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Parenting Experts – Sometimes They Are Right!

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I have what one might call an allergic reaction to the modern parental experts and their hokey advice on what I, as a mother, should be doing.

Perhaps it’s a homage to my own mother. I find myself using the tactics she used on me to keep me in line as the most appropriate for my own children. Then again, it’s mostly just doing what comes natural and being slightly lazy.

In some ways I am a very progressive mom, I believe babies should be breastfed for at least a year and certainly longer if possible, I am for co-sleeping, I think giving choices is helpful and spanking should be kept to the bare minimum (I do think a swat is the only option sometimes, although Eric adamantly opposes it).

But what about all this other namby-pamby nonsense that these “parenting experts” are passing out as good advice?

Listen to your children and then respond to their needs. That’s great as long as their needs fall in line with my schedule and they do as I say when it really counts. Needing to watch the end of Barney when it’s time to leave for school and responding to it, just means we are all late – sorry your needs don’t always matter.

Unconditional love should always be given Unless you are driving me insane and being a demonic brat – then it’s the “Hey you little snot, I have feelings too, and let me express one for you – LEAVE MOMMY ALONE OR MOMMY MIGHT EAT YOU.” It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Lead by example, if you want them to be patient, you must be patient.
That’s all well and good, but when I have a buttplow in front of me who refuses to go through the green light within a reasonable amount of time, mommy may bust out a “Move it moron!!” and a honk to just to show the selfish bastard the error of his or her ways. This might accidentally cause my child to shove another kid in line if he is busy picking his nose and staring off into space. Life’s short dumbass, wake up and get movin’.

I could list dozens of examples of things I should be doing differently as a parent, but I am not a automaton – I react based on my experiences, my values and my mood. I try to be an adult and behave appropriately, but I sometimes fail. It’s a good lesson for your children to learn I think – “Hey sometimes Mom’s a bitch.” I generally admit to this, apologize and try and make up for it, but you can’t remove this essential quality from my being. It just is.

Occasionally though, I come across a great suggestion in the millions of parenting magazines I scour for more advice I refuse to take – and this one is as old as time.

Lily, who is now four, has a terrible time staying in her bed at night. It’s not her fault, it’s mine for allowing this practice to begin. The problem is that as I get closer to giving birth I am more uncomfortable, take up more space and the fact is, she just won’t be able to do it with a little baby in our lives.

I remembered one of those annoying experts suggesting the reward system as a way of teaching children a pattern of positive behavior. Keep it simple and make it to their advantage. I told Lily that if she could stay in her bed each night I would give her a star, once she had enough stars she could pick out a treat of her choice within reason.

Last night was the first night – and low and behold she actually listened and made a conscious effort. I laid down with her, read her stories, listened to her bedtime music and left quietly as she slipped into slumber. A couple of hours later I hear the door to my room open – I sat up and watched as Lily’s wheels turned. She stood at the door for a moment and thought – she then let out a sigh and slowly closed the door. I knew she had remembered our deal. A moment later she came in and walked to my bedside – BUT DID NOT TRY TO GET INTO BED. She gently waited and when I asked her what she wanted to do, she said “Can you tuck me back into bed Mommy?” So within moments she was asleep in her bed and I was asleep in mine.

I heard her get up once more a few hours later, but she never entered the room. She stopped herself and was resigned to the promise.

I have never been so proud!! We marked her first star on the calendar and I am PRAYING that we can work this out to everyone’s advantage and happiness.

Sometimes if I just have patience, listen to the needs of my child, and give some unconditional love I find that parenting is a breeze.

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About Dawn Olsen

  • … and if all else fails, cranks The Smiths ‘Meat Is Murder’.

    full volume.

  • Eric Olsen

    really fine post Dawn, I am very proud of you both

  • I agree with the vast majority of what you said, Dawn. About the unconditional love thing, what I tell my kids is that even when Mom is screaming her fool head off over some bit of their temporary naughtiness or hard-headedness, she still loves them. And when Mom is just screaming for sanity’s sake, they know to leave Mom alone.

    I’ll bet your kids are proud of you, too.

  • Andy

    right on w/ the whoopins Dawn. I got spanked, and Lord knows I needed it! Spare the rod and spoil the child I says!

