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View Full Version : General and Specific Attitudes: Theirs & Mine (Long)


mzietlow
04-28-2005, 09:47 AM
Crystal said that it is easier/better to reply to situationally, so here I present a situation that happened just this morning as an example of bad attitudes in this house. But first I feel I must give some background to shed light.

My 5yo dd is extremely bright, observant, verbal, persistant, demanding, assertive, sensitive and needy. If I was one to label (which I try not to) I would have to say she is high-spirited or strong willed. She was an easy baby and toddler (which baffles me) then became quite a challenge around 3yo and parenting her has been more difficult the older she gets. She tests my patience in every way imaginable, and I often feel like I am not able to enjoy her or am failing her because I do not know how to handle her. I love her dearly but she exhausts me. :/

This dd is very loving toward me and is very needy of my affection. She demands alot from me, especially at bedtime and still gets into bed with me almost every night. She whines at me for most things, or demands what she wants without asking politely. She bosses her sister around incessantly, and talks to her with a mean tone or yells at her often. She wants things to be done only her way and seems to have a negative reaction to most things. Sadly, I see so much in her along these lines that reflect my worst traits, but I honestly don't think that she is merely copying my behavior because I think I have been doing a decent job at controlling my behavior and reactions for a long period of time, and even in the days when I was more punitive in discipline, I really was not mean, bossy and negative all the time. Are character weaknesses genetic??

My 3yo dd is very sweet and loving, good humored. She was also an easy baby and has always been a pleasant doll until recently. She is coming into her own and asserting her independence with her sister and with us. She frequently screams at her sister, and talks rudely to us when making a request. She is testing the limits by running away, and being contrary. When I try to help her recently she pulls or jerks away from me. I know that it is a phase, and most likely normal behaviors for her age (I think older dd went through this as she approached 4yo), but it is still frustrating to see her innocence waning.

Anyway, I have been committed to being more patient with both girls, talking with them about my feelings, others' feelings, and reflecting their own. I try to reason with them about situations that arise, asking them to put themselves in another's place. I tell what is expected of them ahead of time, I give them choices. We talk frequently about God's design for the family, read the Bible and devotions. I try to get down on their level when talking to them, and we use a rocking chair in the dining room for breaks (time to calm down, think, feel better, make a better decision - alone or with a parent, sometimes with a blankie). I try to be as loving and pleasant as possible even when they argue with me, complain to me, and forget their manners.

I often get overwhelmed at the sheer effort it sometimes still takes to be more gentle. I really struggled over the last months during the process of moving, but I tried to make allowances for everyone's stress. I have snapped at, yelled at the family and even swatted the girls a few times. I definitely went a few steps backwards...and am trying to recover.

The attitude issue has been a struggle since before the move, though. Here is an example from this morning. We had a quick breakfast this morning then piled into the van to take dh to the old house for the final time to move a piece of equipment he had left there. It was a fast trip because the old house is only 5 min away. When we got home I talked with dh while the kids finished eating then helped older dd with a project she decided to do out of a book. The kids then went off to play. While they were occupied I slipped into the office to sort through bills. 5yo dd eventually came in and asked if she could open a box of old drawings and projects to look at. I said yes, on the condition that she put them back as soon as she was done (her suggestion). She looked through the box and the kids played with some masks for a while. I noticed they were done with them and doing something else when I went into the kitchen, so I told Orion that she needed to put away the projects. She said,"I will later". I said, we agreed that you would put them back as soon as you are finished, and you are playing something else now. She immediately yelled, "No, not now"! and gave me a mean look. I walked toward her and put my hand on her shoulder, and said, "I don't apprecited being yelled at. I will help you put them away". She was pulling away from me and still having a very bad attitude as we walked to the office. Before I realized it was coming, I said, "do you need a spanking"? (This how we have handled defiance of this sort in the past, so it keeps creeping back up.) She said no, then we cleaned up the projects. I then talked to her and asked her what the problem was that she was yelling at me, and being mean. She said, "I don't know". I said, "I don't want to spank you, but that is what my dad did when I showed him a bad attitude when I was growing up, so it is the first thing I think of. When talking politely with you does not seem to help you, I sometimes do not know what else to do". Great example, Mom. :td

