Discipline in the Time of Shelter in Place

First, you’re doing fine. Your kids are great. You probably know all this stuff, and you just forgotten. Like when you get a flat, some of us realize what to do right away. Some of us take a minute or two. Some of us freak out and need some one to remind us how to do it.

Second this is a reminder. You can do this.

What do you do if your kids are acting crazy, and you are just 30 minutes from taking drastic action. Possibly regrettable, drastic action.

If you are that close to the edge, Parent Time Out. They are great. You tell your children that you need a time out to calm down. Take 5 minutes, ten, if you have toddlers, they will probably suggest your age. Maybe don’t stay away for 100 minutes. Take the time to calm down and focus. Take the time to read a few funny memes, wash your face, eat the hidden chocolate. Do what you need to calm down.

Next before any of these next suggestions work, please make sure you’re spending time with your kids. They’re stuck with you; you’re stuck with them. You’re not accidental roommates. Be the Fun Parent as well as the Taskmaster. Carve out time to be with them. When was the last time you played Legos or Princess? If you need to set a time, do so, and let your child know that you will play later. Easy. You know this.

What if your kids are at each other’s throats?

Get them moving. My kids are high energy, so they need to move. We’re averaging two walks a day. Some days that’s not enough. Right now they aren’t getting PE, and they are dealing with their siblings and parents. Remember those days when you were a kid. So get them out of the house.

But Fae have you seen the weather, our neighborhood, my sleeping toddler?

Yeah, ok. Family walks, hikes, runs are not always feasible. When my boys are insisting on antagonizing the hell out of each other, I give them something to do instead. Chores. Some weekends my house looks amazing. Every time someone picks on someone else, I give them a chore. I tell them if they can’t think of something constructive to do with their energy, I will. Cleaning windows, cleaning walls, sweeping, dusting, scrubbing. Have a list ready.

But what about fighting?

5 for fighting. No, usually more time. Time Outs for calming down. I love the meditation jar or calm down jar. I tell my boys that they need to calm down and they need to be in a place without the distraction that’s make them angry. When they were younger, I had a time out chair. As they got older, I sent them to their rooms. Now they have a choice. For some reason, one boy will choose my room. Whatever.

I have also been known to pull the plug on video games and videos for 24 hours. Right now in this time of crisis, that sounds like a bad idea. I still did it to Tornado S last week. I sent him to his room to calm down and write an apology letter, and then I banned him from video games and videos. I wouldn’t stretch it beyond 24 hours, even with repeat offenders. You get to far down the days, and time holds no meaning to them; you’re also likely to crack after the 3rd day.

But they keep fighting?

Then chores. So many chores. Your home is going to look amazing. If you have a backyard, pull weeds, move rocks. Be clear that as soon as they can figure out what to do with their energy and frustration, they can stop.

Name-calling and Cussing.

I hate name-calling. It gets on my nerves. I’ve tried time out, chores, apology letters, apology chore for the other person. None of this has worked for me, but they may work for you. We have a Name-calling Jar. Fifty cents for a name. Last time I cleaned it out we had over twenty bucks. Yes, I’ve had to put money in the jar for telling my dad he was acting like a jerk. Oh, and “acting like” or “are like” are still name-calling in my house. Nice try, kid; I know what you did there.

Oh and a buck for calling someone a penis. Living with boys….

I don’t like cussing either. I have tried time out, vinegar, all sorts of soap. We know do bar soap. Because I live with my parents and my dad is stricter with cussing, my dad tends to do this punishment. For some reason, this has worked better than the other times. Who knew?

What about you, the adult?

I am a big believer in modeling the behavior we want and setting rules everyone goes by. So yes, two weeks ago, I let out a doozy of a word while driving. The boys chimed in and demanded that I eat soap when I got home. So I did. It was just as bad as when I was a kid.

Temper Tantrums

Guys, we are all frustrated, bored, worried, scared, lonely, angry, sad right now. We are all dealing with some pretty big feelings right now, and most of us are not handling it well. I refuse to count the Thin Mints I have eaten. We need to help our kids deal with their feelings as do we all. Encourage healthy outlets before the tantrums. Yes, I know, easier said than done. Encourage writing, drawing, exercising.