    All joking aside, I’m sure it depends on the child and what they respond to best.

  • Anti-spanker here. Big surprise.

  • Eric Olsen

    I am completely anti-spank. I have too bad a temper to even start down that road, plus all the usual philosophical and practical reasons against it.

  • Andy

    maybe it depends on the parent then too Eric.

    I for one have no psycological damage from it. I grew up w/ a healthy respect of my father, never afraid of him. I feared him at times(as the same way I fear God), but that’s healthy I think.

    My dad wasn’t the perfect example of ass whoopin, he has a bad temper too. I still feel it’s a good tool for discipline. This coming from a non-parent so Eric and Natalie, your experience overpowers my opinion in this.

    I knew far too many a kid growin up who weren’t spanked…and yeah they were spoiled brats. That won’t be my kids hehe.

  • Dan

    Dawn, I think you hit on a really good point about allowing your kids to see you’re not an automation and that you have moods etc. I’ve been around parents who try to shield their kids from any kind of turbulance at all. They’ll talk to them always in a kind of happy excited voice, and act like they’re in control of every situation. They’ll always hide their frustration, anger, boredom etc. I understand what they’re trying to do, but in the end I think it just leads to a lack of intimacy with your kids. They might be less likely to confide in you later on.

    I like to use the reward method also. I give my kids money for grades. Most experts I’ve read say thats a big no-no. It seems to work though.

    nice post.

  • Andy

    that’ll bite ya in the ass though! My dad said if we ever made honor roll that it was worth $100. Well…I did it and it was pay up time. He tried to find every way out of that one!

  • Eric Olsen

    I could never use it the way Dawn does, which is never hard, and seems to be used to get Lily’s attention more than anything. I just don’t hit children, I can’t imagine hitting anyone softly. On the rare occasions when I have hit someone, it has been with the intent of maximum damage.

  • Dan

    Andy, unreal! That’s exactly the deal I cut with my oldest daughter. After that first Franklin, she got the message, then proceeded to make honor roll throughout High School. It did bite a little. I pretended it hurt more than it did though. I think that made the challenge more fun for her. All in all I came out on the deal ’cause she won a semi-free ride in a Radiograghy program.

  • Dawn

    I wasn’t spanked much at all, but given verbal beatdowns often. My mother’s favorite threat when we were acting up was to pull us in close and whisper “If you don’t cut that out I am going to rip your arm out and beat you with the bloody stump.”

    That was a classic and worked like a charm. We knew then and there the nonsense better stop or her threat would escalate to public embarassment, something she had NO QUALMS about doing, and then ultimately it might lead to a smack.

    It rarely led to a smack – and my mom hits like a girl anyway.

    Natalie, if it makes you feel any better my mom has become a complete pacifist and a practicing Buddhist – she doesn’t own a fly swatter.

  • I was spanked only once by a parent. My younger brother wandered into traffic and was hit by a car when he was eight. Thankfully, the car was moving slowly, so the kid wasn’t hurt very badly. This was the second time he had been in this situation — about a year earlier, he and a friend were crossing a busy street, and the friend was flattened, right before my brother’s eyes. So my folks were already on edge about our safety and my brother, well, he didn’t learn anything from that terrible accident. So Dad’s reaction was first to spank my brother and then to spank me too, for good measure. My father was pretty hysterical that day. Mom told me to forgive him, because he really, really loved me. And I know in my core that he did.

  • Dawn

    Nothing drives a parent over the edge of normal behavior faster than a close call like you described.

    I always like the line of “If you get hurt doing such and such, I will kill you.”

    It cuts to the core emotion. I love you so much that if something happened to you because you were careless I may just loose my mind.

  • Oh, that’s true. About a month before my son turned three, he was beaten while in day care. The provider, whom I had researched thoroughly before hiring her, had just started dating a new boyfriend (she had been caring for David for about 18 months at this time). Well, on this particular St. Patrick’s Day, this woman, who heretofore had done a great job, decided to take a nap and asked this boyfriend to keep an eye on the children, a group of five two- and three-year-olds all in the process of being potty-trained. Inevitably, there were “accidents” — involving my boy and a little girl. The man lost his cool and spanked the kids with a child-sized baseball bat. A baseball bat. Spousal Unit happened to pick David up from daycare that day. When I arrived, SU was panicked. David never mentioned what had happened until bathtime, when his clothes had been removed and there were huge bruises and welts all over his backside.

