Thursday, November 15, 2012

Don't Let Them Fool You

Aren't they cute?  Yes.

Aren't they darling?  Yes.

Aren't they sweet?  Sometimes.  Rarely, but usually not.

After nearly 22 years of parenting, I'm struggling with these two kiddos at the end, and I would appreciate some advice, thank you very much.

Evie--That girl is so obstinate.  If she doesn't want to do something, there is no way to make her do it. No way to distract or threaten or love or hug or anything.  She had to be taken out of Church FIVE TIMES last Sunday.  Five times in 90 minutes.  And one time was for almost ten minutes.  Why, you ask?  Because she kept saying, quite loudly I might interject, "I don't want to be here.  I want to go home.  I DON'T WANT TO!!!!"  Every time I took her out, I would send her into an empty classroom where she stood in the corner screaming until she agreed to go back in--back in for maybe five-minute stints, mind you. People were staring and a few even commented when the meeting was over.

I've witnessed 25-minute screaming fits for small reasons--like we're out of milk or she can't have juice or she has to stay belted in her carseat.  This happens all the time--even in the middle of the movie theater.  Monday night we took the kids to the dollar movie to see Ice Age, and halfway through she decided she'd had enough. She began saying, quite loudly, "I DON'T LIKE THIS MOVIE. I want to go home."  Really?  Even a movie?  With popcorn and M&Ms and everything?

She is obstinate, and she is quite shy.  She doesn't like change of any kind, and she refuses to play with friends--or even go to birthday parties.  I think this shyness will mellow with time, but for now it's hard.  She screams when anyone tries to touch her or take her somewhere.   If anyone tries to talk to her, she will quickly turn her head and grunt, then say, "I don't like him."

Hyrum--ah, that little brown-eyed stinker.  He will argue black is white all day long, even about things that don't matter to him or that don't matter at all--for example, yesterday we had an extended argument over whether the direction I was turning was right or left.  It was left, and he insisted it was right. And of course, as his mother, it's my job to set him straight. I tried explaining how you can make an L with your left hand and you'll always know that's left, but he was having none of it. Rarely if ever do I win a battle of this sort. Yesterday ended with me telling him to just drop it, but he refused to stop arguing.  I was ready to . . . but I didn't.

Not only the arguing is a problem.  The kid hits and gets aggressive and has a temper that is difficult to control.  At Micah's soccer game on Saturday, he got mad at me when I refused to allow him to headbutt another parent.  In his anger, he threw a full water bottle at me and hit me square in the back, then he took off running full speed. What was I supposed to do to discipline him? I ended up chasing him down after a few minutes (in front of everyone) and forcing him to sit next to me for the rest of the game or he would be grounded as well. His temper is really a problem, and I've never had a kid hit me with anything or want to punch me.  I just started having him write sentences when he hits people--ten times "I won't hit" is a lot for a kindergartner. 

Maybe these parenting issues don't seem that monumental to you--if they do, it's because of my limited writing skills.  These two are hard HARD.  And believe me, I know hard.  I thought I'd paid my dues with Tucker.  Getting him to adulthood was excruciating at times, but we both made it with no lasting scars.  Most of my other kids are harder than average as well, but I was young then.  Now I'm old.  I'm old and tired but experienced, and that's why I don't get it.  Why can't I figure out ways to correct positively and lovingly?  Why can't I distract or tease or cajole or threaten or . . . something? 

I don't want you to get the wrong idea--it's a good thing that I love them both to distraction and that they are very loving themselves.  Hyrum gave me a back scratch for a few minutes tonight, and Evie will often just say, "I love you, Mommy."  So it's not like they're evil every waking moment--just most waking moments.

Any great ideas? I'd love to hear them.


  1. I agree that sometimes it's the little issues that worry me the most. Jake had a terrible temper, we spent one whole summer with fits of temper so bad I had to physically constrain him....once he understood that I understood what he wanted but I wasn't caving things got better, but he still just snaps sometimes. He could argue me into an early grave too. Stay strong sista. I love it that Micah won't admit he was wrong!