When those temper tantrums ok, I do time out with a meditation jar. I set the time to their age. The jar is filled with water, glitter, glitter glue, and food coloring. Watching the glue settle is relaxing. After the time out, let the child know exactly why he or she was sent to time out and brainstorm on better ways to handle it. I go over the family rules. Some parents demand apologies. Do what works for you, but be fair.

If you have a temper tantrum, you need time out too. You need to apologize. Yes, I follow my own advice. Nothing is more humbling than admitting that you lost your cool, but it feels so good to brainstorm and try harder next time.

Good luck! Stay safe. Stay sane. We’re all in this together.

We’ll see about that

Sometimes I get so excited about a brilliant idea that I forget about the inevitable consequences.  Like the first time I ate at Cold Stone, and I was warned not to get more than two mix-ins.  I think I ended up with six and a stomach ache.  Nice.  Or when I decided it was a great idea to introduce the boys to Lego Star Wars.

It made perfect sense.  In my head.  The boys love Legos.  They love video games.  They LOVE Star Wars.  What possible could go wrong?

Obsession.

The kind where every waking moment was consumed with the thought of Lego Star Wars.  They wanted to play it every minute they were home, and barring that, they played it in their minds.  They no longer played Star Wars.   They played Lego Star Wars.  They were actual Lego toys in the Lego land of Star Wars.  It was a sickness that descended on the house.

The worst parts were the side-effects.  The potty accidents because they would NOT hit pause.  The tantrums over “the game not working right.”  The tantrums because Tornado S wasn’t doing what Tornado E wanted him to do.  The tantrums when it was time to shut off the game.  The tantrums when they wanted to play the game.  Like I said, a sickness.

It all came to a head the other day.  Tornado E was upset that “the game wasn’t working right.”  As I made my way over to Tornado E to help calm him down, he threw the remote in anger.  That’s bad.  It hit Tornado A square in the back.  That’s even worse.

With a centering breath, I launched into action.  I told Tornado E to SIT while I checked Tornado A, who was unphased by the whole thing.  I marched Tornado E to the time out seat and plunked him down, reminding myself that even if it’s easier, spanking was not the answer.  I set the timer.  I turned off the Wii.  I sent Tornado S off to play outside.  I fumed as I worked on dinner.  The time went off, and I retrieved Tornado E from time out, kneeling to look directly into his eyes.

Me: Do you know why you’re in time-out?

Tornado E: Because I threw the remote.

Me: AND you hit Tornado A with it.  I want you to apologize to Tornado A and give me a hug.  And because you chose not to control yourself, you will not be able to play Lego Star Wars for the rest of the day and tomorrow.

Tornado E: Sorry, Tornado A.  That’s ok, Mommy.  You’re going to forget.

I raised an eyebrow in disbelief and stormed into the office, thinking Wanna f-ing bet?  I grabbed a sheet of paper out of the printer, stormed back into the great room, snatching a marker off the kids’ table.  I bit off the cap and spat it out.  I wrote in huge letters, “Tornado E doesn’t play Lego Star Wars.”  Then I taped it on the wall next to the TV.  You wanna test your Mama?  We’ll play.

Now where’s that marker cap?

You Go Time Out

Tornado S has a complete understanding of time-out.  Thanks to Tornado E.  Tornado S understand that when Tornado E is in trouble he has to go in time-out.  Tornado S uses this to his advantage.  When Tornado E is annoying Tornado S, Tornado S shouts, “GO TIME-OUT, BROTHER!”  It’s quite adorable as Tornado S points to the time-out chair.  Of course, Tornado S has seen his time in the chair too.

The Husband returned home late last night, and this morning he handed out toys to the boys for his absence.  He bought the boys a Batman and Joker.  They both took an instant liking to the Batman, but in the end, it was Tornado S who adopted Batman.  It wasn’t too long before Tornado S, playing alone with the Joker and Batman, that the Joker acted unsavory.

Tornado S: Mommy!  Mommy!  Joker hit Batman!

Me: What do you think should happen to the Joker?

Tornado S: You Go Time Out!

Tornado S then placed the toy on the chair and walked away.

I guess our experiment in crime and punishment may be working.

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Let’s Get Ready to Rumble

Some people would say you’re late; others would say you’re right on schedule.  I don’t care.  I just know you’re going to stop.  Because.  I. Said. So.

