Friday, January 7, 2011

The Things I Do That Don't Work

Oh, I have a vast repertoire of parenting techniques that no longer work. In reality, they didn't really work that well in the first place, but because my kids were well-grounded and secure in my love, it didn't appear to backfire in my face (often).

Cupcake, on the other hand, is more like a walking exaggeration. She is so insecure in our love and so fragile, that any little impurity in my love causes her to have catastrophic failure. It certainly drives me to purify my love. And we know that perfect love casts out fear. Perfect love -that is my goal, knowing that I'll never reach it (here on earth).

Here is a list of the things that don't work. These are tried and true techniques that fail miserably.

  • Threatening consequences as the misbehavior is being perpetrated.
When a kid is stressed, the auditory processing is shut down. You're wasting your breath and the appearance of threat escalates the situation. There is a place for natural consequences, but it is not in the heat of battle.

  • Lectures.
For the same reasons as above, lectures are worthless, even if they make you feel better.

  • Using the "Hairy Eyeball" and other facial expressions meant to convey disapproval.
The "Hairy Eyeball" is widely known in Christian circles as the look that the choir mom gives her squirming children in the pews during services. Other expressions include, but are not limited to pursed lips, raised eyebrows, scowls, snarls, squints, and frowns.

  • Spanking.
This deserves a post by itself. I used to be an advocate of rare and highly controlled spanking, but I'm moving farther and farther away from it as an effective means to correct children - any children, but especially children from hard places. For some interesting thoughts on this you might read Christie's blog here and here.

  • Time Out, Isolation, and "Let them stew."
Isolation = Rejection. Fear of rejection is the force that drives these kids to do crazy things. Sending a child away until he can get his act together is a very clear sign of conditional love. It exacerbates the root of the problem. Thinking over things is good, but it must be done in the context of love and acceptance. Letting them stew when they are already in a bad frame of mind does nothing to help them think clearly with healthy thoughts.

  • Yelling.
This one is not found in the parenting books, but it's a dear, old friend.

  • Lobbing instructions from another room.
This is particularly useless when your child has hearing loss, but I think it's pretty useless for any kid.

  • Half-hearted and non-specific instructions.
If I'm not serious about my orders, what makes me think that my kid is going to take them seriously? If I'm wishy-washy about getting something done, it's not going to happen. And if I give general orders like, "Be nice." or "Go play," I can expect zero compliance.

  • The "Grizzly Bear"
If I come down on my child with puffed out chest, angry eyes, and my big, powerful voice and demand, "You. will. obey. me!" I will come face to face with a bigger, meaner grizzly bear. Because she is scared and she must win, it's a matter of life or death for her.

  • Ignore the problem and hope it goes away.
This is was a favorite tactic of mine. Oh, how hard it is to let go of old ways.... Unfortunately, problems need to be resolved, and if I'm hiding at the computer desk, (or the bathroom, or the laundry room), there is no resolution. ..... Instead of going away, it just escalates.

  • Shame.
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself." This does not help a kid who is ashamed of herself. Kids from hard places already think they are unlovable and that there is something innately wrong with them. Piling on the shame buries them deeper in the hole they already live in.

  • "You know better than that."
Which one of us rises above this? We all know what we ought to do. The problem is not with head knowledge. The problem lies within our hearts. I know better than to yell at my kids. Yet I still do. I know better than ignore the problem and pretend I don't hear the snarky comments in the room next door. Oh, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

I know better than to use any of these tactics with my children. I know it's not good for them. I know it hurts my relationship with them. But, oh, I loved these tools for the longest time. As I read back through them, I feel like my parenting toolbox has been emptied.

In fact, it has been emptied.

Michael Monroe, at Empowered to Connect, talked about the need to learn new things, but there is a tremendous need to unlearn old things. The learning is hard work, but the unlearning is harder. Can I get an "Amen"?

God never takes away something without giving us something better. He tears us down, then builds us up stronger, wiser than before. That is the process of being purified. He shows us the more excellent way.

I hope to blog about the more excellent ways that God is teaching me in the near future.

Blessings to you,


Kim said...

Yes, yes, and yes. And I laughed out loud at the "Hairy Eyeball" 'cause I grew up with it... got even more interesting when my mom developed astigmatisms and her eyeballs actually got noticeably "pointy" in shape. Oh dear.

Anonymous said...

So, what works my dear? You have your hands full. I have mine full, too with a 16 year old. Looks like you have been put in a position to reevaluate how discipline affects Cupcake. Praying for you and that God will heal her broken places.♥

Anonymous said...

Ah, but time outs are also for the parent. Best that both sides take a breather and come back to the problem in a better frame of mind.

Good luck on your journey to new ways of parenting. Remember, to parent from the heart, which no book can teach you. The more books you read, the more confused you can get.

Laurie said...

Yep the tool box is empty here too! Ha Ha! I still haven't found that magical implement that moves our precious one to happy obedience! Love the way you write Sweetie!
Look forward to your next post :)