Sigh. This sort of thing happens OFTEN here, many times a day, recently with both dds. I am having trouble with applying grace when the bad attitudes hit such a nerve (I think I am like my dad - disrespect and arguing really, really bother me). I need help getting past this mentally and practically. :banghead

THANKS to anyone who takes the time to read this epilogue. Now that I have given the background, I should be more brief in the future!

heartofjoy
04-28-2005, 02:02 PM
I am new to the whole concept of grace-based discipline, so I am not going to attempt to offer advice. Just want to give you a :hug

My oldest dd sounds much like yours! I know what it feels like and it is very hard! They can really get under your skin! I totally think it's seeing them reflect your own character flaws. That puts me in such a grumpy mood. But God loves me just how I am, so I try to love my dd just how she is too. Character flaws and all.

I will pray for you. :pray

ArmsOfLove
04-28-2005, 02:08 PM
A few questions . . . have you talked about their feelings about the move? Have you worked on reflecting feelings in the moment? I really get the sense that she is stuck in her feelings and you are stuck focusing on the behavior. As someone who lives in her feelings often I know that if someone addresses my behavior before validating my feelings it's a fruitless talk :( Thankfully I've learned a lot about controlling my own feelings :)

Danette
04-28-2005, 02:12 PM
I don't think you did so badly this morning. Sure you brought in the threat about spanking but it's a hard habit to get out of when it has been part of your past. You have committed to working on it... you know where it comes from.... and you are honest with your children about it... you are doing great. Keep taking those babysteps. :hug

As far as your dd's attitude... part of that may be genetic, part of it may be the move but part of that is her age. One thing that really has helped me is to make a conscience effort to not get emotionally involved when my children are using angry talk towards me or their siblings. It helped that I would give myself pep talks before walking into situations like the one you described this morning. I would tell myself that I was going to state my case and keep my mouth shut. I figure it takes two to rumble which is what happens when my children and I start bantering back and forth.

Also learning to replace "do you need a spanking" helped too. Again before going into a situation part of my pep talk would be how I would "help" if that became necessary. With the situation this morning "help" might have been to take away the current activity till the picking up was done. Also the condition to get back the activity might be that it is done without throwing a fit.

It's becoming more natural now and I need less thinking time in tense situations so hang in there and keep practicing.

I also want to recommend a book that helped me see how normal my intense child is... it's The Difficult Child by hmmmm... oh I don't want to run upstairs to get it... anyone?? anyone?? It's been a really good resource.

mzietlow
04-28-2005, 08:36 PM
Thanks for the :hug everyone. I really need those from time to time and lately dh has been too busy and exhausted to be very supportive. Besides moving our household, he also had to move his home business (he's a mechanic) which took 3 entire days in itself.

The girls have been very involved with the moving and building process, because we built the new house 5 minutes up the road from the old one. So the were able to see it grow from step one, and we were talking about moving from the very beginning. The first few nights here were a little rough -- older dd could not get to sleep and missed her old room. We talked then about her feelings. She seems comfortable in the new house now. Maybe I should still be talking about how she feels about the changes in lifestyle and routine?

Truthfully I feel out of sorts due to all the changes and things that still need done. Our septic mound is not quite finished so we have only limited use of water. No dishes, laundry or long baths. Aaarrrrgh!

Orion seems to go through phases with her attitude. She will be helpful and good natured one day, then whine, argue, complain and recently, say "NO" to me all day long the next. Flat-out saying no is a new thing, and I am shocked to hear it from her. I have no idea how to handle that. I have said, "what kind of thing is that to say to me"? and "What do you think I would rather hear"? A few times I have only been able to look at her with total disbelief.

Crystal, I know I could be better at reflecting feelings in the moment, but I sometimes feel at a loss as to what to say. When she is yelling at her sister because she's angry, the first thing I usually say is, "you do not need to yell at your sister; try that again". If she does not know what to say, I help her with the words. Should I first say, "sounds like you are mad"? THEN tell her she may not talk to her sister that way?