Congratulations on waiting longer than your brother did.

Congratulations on finding a more annoying sound then when your brother whines “Mooooooommmmmmmmmyyyyyyyyyy.”  It’s like fingernails on a chalk board to most people or forks scraping on teeth to your Papi or metal scraping against ceramic for Uncle M.  I hate your brother’s whine, but please note, he doesn’t get what he wants.  So when you start to scream/cry/roar, you are not going to get your way.

When I put you in your room when you start to throw a fit, it’s not time out.  You can get out when ever you feel like it.  But you have to leave the fit in there.  The minute you start to throw it out here, you’re back in your room, buddy.  It’s a simple rule.  Temper tantrums are thrown in your room. 

It doesn’t matter what you want, what time you throw it, how you throw it because you’re not getting anything until you calm down.

So good luck.  May the better man when and all that.  But, baby, you should know.  Despite whatever one else says or believes about your mama, she’s a tougher nut to crack than she looks.

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A First for the Book

Last week I was reading Naptime Writing, a brilliant, insightful, and often funny blog, (To check out more of these kinds of blogs, just go to my blog roll {How’s that for a plug 😉 }) she wrote about Firsts that should be in the baby book.

Friday, I was tempted to write her an email about it.

Because we had a first that wasn’t in the baby book.

And I am personally holding Nap responsible for jinxing me.

Tornado E’s first time sent to the principal’s office.

A proud moment for any mom.

I stood with the other moms, talking, as the kids were let out one by one.  The teacher would spot a parent and call the child out to hug his/her mom or just to thrust the papers at her before running off the play tag in the court yard.  (We can all thank Tornado E for that development.)  I waited, waited, and waited, noticing that moms were receiving hugs.  I was early that day, so I was a little surprised that I was waiting for so long.  Then I remembered I was waiting for my fidgeting son.

After all the moms had a child, the teacher crooked her finger at me.  I looked around and made a mental marker at where Tornado S was and proceeded to the teacher.  I thought that Tornado E had had another accident.  Awesome.

But, no.  The teacher told me Tornado E has “a rough day,” then preceded to tell me that he was sent to time out and then to the principal’s office.  For the stuff we were working on for the last year.  The not listening.  The touching other kids.  The usual Tornado E stuff.  Only that day Tornado E wouldn’t settle down, wouldn’t listen.  I asked the teacher what I could do to help.  She just told me to keep working on his issues and that she told him she would be talking to me.  Yeah, I can’t imagine that being much of a threat.

So when we got to my parents’ house, where I was making dinner for everyone, I sat Tornado E down and asked him about his day.  “Fine.”  Ok, how about this?  Why did you get in trouble?  Between what Tornado E told me (dumping out a box of toys during clean up time) and what the teacher told me, we had a long discussion over how to act in school.

Hopefully that will work.  God, I hope that’ll work.

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Mommy Mojo

About two weeks ago, I lost my mommy mojo.  I meant to write about it at the time, but the boys kept doing cute things I had to write about instead.  Besides it was happier.

For three days, I had no patience for the boys’ antics as they tested the weaknesses of the line.  On the last day of no patience, I started screaming.  Ok, not screaming because I didn’t increase the pitch of my voice.  I yelled extremely loud.  Enough to makeTornado  E cry.  Enough that through his tears, he kept saying “Calm down, Mom.  Calm down.”  I just thought I would be calm if you did the goddamn thing I told you to the first time, instead of the twelfth.

After a long talk with the BFF and highly encourage evening off to read (as in “Fae, if you don’t take a break, I swear I’ll drive out there tonight and tie you to a chair”), I was able to gain my patience back.  I missed not laughing at the cute moments that were passing me by because of my I-had-to-go-I-had-to-get-this-done-this-is-a-priority attitude.  I know if I’m calm I can deal with the problems in a better way without escalating them to yelling, “That’s it!  You’re living outside!”

But the boys are still testing the lines.  I find myself ready to lose it at any moment.  Errands are nearly a disaster as they dance around and antagonize each other by touching.  Naptime is a constant fight of telling them to stop giggling, spitting, burping, talking.  Toys must be dumped everywhere and fought over even if there are TWO of the same exact toy.  They’re wrestling, fighting, touching, pushing, hitting, ramping it all up.  Bath time has become a war.  I am sounding like my mother and wondering if it’s time to go find a switch.  Because they’re not even listening to the simplest of requests.