    Long story short: The provider lost her license. Boyfriend went to jail. Parents and children went into therapy. David, my ardently pacifist son who gets gold stars in school from teachers for his commitment to social justice, has adjusted exceedingly well. His sister remains fiercely protective of him, as we all are.

    What is germane to this discussion are the reactions SU, our friends and family members, and I had to the immediate crisis. I’ve always been rather overprotective of my kids, but after the incident, the trait intensified exponentially. My pragmatically pacifist spouse became filled with fury and wanted nothing m ore than to retaliate in kind. A couple of days afterward, SU, my brother, my father, and our deeply (progressive) Christian best friends, with my mom’s enthusiastic support, started organizing a posse of sorts to go medieval on the boyfriend’s person. (“It’s time to take care of business,” my puffed-up brother said at the time.) It took everything I had — and I was pretty over the edge myself, so thank goodness my desperate pleas were successful — to convince them to stop and think before they did something stupid that would land them in the downtown lockup. It was quite a challenge to hold off six insane adults headed for the door and determined to take out their rage in a violent manner. But I couldn’t stay angry with them for erupting in fury and demanding their “eye for an eye” — a sweet angel boy we all adore had been abused in an unimaginably terrifying way. It is a miracle that they listened to me. Good thing, too. I didn’t have enough money to bail six people out of jail.

  • Dawn

    That is horrifying – absolutely horrifying on every level. In general Natalie I would always choose a non-violent method to resolve a dispute – in general. It certainly seems the path most advocated by God, and I respect you deeply for standing by your values and convictions when faced with something so heinous and egregious.

    I am ashamed to admit though, that had someone done something like that to my child – I may have retaliated in a most violent manner and then would have ended up in jail.

    Or I would have done what I usually do when faced with such choices, SCREAMED IN THEIR FACE UNTIL MY BLOOD VESSELS BURSTED OUT MY SKULL while simultaneously threatening to kill them in a way that would have made them beg for death. At which point I might have cleansed myself of the need to kill them.

    God, I pray to you, never make me face such choices as I am no match for the good-natured and kind-hearted Natalie.

  • Ineresting story: Ran into her at the supermarket while the police and child-protection services investigations were under way. She walked right up to me, insisting that she and her boyfriend were innocent and that Spousal Unit had to be the one who had beaten David and that I was a sick, evil bitch for defending my spouse.

    Boy oh boy, I wanted to scream at her. For a second, I even wanted to rip the hat she was wearing from her head. But I kept my cool — don’t know how — and said only, “You are in my prayers.” Turned on my heel and walked to my car, drove to the nearest Starbucks and drank so much Sumatran that I was sick for the rest of the day.

  • Taloran

    Natalie, you are a much better person than I. I applaud you for turning the other cheek – I wouldn’t have.

  • I am no better than anyone. It was just obvious to me that spouting off and causing a scene was pointless. My job was to focus on David and what was best for him. CPS, the cops, a good judge, and God took care of the day care lady and her beau, which was their job, not mine.

  • Taloran

    Yep, that’s what I said….

    “Boy oh boy, I wanted to scream at her.” I would have been much more virulent. Your levelheadedness inspires hero worship.

  • More like numbness. I’m nobody’s hero; please don’t say that. David is the hero.

  • Eric Olsen

    Natalie, what inspires the awe is the fact that you have such very exacting standards and you stick to them, through thick and thin. Most of us can’t/don’t/won’t do that.

  • BB

    Sleepless in Seattle, or somewhere, I think. I can’t believe it’s 5 am and I’m rummaging through here looking for something to post in the hope I will bore myself to sleep. Well, here goes.

    Although I’m old fashioned and believe corporal punishment may sometimes be necessary, I have never in fact hit my child (I have six in total). Being a professional Mediator I believe in talking things over. Like Eric I too am afraid of doing damage so I leave that chore to my wife. But I must say she has rarely used it, and even still it was only a tender swat. We find that talking is usually sufficient combined with copious amounts of love. Lots of hugs and kisses, I love you’s and encouraging words go a long way.