    Evie and Lydia could be bosom buddies. I hear ya on the old and worn out part:). I think sometimes it comes from being the youngest and forever being dragged from pillar to post! No answer for that one!

  2. I can definitely relate to being tired with the last two of 7. I am a different mother at 51 than I was at 21. I have a 29 year old at the top of the ladder and an 11 year old at the bottom. I simply don't have the energy that I used to either. I am a mellower parent, but I will say that bc of that, when I DO raise my voice around here, the kids know I am dead serious. I have patience in areas I didn't used to, but also less patience in areas I DID used to...I have no problem taking contrary kids privileges away or correcting them in front of others. But their bickering with one another gets to me like nothing else. There are days when duct-tape over their mouths sounds like a good idea. Definitely challenging in ways I didn't expect. But like you, I love having younger kids still at home while my other friends' are empty keeps me awake! lol

  3. If you changed the names to Dallin and Hunter this could have been written by me. I can't wait to hear what others have to say. Granted my two are a tiny bit older and slowly improving but the tempers and stubborness! Geesh. By the way, you taught me something today and I feel quite dumb for never knowing this. The L with the left hand? Can I just tell you I think that is awesome and I feel a little slow never figuring that one out. Love you my friend. You are an awesome parent. I loved watching you Sunday. You showed true dedication and consistency. I knew exactly what you were doing with her and knew there was no way she was going to win that one. I love how they take us to the edge of insanity and thoughts of "I'm going to sell you to the first offer" and then surprise us with a sweet "I love you" or back scratch. Just enough to save their own life.

  4. My sister's kids were stubborn and difficult as could be, and they used to wear her out on a regular basis with their shenanigans. Of course, as you and I both know, consistency was the key. And sometimes being consistent took over much of her day because it required a great deal of her time and effort to enforce a few very simple (and reasonable) limits. Those kids just plain wanted to run the really naughty ways! One thing she used to do was give them two choices (like these: "During sacrament, you can either color quietly, or you can put your head on my lap and rest quietly while I tickle your back"). If they refused to do either one, she would say..."Okay, by not choosing to do either of these things, you are choosing to go out and sit in the car with me." Sitting in the car meant that they were on her lap with her arms around them restraining them so that they couldn't do anything at all to amuse themselves. (That was always her out-of-the-home punishment. And she applied it kindly, but firmly.) When she was at home, they were sent to their rooms, the doors of which she used to have to hold shut in order to get them to stay there. (When they got older, she had locks put on the outside of their doors. I know that sounds unusual, but so was having to stand there holding the door shut long enough to get them to finally give in!) What's amazing is that somehow she always managed to keep her cool and speak to them in a firm, neutral voice. (She was young and still had enough estrogen to maintain patience!) By the way, that's why she only had three kids. She said it was like having six "regular" kids. I agree with her! (The good news is that they turned out to be absolutely delightful people!) In fact, they are amazing and very accomplished, talented, creative individuals. =)

  5. Hey, thanks for the tip on making an L with your left hand. I've never heard that and it's genius!! I feel quite the same about my two at the end of 6. 5 year old boy, 2 year old girl and oddly similar to your two. We too are dealing with the same kinds of things we never have before, 5 year old hitting everyone, even at school and 2 year old throwing awesome fits. GOOD LUCK to the both of us.

  6. Having witnessed both the darlingness and the stubbornness of these two, I know what you are talking about. I am glad that they have a loving, consistent mother who will never give up trying to teach them correct behavior. It appears to me that there is some reason in their future why they need to be so strong. You are just the one to guide them through these hard times. Don't give up and tell them their Grandma loves them. (And you, too!)

  7. Oh, my Ashton is a lot like your Evie. Even at 6yo, he has friends come to our door with their parents asking if Ashton can come to their house to play.

    "No." It's embarrassing. But whaddya gonna do?!