The thing that sucks is I’m so pissed off that I can’t even laugh at it after the matter.  I just take a deep breath and wait for the next onslaught of the raptors.

So until I get my patience/humor back, I’ll leave you with this little quote:

“They show extreme intelligence, even problem solving.  When they look at you, you can see they’re thinking, working things out.  They just keep attacking the lines.  They never attack the same place twice, unless they’re sure they can get through.  They’re testing the lines for weaknesses.  Systematically.  They remember.”

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My Son, The Vampire

Tornado S has learned to bite.  Which I can’t blame him, really.  Tornado E’s favorite game is “How can I annoy my baby brother the greatest.”  So in a lot of ways, Tornado E had it coming.

But rather than let Tornado S get carried away in a Chicago musical number, I some how have to discipline this grievous assault.  The kid leaves bite marks.  It’s only a matter of time before he breaks the skin.

The first time Tornado S did it, my dad was babysitting, and he was at his wit’s end on what to do.  If it had been his kid, it would have been a couple of spankings or a bite back, which worked so well on my middle brother when he went through this phase on me.  (Unlike Tornado E, I was a perfect child.)  But my dad knew how I feel about physical punishment, so he placed Tornado S into time out and cuddled Tornado E.

It happened on my watch last night.  Even though I threw Tornado S into time out for three and a half minutes, I don’t think it really had an effect, since Tornado S started laughing and talking to himself during the middle of it.  Nothing like a punishment that works.

And I wasn’t stupid enough to think this just happened out of the blue because Tornado S was so hungry from missing dinner, he mistook his brother for a hamburger.  As I comforted Tornado E, I interrogated him on what happened right before the teething incident. Tornado E was using Tornado S as a punching bag.  Nice.  Now I have to be in the same room with them at all times like a warden.  Where’s my shot gun?

So what’s a poor, enlightened mother suppose to do?

I’ve seen the whole biting the kid thing work, but I feel it’s a bit barbaric and contradictory.  Nothing like hitting to let some one know hitting is wrong.  I’m not sure that the time out thing is working, since it seems the place for Tornado S to work on his inner comedic monologue.

So any advice out there?

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Wicked Witch

I’m the wicked witch.

Pick up the balls please.

Pick up the balls.

Tornado E, I told you pick up the balls.

Pick up the balls right NOW.

Good Lord, child, pick up the balls!

Ok, how about you pick up the balls or go to time out.

My voice cracks.  It goes up a few octaves.  The tone is like nails on a chalk board.  It reflects my desire to be somewhere else, any where else like getting a root canal or watching my mom try on a dozen dresses as I sit in the boyfriend’s set dreaming about the ice cream shake I deserve but won’t get.  Basically I sound like a nag.  I hate it.

Pick up the trains, please.

Pick up the trains.

Tornado E, pick up the trains.

I told you to PICK UP the trains.

Keep picking up the trains.

If I come back in here and the trains aren’t picked up, you’re going to time out.

I sound like my mom, a broken record.  I sound harsh, unforgiving.  I sound angry, hateful, bitter.

Obviously I’m not doing this right.

Tornado E, get your shoes on; we’re going to Grandma and Papi’s.

I start out nice, respectful, often polite.

Get your shoes on.

Then it comes out like a command.  I move away doing something else, dealing with Tornado S, cleaning, brushing my teeth.

Tornado E, where are your shoes?  Get THEM.

Then I start to get angry.

Tornado E!  Get your shoes on.

Then I bark.

Get your shoes on now or you’re going into time out.

Then I threaten.  Usually he does what he’s told to at this final moment; sometimes he does not.

But I find myself muttering a phrase I heard in my past.

How many times do I have to tell you to do something?

Then I know I’m channeling my mother.

That frightens me.  She had horrible PMS when I was growing up.  You know the projectile-vomiting-fire-breathing-head-turning-things-flying-bed-levitating-dear-god-where’s-the-holy-water kind.  She had an excuse.  I do not.  Or maybe three children just constantly pressed her buttons (and God knows what my dad did, i.e. last post) that it would send her on a psychotic tail spin once a month.

Because I see myself heading that way.