    Our youngest child still sleeps in our bed. Although it is annoying at times on the whole I don’t mind. Neither have we ever used a babysitter. We go everywhere together and because of that we are really tight and I love it. I wouldn’t consider going anywhere without my family.

    Well, I’m not sleepy yet so I think it’s time to move on to another post. Maybe I’ll find a re-run of Dr. Phil on the toob. Sweet dreams y’all.

  • Eric Olsen

    BB, that’s a lot of kids (I will soon have four) and I agree with your approach, which is very sweet, but I strongly believe that parents have to get away from the kids on a regular basis or lose their flipping minds.

    We are lucky babysitting-wise in that I have 19 (though gone to college) and 16 (though usually doing his own thing) year-olds and loving grandparents nearby, but I think it’s important for the kids to get a break from the parents and be exposed to other adults they can trust as well.

    I have friends who have never used a babysitter and all involved are demonstrably insane (um, in a good way). We just had a party for the 4-year-old’s birthday and the kids who go to preschool with her were clearly more sociable than those who have been at home the whole time. I feel pretty strongly that kids need to spend time around a variety of other kids on a regular basis by 2 at the latest. I can really see the difference in the kids AND in the parents, who seem to fret a lot less. of course you have your own built-in preschool it appears!

  • BB

    …hmmmm Eric, are you trying to tell me something? Your comments about “lose their flipping minds” and “demonstrably insane” may explain a lot of things. Nevertheless I digress, and actually I am sufficiently away from the kids or holed up in my home office talking to nice people like you that I’m able to somehow keep er between the posts if you know what I mean. I should also add there is occasion our youngest will be over at a friend’s house for a while. What I mean by babysitting is in the classic sense – i.e. going out for dinner, etc. My child goes with us everywhere and I really don’t mind. We are so close and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

  • Eric Olsen

    BB, sorry if I came across as a bossy know-it-all, which in rereading I did, and work is certainly the kind of break I was talking about. The people I was referring to literally NEVER get away, which I really don’t think is healthy for parents or kids. There is nothing like closeness.

  • Dawn

    The family Eric is referring to have a rather bizarre philosophy on parenting and I think their children reflect that by demonstrating what I would call abnormal behavior and being quite developmentally slow for their ages.

    That is NOT a good thing.

    I agree that closeness is wonderful and should be encouraged along with firm rules and reasonably high expectations for performance and behavior – throw in lots of love and hugs and you have a winning combination in my book.

  • BB

    Not to worry Eric. No offense was taken. I’m not that thin-skinned and I know you are above that sort of thing. I was merely making an inept attempt at self-debasing humor. Obviously it didn’t come off as hoped. I think I can sum up my views up in one phrase. Non of us are experts and we bumble along and make mistakes along the journey. All families are disfunctional to a certain extent. So long as we are not abusive in our discipline and our kids feel loved and appreciated everything else should fall into place.

  • Eric Olsen

    agreed BB, totally

  • The author speaks of wanting to avoid the perils of over-indulging children. No loving parent intentionally wants to raise a self absorbed, inconsiderate child, or impede a child from reaching his or her potential. But without the proper limit setting – such as firmly advising one’s child that she is expected to remain in her bed at night, children can grow up self-centered. The author empowered her daughter by instilling the behavior modification program of giving stars and rewards.

    I am a Life Coach, and work with these types of situations frequently. The author’s method of dealing with her daughter’s nighttime sleep problem was deceptively simple. Not only did it allow mom to get the amount of sleep she dearly needed, but it also taught the daughter how to defer gratification. It taught the daughter that other people in the universe have needs, and that she is not the only one deserving gratification. These are very important social skills required in adulthood, be it in a marriage, with colleagues, or in one’s community.

    Our kids need discipline. They need to learn that “no” means “no”. And they need to know that it is safe to make a mistake. In this case, had the child continued into her mother’s bedroom, the penalty would have been failure to receive a star. But her mother could use that time to help her learn from that experience, and she would have had the opportunity to try again the following night to earn a star.

    Mom gets to sleep at night. Daughter’s self esteem rises. What a lovely win-win situation.