In January, I wrote about my Kids Behaving Badly.
I was having a really hard time with their behaviour, defiance, moods, and bad attitudes. It was going on for months and I was close to insanity. I was stuck in a rut that was quickly spiralling downwards.
Well. It’s two months later and everything has settled down now.
In fact, when I read my post again, it was hard to believe that THAT was going on HERE.
Time has passed and yes, it was all just a normal part of growing up. It was a phase.
It was a phase probably brought on by end of school, a break in our routine, Christmas, New year, too many parties and late nights, general boredom around the house and boy hormones. But we survived.
Since Feb, the boys have been the sweetest, coolest, funniest, loving, most excellent and most wonderful little darlings. I would go as far to say that they have never played better, or been better behaved as they are now.
How did it happen? What did I do? Ha! I have no idea!
OK that’s not entirely true. I have a combination of theories and reflections:
1) Realised that I’m not to blame.
First I had to realise that my 3yo son’s defiance and strong-spirit was NOT because of a fault in my parenting skills.
I was constantly stressed and experimented with the experience I was creating for him – maybe he’s not playing outdoor enough, maybe he needs new friends who are his age, maybe I need to be tougher with this rule, maybe he needs to be away from me for a while, maybe he needs more structured play? It went on and on. Nothing worked, and I felt like such a failure.
I had to realise that it was simply because of who he is and his personality. I had to accept it, and work with it. Realising and accepting this fact alone lifted about 90% of my stress and anxiety!
2) Realised that it is just a phase.
As I said before, kids behaving badly is just a normal part of growing up.
3) Initiated a new plan, and STUCK TO IT.
My boys were in a pretty bad cycle of defiance. I realised that I was quite wishy-washy with discipline. We had some black and white rules. But for the grey areas, I kept making up new rules and discarding old ones as new situations unfolded. So I guess the kids didn’t take them seriously, or they just got confused.
I think I gave a lot of empty threats, which I did not follow through with. When I asked them to do something, I should have expected them to do it. But instead I renegotiated and explained and listed reasons and talked and talked, thus I let them get away with it and they wouldn’t do it until I blew up in anger.
I basically wrote a new bunch of rules and punishments up on a chart so everyone could see them. I announced that these were the new rules and from this day on, this is how we’re going to do things. I made sure that the boys knew what I expected and what the punishments were.
I was also very aware that I was dealing with two very different personalities, so what will work for one, will probably not work for another. We stuck with it for a week, oh god it was painful, but it worked!
My 4.5yo seemed to only need “punishments” in form of restricting his favourite things (sweet treats, no participation, or no tv). That was enough for him to change his behaviour.
But for the 3yo, I used some techniques suggested by James Dobson (The New Strong Willed Child). It worked within 3 days. He got the message, and it was enough to break the cycle. I haven’t used it again since.
4) School began.
The 4.5yo started going to school 5 days a week. That kept him well entertained, engaged, interested and out of proximity from his younger brother for most of the day.
The youngest also became a big boy too. He started pre-kindy and now has his own teachers, classroom, school bag, activities, routine and friends. It was probably a huge boost to his confidence, development and identity.
5) Use Progress Charts.
I wrote about some new progress charts we tried. Not only did this make things easier for me in the mornings, the boys had a clear routine, and they followed it like a sacred law.
6) Read Excellent Parenting Books.
There are some who say you shouldn’t read too many parenting books, or you’ll get too confused by all the different opinions and teachings.
But I really believe that you should read as much as you can, filling your brain with knowledge, studies, different opinions and anecdotes. And I believe you should keep an open mind. Don’t just read one book and follow it to the letter. Form your own opinions, pick and choose what techniques work for you and your kids in your unique situation.
Here are some books that have been recommended to me by my readers.
7) Talk to someone.
Finally, I recently befriended a mother in our library story-time session. She migrated to Perth from Singapore, and she has two young boys (5 and 3 years old), born in the same months as my own two boys.
What’s great about our friendship is that our two older boys and our two younger boys have really similar temperaments. The two older boys are charming, bossy and sulky. And the two younger ones are reckless, defiant and loveable. It’s really funny, yet uncanny.
We will spend hours talking about our boys in the most tiniest of details – which I swear, would absolutely bore anyone else to tears. We don’t give each other advice or counselling, we just talk and talk and talk and talk, and then finish off with a big laugh. It’s so good for the soul.