She decided she was thirsty on the way home from the store tonight, and started to seriously whine, which she has been doing to a greater extent than ever before. "I'M THIRRRRSTY, MOOOOM. I CAN'T WAAAAIT. I NEED A DRRRRINK". And even though I said, "I am sorry, I don't have a drink. You can have one when we get home", she continued the entire forty minute trip home, yelling over and over, with moaning mixed in for dramatics. I tried saying, "I wish I had a drink for you", and "I hear you", but nothing helped. I also said, "whining will not help" and "Do you need to put your hand over your mouth to help you stop"? After the first ten minutes of it I was ready to start screaming for silence, but I actually bit my tongue this time. I was so irritated that I just wanted to put her in bed as fast as I could so I was short with bedtime.

Lately this is how it goes. You're right, Crystal, I get so irritated by her behavior, I cannot empathize with her big feelings. Are there stickys on how to handle big feelings? :hissyfit

ArmsOfLove
04-28-2005, 09:06 PM
Should I first say, "sounds like you are mad"? THEN tell her she may not talk to her sister that way?
That would be what I'd recommend :)

It sounds like you've got some big feelings that you never learned how to express and when she expresses hers immaturely it raises yours and what you're struggilng with is stuffing your big feelings, or expressing them appropriately, in the face of hers :)

have you attempted to disengage emotionally when she starts exploding? can you imagine yourself as an island in the storm so that she can anchor to you and find some calm?

mzietlow
04-28-2005, 09:28 PM
It sounds like you've got some big feelings that you never learned how to express and when she expresses hers immaturely it raises yours and what you're struggilng with is stuffing your big feelings, or expressing them appropriately, in the face of hers

Hmmm. That's deep. I did have many big feelings as a child/young adult but my parents (especially my dad) made it clear that big displays of emotion were not acceptable. My mother has never been an outwardly emotional or affectionate/motherly type.

So perhaps I am struggling with stuffing feelings, because I was raised to believe feelings should be stuffed. My mother still stuffs them. So in light of that, I AM bumbling through how to express and respond to big feelings appropriately, hers (dd) and mine.

It sounds like you are suggesting that when dds have big feelings (what I normally would call an attitude),
I should try harder to just accept them? I get very foggy at how I can accept the feelings but then show them what is appropriate at the same time.

I think I feel angry when the big feelings hit because my older dd's intensity sometimes requires more than I feel capable of giving/handling and I just need *peace and quiet* or a *break* and I am not able to get one.

ArmsOfLove
04-28-2005, 10:30 PM
Let me share a word picture with you--though please tell me if it doesn't help because they help some people but not everyone ;)

When my aunt taught me to swim in the ocean she explained that the ocean is powerful and you have to know how to read it. It's okay to stand your ground when little waves come at you because they'll break around you and you might lose your footing a little, but you will mostly be okay and stay upright. When big waves come, though, you have a choice--go under or ride them. Either way you can't control them--you have to let them be, and what you decide depends on your goal for that wave. If you're swimming out to sea then you go under and let it crash over you. If you are heading back into the shore you ride the wave. But no matter what your goal, if it's too big you go under.

When the feelings aren't so big it's okay to square off and insist on the behavior you're instructing. She may fuss about putting on her shoes but it's okay to help her by putting them on her. She may get angry about being belted into the carseat but if you're going somewhere that is what will happen. Riding the waves would include things like reflecting feelings, validating, setting boundaries on behavior while trying not to squelch the big feelings. And going under is what you do when you aren't up to responding to the big feelings, or when they are too big to treat with active discipline--you hug, sit nearbye and let her know with your quiet presence that you accept her, offer a hug and wait for her to take you up on the offer. :hug

I would suggest that you teach more about the healthy expression of emotions by how you model expressing them. She will see you handling your big feelings and that is what she will learn. What you teach her when she is having her big feelings is how to respond to other people's big feelings. And you teach her about behavior when she's not caught up her big feelings--

Danette
04-29-2005, 03:29 AM
Oh Crystal I don't know if that word story helped Melissa but it is very very good and really helped me realize that when "I go under" which I need to from time to time it's still an alright part of the process. That was really great. I know we all would love it if we could "ride the wave" 100% of the time but it's just not possible. Thank you for sharing that.

bex
04-29-2005, 08:57 AM
(((melissa))) we've been non-spanking for almost a year now. i am finding more and more that a lot of the discipline issues i face have a lot to do with me and how i was parented (i have a good relationship with my parents still). i would highly recommend reading "easy to love, difficult to discipline" by becky bailey. it addresses lots of the stuff you mentioned in detail -- really great stuff on relecting feelings.

