Friday, April 28, 2006

Why Can't There Be One Right Way?

I wish there were one right way to parent to ensure each and every child comes out feeling safe, loved, appreciated, wanted, smart, talented, and unique.The things we all want to feel.

If this were the case, the day we give birth to a child, the hospital would simply hand over The Parenting Handbook and we'd all know exactly how to stimulate, educate, inspire, discipline, and grow perfect, healthy kids.

Unfortunately, the closest most of us get to any kind of teaching in the arena of being parents is by doing what our parents did. In my case, that's not going to work.

My mom was selfish, critical, mean-spirited, and angry. I was, as they put it back in the Sixties, a Love Child, never quite as good, ashamed, afraid, misunderstood. I don't think my mom hated me, but I think she had to warm up to the idea of loving me, and ultimately the way she expressed that love was in trying to control everything I did. If I did something wrong, she would explode in a fit of terrifying anger. I was definitely afraid of my mom. Afraid of what she could or would do to me and afraid of what she might do to herself.

My whole life I have battled my own expressions of anger, to the point, that I had mostly learned to swallow my anger with the people I love and let things that drove me crazy slide because I loved them.

Then, I had a child. And in my efforts to guide and teach him, I've found we are two stubborn peas in a pod, and as parent, I feel the need to assert my dominance over him. It's my job to help him turn out okay. He gets a ton of love and affection, praise for all the good things he does. And, he's a little spoiled. I do things for him that he should probably be doing for himself now. But I'm aware of that, and working to correct the problem areas.

Unfortunately, every now and then, I blow my stack. I yell, stomp my feet, and act in a way that I know must be very scary for him. It's all usually over in a matter of seconds, then I apologize, and try to explain why his behavior made me angry. The last two instances involved his intentionally spilling his yogurt all over his puzzles after I had expressly told him not to spill his yogurt and refusing to pick up his trains and put them into the box where we keep them. I asked him several times and finally lost it. What's really frustrating to me about his refusal to clean his room is that his preschool teacher is constantly telling me what an awesome job he does picking up toys at school. She says she doesn't even have to tell him to do it. So, I know this is a power struggle and as parent, I feel it imperative that I win the battle. Problem is, I don't know how.

Obviously, blowing up isn't the solution. I don't know what is. And that's very disheartening. I should know my child better than anyone, know what motivates him and what doesn't.

A few nights ago, Scott and I were discussing it and he says he doesn't understand how I can lose my temper with Brendan. He also says he thinks I'm too critical, that I am way more critical than his mom ever was of him or his brothers. In my mind, I'm criticizing B's behavior, not him. Scott thinks two and three-year olds can't discern that difference. Maybe he's right. I hope not.

The only time I've actually criticized my son was when I told him he was being a baby for refusing to sit on the potty. And I told him I'd take away some big boy privilege of his if he didn't sit on the potty. It didn't work. Again, a major power struggle and I'm at my wit's end. I felt horrible after that day and didn't even mention the potty for a whole month.

I don't want to be my mom. Who does? So, why is this such a struggle for me? I love my son more than my own life. So, why can't I find the right ways to encourage and motivate him to do the things he needs to do? I'm not trying to change him.

I don't want to crush his spirit, dampen his defiant nature, or discourage his persistence. I do want him to sleep at night. Clean his room. Respect adults. Listen. Be nice to his friends. Share. Love. Keep his brilliant sense of humor. Use the freakin' potty and be out of diapers before school starts in the fall. That's it for now.

I don't think that's so much to ask. So, why do I feel like a horrible mother? Hopeless? Like I can't do this? And Good Lord! If I can't do it with the one I've got, what the hell am I going to do when I have another?


staci said...

I found your blog a few weeks ago. I just read this post and it moved me so.Please know that you are not alone. I have 5 year old that I tend to do similar thing to. I feel like a lousy mom. I feel like I am doing so very much damage. I feel like all I do is try to correct everything he does. My mom and dad were like that and I do feel as a 42 year old mother of did effect ho I parent and how I feel about myself. My daughter is only 21 months old and I haven't had to get this upset with her yet. I know I need to curb my temper and sometimes it is so very hard. I do feel like I am the only one who gets like this. It seems as though I see so many "perfect mom's" that don't seem that they are yellers or ever get mad at their kids. They seem like Martha Stewart Mom's. Just know there are mom's just like you out here who try so hard everyday to be postive and nurture their kids. Many mom's don't have the courage to write as candidly as you have. I am your clone!! Hang in there...Staci

dawn said...

Thank you, Staci!

It is comforting to know I'm not the only one with this issue. I have one other friend that I know struggles with the same thing, but we don't talk about it because she actually hits her kids (not beating, but spanking) and I do disagree with that.

I tried a few things differently today and got some positive results. I have a friend who raised six boys (all grown now). She also taught kindergarten for a while and she said to use my "teacher voice." She said teachers are taught to speak in a quiet, but authoratative voice so that kids have to stop talking to listen. She also said to pretend I had twenty kids and all their parents we're watching and to act like I would if that were true when I get angry. She said that she did that with her boys in order to control her temper when one of them did something really bad.

Thanks so much for reading my blog! I hope you continue to enjoy it.