    He hates church, school, friends' houses, parties, you name it. But he is sweet. Just apathetic, antagonistic, and very shy. When he tells me that he doesn't want to go to church, I say "Me neither, but we're going anyway because it is right." And then before we go, we plan something that we will do together when we get home (color, make cookies, paper chains). I find with him it never works to talk about what he shouldn't be doing or talk about bad behavior--only the positive and the times he was good.

    "Thanks for getting in the car, that really helped me. What a great kid." It can be exhausting at first, but four years later I am finding it is getting easier (it all began when he was 2). As for sacrament meeting, I would find a very un-fun place to go for the time outs. For us, it is the "Mommy's room" in the bathroom. They have to sit on my lap, too. No freedom to explore, jump, rock, or even sit alone. "Wouldn't you rather be back on the pew with your snacks and brothers and sister?"

    Now I need to ask you everything about a girl turning into a woman. I am not ready for this, but it is happening.

  8. I think everyone has at least one child that will push them to the end of their rope. My oldest is it, unfortunately. Sometimes I wonder if it would be easier if it was my youngest, but I don't know. The poor girl has three younger brothers and NO sisters so she thinks she's utterly picked on constantly! When she found out the youngest was a boy, she walked around for a day saying "stupid brothers" over and over. Some kids just have their things. I think the shyness thing will probably resolve over time. In the meantime, it's just a matter of teaching her to be polite. It's okay NOT to talk to someone (and as far as Stranger Danger goes, it really is helpful!), but it's not okay to tell them you don't like them when you don't know them.

    I was reading a blog the other day where the man was saying that the father should take the kids out whenever possible (it's from a Boyd K. Packer quote actually), and then find an empty room and not just set them in the corner, but put them on top of the table. You then sit next to the table, folding your arms and bowing your head with your eyes closed. He said he would sit there through their screaming and crying and whining, and only respond when he finally heard the words QUIETLY, "I want Mommy." He said once they got to that point, he could tell them calmly that they could have Mommy as long as they promised to sit quietly on her lap. He rarely had to take kids out more than once a week when he did that. I thought it was brilliant!

    As far as hitting goes, I think you're headed in the right direction. My two youngest are at hitting stages. It's really problematic because most of the time they just think it's a fun game, but occasionally they'll get hurt and they just don't connect the two events yet! Even in public (or especially!) kids need to understand that they will still be disciplined. It's not okay to be disrespectful to anyone, but most especially to your parents. Try talking to him calmly and holding him on your lap. Sometimes they need the extra attention, especially when they're the youngest. I've found that there are times when my kids are hitting that I just need to sit down with them, tell them what they did was wrong and talk with them about it. But it's the sitting down with them that helps the most.

    Good luck with your kiddos! I swear these young years are SO tough! I'm hopeful that my kids will make it to adulthood relatively unscathed. The hope of no scars is pretty much gone, though, with my boys! ;)

  9. I think you are doing exactly what you're supposed to be doing. I am in awe what you are already accomplishing. Endure, just endure and you'll have another Tucker and Heidi who will make you proud.

  10. Oh my hardest child is also the one with the biggest most remorseful heart. What are we to do.
    As you know...this too shall pass. They will be fine...great...because of your huge love and desire for them to be their best. And they are sooooooo cute...and you are a great mom!

  11. I WISH I had ideas. But, I'm the total newbie in the corner crying because I suck at this Mom thing. I'm glad to know that even you in all your years of wisdom and experience have struggles. And, not that this is helping anything whatsoever, but you DID pay your dues with Tucker, and you did a smashing good job of it. So, I personally think you DO deserve a break there at the end. Apparently THEY have different ideas. Anyway, just know I love you and I think you're great and that I already know, no matter what, those kids are gonna turn out just as awesome as the rest of yours. Just saying.