chelsea
04-29-2005, 09:28 AM
I am also like you in that big feelings were stuffed in our home ("stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about" and "don't MAKE me pull the car over!" were often heard.) My father was a very loving man but used the parenting tools that he had been handed down from HIS parents, which no doubt had been handed down by their parents.
With the situation this morning "help" might have been to take away the current activity till the picking up was done. Also the condition to get back the activity might be that it is done without throwing a fit.
Thank-you Danette for that hands-on example. I am still trying to figure out the whole "helping" thing. Too often when I think "help" I roll my eyes because I picture the parent doing all the work while the child picks up one toy and says they are done, complaining all the way. :rolleyes I've seen that specific scenario time and time again. I never stopped to realize that "helping" can be anything that assists a child in completing their task...not just letting them "get off easy".

mzietlow
04-29-2005, 12:09 PM
Wow, Crystal, that is a great word picture, and very helpful IF I understand it correctly. I think putting the example with a real situation will clarify for me.

Take the situation we had during our van trip, for instance. Looking back at it, did I ride the wave with dd at first? I offered empathy, gave information, and attempted to set some boundaries. When none of that helped, did I go under when I decided to just allow her to rant the rest of the way home.? There was nothing I could do (that I can see) but let her be and express herself, unless I had given in to my feelings of irritation at the perceived lack of consideration she was showing the rest of the family and gotten punitive. However, what really bothers me is that I had such strong negative feelings toward her. I had no desire to hug her or get her a drink when we got home; I only wanted to hide. And that's what I did -- Ieft her with dad while I went to the bathroom to get a break before bedtime routine. And I was short with bedtime because my nerves were still shot.


It would be great to have a concrete example as far as the little waves, too. For instance, when dd is speaking rudely to or yelling at sister. I hear an angry exchange, or hear bossiness. I say, "you seem angry" but then what? I'm sorry to be so needy, but I not sure how to continue the conversation from that point to get to the correction part. Are correction and amends always necessary? I have been focusing on correction and amends first, and trying to be consistent with this part. I say, "try that again" or "do you think Ava likes to be talked to that way"? or "is that the best way to ask for what you want"? or "you need to be polite to your sister" or "what do you think Ava might need to hear"?

If I shift my focus to reflecting feelings first, I wonder if that means focusing on the needs of the offender (for lack of a better term) first? Will that offer better discipline than protecting the rights of the victim (again, not sure how to label) first?

And when I have the same questions when I think about the little waves of heated talk towards me because she does not like what I am saying, or whining to me about something she wants when I have already given an answer. "Sounds like you are disappointed/frustrated" is all I can come up with. Once I offer that, do you think she will be more open to hearing how I feel about her behavior, as in "I feel very irritated when you yell at me/whine at me. It seems like you don't respect me when you talk that way"? And is this an appropriate way to share my feelings with her?

Thanks for the book reccommendation, Bex. We are going to the library today, and I actually think they may have it.

Danette
04-29-2005, 01:14 PM
I think we are all needy... needy of healthy examples. Our society is so full of people pointing out what everyone is doing wrong but we have no idea what is looks like to do it right.

When my kids are talking poorly to each other I will start by reflecting feelings and move right into "try saying it this way" and I give an example. We have practiced so much now that all I need to say is "say it differently please." If it doesn't happen then I know something else is going on... like they are hungry or tired. If that is the case than no amount of me talking will change the behavior. So, if I think they are hungry I say "lets take a break and go to the kitchen." After they've had a chance to eat something then I will talk to them about their speech and request that they go apologize and start over. If they aren't ready to do that then they can stay with me till they are.

I guess to say is simply... if I can't instruct my children then they have a need that needs to be met. So many times in our society we are taught the exact opposite... if children won't except instruction then they need punishment. It takes some practice to figure out needs and if children aren't use to it they may be resistant to gentle instruction at first but persistence does pay off. :hug

mzietlow
04-29-2005, 05:13 PM
persistence does pay off.

Danette, thank you for this reminder... Some days (a lot of them recently) I wonder if all the effort will pay off. Especially since it seems like whenever I regress our "progress" regresses as well. Then I wonder if they are really learning. But I should not doubt something that is so obviously God's way, because His way never fails.

