One of my absolute favorite ways to spend a day is at Legoland with my mom and my two sons Gresyon 4-years-old and Reid 2-years-old. We have been season pass holders since Gresyon was 18-months and it has always been a guaranteed great day!
However, our last trip to Legoland provided the setting for one of our worst moments. We were about an hour into our day when Greyson asked for my phone so that he could play with one of his favorite applications (Tom Cat). Of course, without hesitation, I said “No!” My reasoning was that there were so many other things to look at and do; and, I was already starting to feel resentful that his face is buried into the phone more often than it should be—totally my fault.
Originally, the phone started out as a special treat (my five minutes of quiet time/sanity). However, Greyson found many fun game applications (apps) and lots of entertaining YouTube videos.
I have always been against video games at a young age and limited TV time. I had to ask myself how watching my iPhone, which was beginning to seem like all the time, was any different?
Without advanced warning, I decided that he needs to watch less of my phone and start enjoying more of nature, the world, and simple conversations in the car when it was quiet. So, when Greyson asked to use my phone at Legoland, I told him, “No. We’re at Legoland and there are so many things to look at and do here. You’re not watching my phone.” (I have to admit that I had reached my limit and was being very FIRM, but not very KIND.)
Greyson freaked out (flipped his lid—a full fledged meltdown) and charged at me to hit me. Of course I was totally upset (engaged in my own metldown), and walked away from him (because what I really wanted to do, was hit him back).
Since we were with my mom, Jane Nelsen, the author of Positive Discipline (PD) I was feeling extra pressure not to lose it, so I stormed off trying to calm down and not say or do anything I would regret. As I was storming off in front of both Grandma and Greyson, I was feeling extremely irritated with him and totally frustrated with the entire philosophy PD. Just before walking away, I cried to my mom, “I’m not sure I even believe in PD. It isn’t working. All I want to do is charge back at Greyson and teach him a lesson in a not so PD way.”
My mom stayed back with Greyson, trying to calm him down with a hug because this almost always works…after all she’s the one that taught me “when we feel better we do better,” and, “a misbehaving child is a discouraged child”…right? Instead he wasn’t ready for his hug, he was ready to scream at the top of his lungs and run away from her.
By the time Greyson got to me, he found me sitting on a bench with my hands over my face crying. Thank goodness he felt so bad for me he gave me a big hug where we then both just melted into each other’s arms. Once we were calm we were able to talk about what made us both so angry and frustrated. Thank goodness!
It was only seconds before that I was thinking to myself, “Why in the world was I so darn excited to be a mom?” Being a mother is by far the hardest and most frustrating thing I’ve ever done—and the most wonderful!
When we all sat down for lunch, my mom listened to my frustration and heard me complain that it’s so discouraging to think that I am out there teaching Positive Discipline when I cannot keep it together and practice it myself. The rational side of me knows that I could’ve used several PD tools such as:
Prepared him by talking to him before about my “new rule” of having the phone only for special or (desperate) situations.
Distracted and or redirected him with any idea or activity of what we were going to do next.
Used sense of humor with him when he hit me, by knowing that he was upset and then talking to him later about how it hurt my feelings (and ego) when he hit me.
My mom asked, “Mary what would you say is the percentage of time that you use PD?” I immediately responded with 98%. She started laughing. Naturally I was still fragile from the previous situation and was totally confused by her response. She said, “Oh Mary, you need to call your Dad and ask him what my response was to the same question when I felt so discouraged that I wasn’t practicing what I teach. My answer was that I probably used it 80% of the time…and I wrote the book.”
Mama followed by saying, “Mary, you are the best mother I’ve ever seen, and there’s no such thing as a perfect parent.” There were reminders of that all day from other parents who were dealing with their kids that were “having meltdowns,” and vice versa. I know that I need to quit being so hard on myself, but when I’m in the middle of “that moment” and we’ve both “flipped our lids,” it’s so difficult to remember.
It wasn’t that much later that I was watching my two most adorable boys eating their lunch, feeding the birds, smiling and laughing. Mom smiled and asked, “Would you trade any of this?” Without hesitation my response was, “Absolutely not.”
Once again I learned that Positive Discipline almost always works, but I don’t always work Positive Discipline—am I’m not the only one. We forget that we often expect our children to control their behavior when we don’t control our own. We also forget that it is not normal to be perfect, and that it is normal to “lose it” sometimes—adults and children. I was again reminded to quit expecting perfection of my children, and myself, to have the courage to be imperfect, and to keep learning from my mistakes.
I truly believe that our children are our biggest teachers and if there is one thing I have learned in the last four years is that how “my children” are acting is not about them. It’s about my attitude and me, and how well I control my behavior—and that sometimes I will “lose it.”
My boys fuel me and enrich my life on a daily basis and at almost the same time they test me and teach me. In the end, it brings us all closer together and makes me a better mom who is still learning from her mistakes.
Two days later Greyson got frustrated with me again and wanted to hit me. This time I used my sense of humor (PD Tool No. 3 above) and made a game of it until we were both laughing. Parenting can be so much fun.