  12. I raised my kids in a completely different era where a little spanking or scolding seemed to do the trick.
    However, being a retired school teacher, I have had to deal with all sorts of behavior problems. Kinds these days seem to be born with a strong will to do it their way!
    There is no instant cure, but I would encourage you to talk as positive as possible to them even when they are not co-operating by reminding them how much you like them when they are happy or smiling. Then when they do something good or positive say, "I really like the way you are being so nice to your sister, and you deserve a little treat." That can be a sticker or a snack or even a hug. Most kids love to be praised and rewarded. Maybe even set up a little sticker chart for rewards of positive behavior. When they get 5 stickers(or more), then they get a reward or to go to a place they like to play. (whatever your kids like to do)
    My son is adopting a foster child, and he has been a challenge with his temper. They have done a money jar, and when he has a good day at school, he gets $1 to put in the jar. When he gets a certain amount, he gets to spend it. He also has consequences for his bad days.
    Now you may have already been doing these things, and if you have my only suggestion at this point is to be consistent.
    One thing my daughter does with my other 2 grands is that she talks to them before they go anywhere such as a party or a school event. She talks all the way there about how they should act, and to speak to people by saying hello or thank you.
    I hope things get better. Hang in there!

  13. Evie's story reminded me of one of my friends and her youngest child, Chelsea. When Chelsea was about Evie's age (she is now 18) she was kicking up a fuss in church and her mom was carrying her out. She said softly "We need to think of Jesus" and without missing a beat Chelsea SCREAMED out "I HATE JESUS!" It was awesome. If you knew her sweet mother, it was doubly awesome. Evie will grow out of it. I promise. Hayden is much the same way. If she doesn't like something you are a "stinky doodoo head." Sweet.
    Now Hyrum reminds me of my youngest son. Hair trigger temper. I was sincerely worried about him going to kindergarten. I started noticing that when his behavior was the worst (temper tantrums, hitting people) he was hungry - low blood sugar. If I fed him a quick snack he quickly became sweet. Could this possibly be part of Hyrum's problem? Maybe his little system is just at a delicate balance until he gets a little older.
    Good luck. I know it's hard, but they will one day realize all that you did for them. Probably when they have children just like themselves. And then you can chuckle softly to yourself. Sweet payback.

  14. I haven't finished the book yet, but I just purchased & am reading The Child Whisperer by Carol Tuttle. I'm part way though it, and it has already helped me to understand my a couple of my 8 children in ways I haven't understood them before. You may want to look at it. It gives you loads of ideas on how to respond to your child/ren based on their "true natures". I've found it to be incredibly accurate & intuitive. After reading your blog for a couple of years, I would definitely call you an intuitive mother. Good luck!

  15. my neighbor down the street tells me that the 16 year gap between her oldest and youngest has taught her that cade is a maniac b/c when brittany did the things he did they sat down and had big long talks and more talks and more talks, but now that cade is coming through she knows it's just a phase and it will eventually pass with or without the talks. i can't help but wonder what cade will be like in high school without ANY talks though...

    with my three the only thing i've learned in my four and a half short years of parenting are that as long as i'm consistently banging my head against the wall and dealing with them the best that i can without any sort of positive reinforcement on most days from them, {this is a run on sentence, be warned it might only make sense if we were talking in person and i was using my hands and arms while talking}, one day they will surprise me and do something great that i thought wasn't getting across, and i'll think, ok, let's keep at it. maybe in ten years it will sink in and i'll get to see another one of these great moments of payoff for a few secnds again:)

    you're GREAT.

  16. I tell you, it's all about mind games. Ellie is very much like Evie these days and it just drives me nuts and I KNOW she knows that it drives me nuts. We've been home all week this week because of school holidays and because she had a fever and had to stay home, which also meant that I had to take time off work to stay home with her.

    And all I can say is that this week, she's been pushing her boundaries with me with absolutely no fear in her eyes. I actually had to ask Jason to work from home on Wednesday just so I can get out of the house and let him deal with her. Turns out when she's with dad, she's all smiles and rainbow and is well behaved but the minute I walked into the room, there's tears as if her world has just fallen apart and she is incapable of doing anything herself.

    It's been madness here in this household. Especially when she made me pick out all the "non-white" rice from her bowl of plain white rice. I seriously don't know how you managed to survive raising so many kids when I can barely handle the one that I have now.