Danette
04-30-2005, 01:59 AM
:hug

ArmsOfLove
05-03-2005, 07:15 PM
Take the situation we had during our van trip, for instance. Looking back at it, did I ride the wave with dd at first? I offered empathy, gave information, and attempted to set some boundaries. When none of that helped, did I go under when I decided to just allow her to rant the rest of the way home.? There was nothing I could do (that I can see) but let her be and express herself, unless I had given in to my feelings of irritation at the perceived lack of consideration she was showing the rest of the family and gotten punitive. However, what really bothers me is that I had such strong negative feelings toward her. I had no desire to hug her or get her a drink when we got home; I only wanted to hide. And that's what I did -- Ieft her with dad while I went to the bathroom to get a break before bedtime routine. And I was short with bedtime because my nerves were still shot. Yes, in that situation I'd agree with those comparisons :) I think one of the big things to do is realize that YOU have the authority--YOU decide whether to ride the wave, stand in the fray, or go under. YOU decide! You are not a victim! And if you decide to go under then take responsibility for that decision and know you made it because your child is over the top and the situation is not ideal for dealing with it (trapped in a car :P ). There are times when I just :shrug and realize that I have to wait until the situation is changed--child calms down a bit, we get where we need to go so that I can better deal with the situation, dh gets home to help with the babies so that I can deal with another child's issue, or whatever needs to change. TBH, some of the best and most solid lessons my children have learned have taken place when I just let them be with their big feelings, don't take them personally, and wait for God to provide the lesson opportunity.

For example, we went for a walk one day and ds found a golf ball. He got angry about something later and to punish me ;) he threw it where it couldn't be retrieved. He then realized what he'd done and regretted it and :hissyfit I continued walking us home while he threatened to stand where he was and not walk and I simply took his hand and moved him forward emphatically stating that I would not leave him there, that he was coming. As we continued on he started to calm down and I started riding the wave by reflecting feelings and suggesting behavior change. We talked and I eventually got him to take some self control and let him know that we'd go on walks again and we'd find other golf balls. As soon as he calmed down, guess what--a golf ball was sighted under a bush :wow :laughtears I could not have planned a better lesson ;) And he got it too--he told me the lesson. And the other children got to witness it.

mzietlow
05-03-2005, 08:27 PM
You are right, I am not a victim, and maybe sometimes I let myself feel like one. Wonder if that's because I felt like one a lot growing up as a result of punitive discipline? ;)

TBH, some of the best and most solid lessons my children have learned have taken place when I just let them be with their big feelings, don't take them personally, and wait for God to provide the lesson opportunity.

Perhaps I need to allow God a few more opportunities...!

We talked and I eventually got him to take some self control and let him know that we'd go on walks again and we'd find other golf balls. As soon as he calmed down, guess what--a golf ball was sighted under a bush. I could not have planned a better lesson And he got it too--he told me the lesson. And the other children got to witness it.

Awesome. And kudos to you for riding it out, not getting too emotionally involved or overwhelmed with having the other kids there (just thinking how I might have reacted on a not so good day...). Wonder if the lesson would have worked out had you not handled it so well?

ArmsOfLove
05-03-2005, 08:33 PM
Wonder if the lesson would have worked out had you not handled it so well? I actually thought that God was teaching me that lesson myself ;) I kept my cool in an effort to model keeping control and we both got a wonderful blessing from it :D

mzietlow
05-03-2005, 08:50 PM
:tu :clap

SansSouci
05-03-2005, 09:49 PM
I think I feel angry when the big feelings hit because my older dd's intensity sometimes requires more than I feel capable of giving/handling and I just need *peace and quiet* or a *break* and I am not able to get one.

Although I SURELY am not the best person to give advice on this matter... I think I have learned something here that I can put on the table for you. If you are feeling that you don't feel capable of handling such the big feelings she's throwing your way (even though you have like 20-30 years of experience under your belt), imagine what your child must feel. Sometimes I wonder why on earth my DD would react so crazy to certain situations, and then I try to remind myself that I have the maturity/experience to know that the thing she's reacting to is no big deal, but she doesn't have that maturity/experience so I have to help guide her through that and show her the proper emotions.

I don't know if that helps you any, or if I even said that correctly.

I'm definitely getting a lot out of reading others' responses! And I think I need to go find that book!

-Elizabeth