Maybe I need to throw him into time out the first time he doesn’t jump to do what he’s told.  Maybe I’m too soft.  Maybe I should have stronger consequences.  Maybe I should just send him to a military school.  Maybe I am my mother.

All I know is I want to be the peaceful, patient, kind, loving mother all the time.  I don’t want to be the snarling, screaming, tired, frustrated mother that is starting to pop at several times a day.  I hate her.  This is just one child pressing my buttons.  I’ve got Tornado S pressing the terrible twos, and I look at him, thinking didn’t Tornado E put away his juice cup at that age, I didn’t let Tornado E get away with hitting at this age, shouldn’t he have learned by now to throw his temper tantrums in his room.

This job, this household, heck, their childhoods would be infinitely more pleasant if they would just do it on THE FIRST TIME.

Really, is that so hard to ask?

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This is just a phase

He’s testing me.  He wants to see if I really mean what I say.  He wants to see how far he can take this.  He wants to see what this button does to mommy.  It’s not yet 8:00 in the morning.

It’s Tornado S.  He’s two.

Damn.

His eyes lit with daemonic delight when Tornado E showed us his tower of every single Lego built up.  It was taller than Tornado E.  I grabbed Tornado S, trying to make him play another game with him, trying to distract him.  But the moment I let go, TornadoS was running.  I yelled, “NO” in The Voice.

Tornado S knocked over the tower.

I demanded an apology.

Tornado S said, “no” with a smile on his face.

Time Out!

Tornado S cried for two minutes straight.

When time out was up, I asked Tornado S if he knew what he did wrong.  He shook his head, and I explained that I told him no and that he didn’t listen.  I told him to apologize to Tornado E. Tornado S walked toward Tornado E, turned to me, laughed and said, “NO!”

Time Out!

Sonofabitch!

Halfway through time out, The Husband broke ranks and talked Tornado S into apologizing.  He agreed, but I told them time out was mean to be served out.  The Husband snapped about how he wouldn’t be able to work under these conditions as Tornado S resumed his very loud crying.

At two minutes, with the office door firmly shut, I went over the time out procedures again. This time Tornado S apologized.

Ten minutes later, Tornado S knocked Tornado E with a plastic train.  He also refused to apologize.  Time Out AGAIN.  That loud annoying crying again.  I thought I might have to kill someone.  I eyed the usually happy and cute two-year-old.

After two minutes, I repeated the usual time out ending. Tornado S laughed instead of apologizing.  TIME OUT AGAIN!  Two minutes of the crying ensued.  I swear I’m going to kill that kid.  Then I remembered how Tornado E pushed my resolve for a full day, and he was younger.  I can do this.

At the end of two minutes, Tornado S was willing to apologize.  We moved on.

To bath time, which was great for five minutes.  Until Tornado S was upset Tornado E was on his side, and then he hit Tornado E with a pirate.  Are you kidding me?!  Wash hair, get soap in their eyes, rinse them, dry them, wrangle them into clothes.  Mommy is ready to play.  Bring it on.

Oh, crap.  But today is Monday, which is grocery shopping day, which means I have to bring the little monsters into public.  Sonofabitch.

Let’s just say I reassured the cashier, a mother of an eighteen-month-old, that everything is a phase.  Then I plopped down three king-sized candy bars with my groceries.

This is just a phase.  This is just a phase.  This is just a phase.

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We don’t negotiate with terrorists

Me: Ok, Evan, Sean, Daddy, we’re leaving the park in ten minutes.

 

My husband: Sounds good.

 

***

Me: Evan, Five minutes!  Sean, five minutes!

 

My husband: Ok, five minutes.

 

***

Me: Ok.  We’re going!  Sean, Evan, one more time down the slide, and then we’re leaving.

 

Evan: How about two more times?

 

Me: No, just one more time.

 

Evan: Ok. Ok. How about three more times?

 

Me: No, just one more time.

 

Evan: Ok.  Ok.  How about one more time and four more times?

 

Me: We don’t negotiate with t- With boys.  One more time down the slide.

 

Evan: Ok.  Ok.  Two more times!

 

Evan finished going down the slide and started to climb up again.  I close lined him and carried him over my shoulder until I dumped him in the wagon. 

 

Me: Just one time.

 

 

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