boy is in a serious Mommy phase, so sometimes I have to step back and let Daddy handle it so that the Boy doesn't get the idea he can run to me for rescue. But mostly, so far, we're doing OK. And it sounds like you are too. =)

Yes, yes yes. I think my husband and I both expected too much perfect all the time behavior from our eldest. She's the least confident of our children now.

With 3 kids, we stick to the basics: is your behavior SAFE, KIND and RESPECTFUL? Yes? Then okay, have that couch yogurt and enjoy it! If you spill it, the kind and respectful thing is to clean it up yourself. You've got to allow some flexibility in your boundaries, so you can extend kids' privileges and responsibilities as they grow.

At this age, not quite two, you are not really teaching her moral behavior with your discipline. In fact, let's hope that you never have to enforce *moral* choices via discipline. As others have pointed out, she hasn't reached the age of reason, she is not capable of doing anything morally wrong. The occasional hitting or even biting that toddlers do is pretty senseless, and they stop when they are shown that people don't do that. Discipline has two purposes: one is to keep everyone safe, and one is to reinforce your parent-child bond and let her know that she is safe with you and can depend on you. When you have a strong bond with your child, you will be teaching her moral behavior by EXAMPLE.

I myself am not a big believer in "perfect" behavior of young toddlers. Much of the type of thing that well-intentioned parents want to "train" them out of is stuff they would grow out of in the normal course of development. Keep in mind the developmental calendar for your child, and try to use what nature is doing for you. There is really no moral or developmental significance to where a child eats her yogurt, so feel free to do what's convenient for you. Also do not make a fetish of consistency. Many times, it is okay to change your mind because you feel like it, or to change it based on a strong reaction from your child, realizing that something is more important to her than you think.

Back on the random blog-surfing...

I think more important than fixed rules is the understanding of who makes the rules. You don't eat at the table because people have to eat at tables. You eat at the table because Mummy said we eat at the table today.

My kids are a bit older than everyone else's here, I think (9 and 12) and one thing that they've still only just got the hang of completely is that rules aren't rigid from day to day. If I say today we're going to eat on trays and watch the Olympics, that doesn't mean that tomorrow they can say "because we ate on trays yesterday, we're going to do it today as well." It took a long time and a lot of reinforcement before they finally realised that trying to insist that doing something once meant they should be allowed to do it every time would simply mean that we never relax the rules at all. If I say they can play out for an hour today, that doesn't mean they can do it every day, and they can accept that they can only do it sometimes or they'll do it never.

I don't know quite how old your daughter is, but if she's talking she'd probably understand "when daddy's home we eat at the table all together, but when it's just me and mummy sometimes we eat on the sofa." What's important is that she knows that when you've said "today we're eating at the table", making a fuss isn't going to change it.

And also an absolute veto on second opinions! If I've said no, that means no. It does not mean go ask daddy to see if he'll say yes - and that's one thing that the pair of us are absolutely consistent with, even if we'd have said yes if asked first.

Some things need absolute rules (throwing food, hitting etc.) but most things don't. In our house the rule isn't "we eat at the table", it's "we eat where mum or dad says we're going to eat."

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