What You Allow Is What Will Continue


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If you clicked over expecting some preachy post about child discipline and how to get your child in line, you’re going to be disappointed.

I actually had an entirely different post ready for today, but bedtime last night got my head spinning and I just had to change my plans.

With every interaction with your child, she's learning not only how to treat you, but also how she should expect to be treated as she grows.

Miss O has officially reached the “bedtime is the devil” stage and fights it at every stage.  Most nights she just stalls, putting on a show or asking us to chase her around.  Some nights she gets upset, pouting and crying to get sympathy, hoping for a stay.  On super special nights, like a day or 2 after the time change, she goes all out exorcist.

Last night was one of those nights.  She was obviously tired when I picked her up from pre-school, had droopy eyes while we ate, and snuggled up close while we watched Doc McStuffins.  But as soon as the word bedtime escaped my mouth, her inner demon came out.

She was spitting at me while I was brushing her teeth (because she wouldn’t do it herself), she was thrashing while I was getting her jammies on, and the final straw was when she hit me as I put her in bed.

Nope.

That’s not okay.

I stood up, said good night, and left the room.

Here’s the thing; That old expression, what you allow is what will continue, isn’t only true for parenting.  It’s true for all relationships.  How we treat each other becomes her “normal”, and I don’t want her normal to include that sort of behavior.

I love my daughter.  Even when she’s being a giant pain in the patoot she would acknowledge that – I’ve stressed that with her in the past.

However, loving someone is not reason enough to stand by while they abuse you, and that’s a lesson I want her to learn inside and out.

Of course, Miss O is 4.  There are lots of reminders, second (and third and fourth) chances.  I model what I expect, we talk about how to handle anger and frustration… but there comes a point when enough is enough.

Remember I’m not a child rearing expert.  I’m just a mom in the throes of pre-schooler power struggles.  This is what works for me:

Give several reminders and a final warning.  Children are not as in control of their behavior as (most) adults.  They need lots of help to get through the tough times.  Remind her of what’s expected at least a few times.  When I give a final warning I also tell her what’s going to happen if she doesn’t listen.  “If you kick me again, I’m going go sit by myself in the other room.”

Leave before you get mad.  Or at least before you lose control.  Kids can be infuriating.  I totally get that.  However, blowing your top and storming out only makes a bad situation worse.

Give each other some space.  After leaving the room, take some time for both of you to settle down.  Just like before, you don’t want to be coming at the situation from a place of anger.  I find that Miss O goes from screaming-howler-monkey-mad to “I want my Mommy” in less than 5 minutes.

Sometimes she needs some extra help calming down.  I used to try to tell her everything was okay, but I’ve recently realized there was a better way to handle it, so I don’t go there anymore.

Ask for an apology.  If it’s not offered, ask for one.  Miss O has a hard time saying sorry (who doesn’t?) so sometimes we allow her to “show” sorry by giving a hug or something, but this is not one of those times.

Talk it out.  To me, this is the most important part.  I try to be specific about what was not acceptable behavior (i.e. It’s not okay to kick me while I’m trying to get your jammies on) and tell her that I don’t deserve to be treated that way.  And of course I remind her that no matter what, I always love her.

The system isn’t perfect, but it works for us.  Each time I think about how easy it would be to just give in, I remember that with every interaction she’s not only learning how to treat me, but how she should expect to be treated as well.

How do you handle unacceptable behavior from your little ones?  Share in the comments.

Photo nateOne|CC

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