Over the past year, the kids have gradually started acquiring more and more bad habits. It’s all normal kids stuff, but it been building for a while. It started with minor stuff- not listening as well. Small back talking. Insults to each other that were thrown around in a rage. Stuff that was really annoying and not fun to deal with, but it wasn’t constant, so we dealt with each instance and moved on.
Then this summer, those occasionally issues became more and more frequent. Calling each other stupid stopped being the exception and started to become a commonly thrown around phrase. Counting down to get the kids to do what I asked them to do was only working 50% of the time. The rough housing soon started to become more mean spirited and aggressive. So while the Hubs was out of town, Mary (our awesome nanny) and I changed our approach to how we handled punishment and that helped a lot. The kids were old enough that time outs weren’t really working anymore, so we shifted to losing privileges (dessert, the Wii, etc) and that helped a lot.
Well- then last week happened. Mary worked her last day with us. The kids started school. The Hubs was working crazy hours due to the flooding in the county south of us. Basically it was the perfect storm of confusion, change and worry for the kiddos and they exploded on Saturday. They were nuts from the minute they woke up until the minute they went to bed. They sassed us, the Bean called me “stupid,” Scorch out and out ignored us, they would slug each other for no reason at all- they were a mess! All day long we tried the combination of time out and removing privileges, but frankly, they didn’t care. We ended up leaving Mass early that night (something we’ve never done) because of their behavior. The Hubs and I were embarrassed, frustrated and really really disappointed in the kids.
After strapping the kids into their car seats, the Hubs and I had a quick huddle in the parking lot of church trying to figure out how to approach this. We completely understood why the kids were losing their shit, but frankly that didn’t excuse it. So we decided it was time for some shock and awe. My mother in law stayed at our house last week and she spoiled my kids rotten with some of the most awesome toys ever- so we took them all away for a week. We packed them up, loaded them in a box and put them in the car. Before we did it, we had Family Meeting to talk to the kids about why we did it and what we expected from them to get them back in a week. We stressed to them how much we loved them and how we know they can make good, kind decisions and while we don’t like taking away their things, we were going to continue to do so every time they broke our family rules.
Needless to say, that went over like a ton of bricks. Oh- the tears. The pleading. The bargaining. But we stood firm, fed our kids dinner and put them to bed an hour early because we knew damn well that exhaustion was playing a part in all this. Before we said good night, we held another quick Family Meeting in Scorch’s bed reiterating how much loved them and how we can’t wait to have better days going forward.
After we said goodnight to the kids, the Hubs and I came out to the living room and I got all teary. Hearing Scorch ask me over and over if I was mad at him because he hates it when I’m mad at him just about killed me. I told him that I wasn’t mad, that I was disappointed and frustrated and we talked about how no matter what, I’ll always love him- but still. Knife meet heart. I won’t even go into the Bean’s frantic little “I’m sorry’s” over and over. I honestly felt like the worst mom ever. Clearly we were screwing up raising these kids right and now we were monsters for making our kids think we hated them. I might as well start a separate savings account for their therapy bills now.
Saturday wasn’t our finest hour as a family and I had been struggling with taking such a hard line with the kids. While I tend to be more of the disciplinarian in our family, I don’t like being mean and I really wondered if we crossed that line from setting boundaries to being punitive just because we were so angry.
Then I saw this video:
I so needed to hear this and am so glad I stumbled across this when I did. It didn’t erase all the crazy guilt (I think that’ll always be there), but it reminded me that taking a strong hand with my kids won’t kill them. That there are a gazillion other ways to show my kids that I love them- including doing my damndest to raise them to be good people. Jury’s still out if we’ll succeed, but it won’t be from lack of trying!