So a couple days ago I was told I was a bully.
It’s okay though. I’m kind of proud of it actually. It feels like a badge of honour.
You see, it wasn’t a stranger who said it to me…wasn’t even a close friend. It was my 6 year old. He has been having a hard time thinking before he acts, and he is really impulsive and takes things that aren’t his. That’s right he’s been stealing. *gasp* I know some people who don’t deal with truly strong willed children (not just children who are stubborn, but truly strong willed kids.. more on that another day), may not understand me. Because all they have to do is give their children a time out, or can talk it out with their kids, but I can’t, it doesn’t work. I have literally tried everything to get him to think before he acts. To get him to start acting the way I think he should. But my little guy, who I love to pieces, has to learn lots of things the hard way because otherwise it doesn’t stick.
When I say I’ve tried everything, I mean it, I.have.tried.everything. Heart to hearts, grounding, taking away privileges, yelling, reasoning, positive reinforcement, ignoring the bad behavior (which totally doesn’t work by the way), sticker charts…you name it, I’ve done it…everything. And so this time, when he borrowed my laptop without asking I had had enough. I remembered a conversation I had with a very dear friend recently about finding consequences that make sense, things that are drastic, but that get the point across, real life consequences and so this time I tried something new.
I’m not sure where it came from…if it was a moment of genius, or a moment of crazy from my well past exhausted mom brain, or a mix of the two, but this is what I did.
While he was at school, after I found the laptop hidden under his bed, I snapped. I went and took all of the toys from his room (he knew that this would happen if he did it again). And I mean everything. I took it all, I didn’t leave even a crumb on his shelf. I left him one blanket and clothes. Everything else got put away. When he came home I informed him that I had taken his toys as I said I would and that he would have to earn them back. The way he earns them back is by asking for every single thing he wants to use. I’m talking a fork for supper, a cup for water, his toothbrush at bed time. He was definitely not pleased with me and called me a bully rather passionately. After it becomes habit, and I don’t have to remind him every time he will start to earn his stuff back. Mostly this is to try and retrain his brain to ask for things that aren’t his, to think before he acts. To fight the impulsiveness that so many of us deal with. And yes this is a thing that lots of children try..something they push the boundaries with, but I’m not willing to let this go. I’m not willing to let him get away with it and hope that it doesn’t become a lasting problem. I am going to take action, and I’m going to do that because I love my son. Because it is my job to train him and teach him so that as he gets older he can function in society, and this is part of it.
There was a time when I was afraid to give my kids consequences because I was afraid they wouldn’t like me. But I have realized that it’s not my job for my kids to like me all the time. If I want to have a good relationship with them in the future, a relationship that can be more like friends, I have to establish myself as an authority now, I have to teach them the difference between right and wrong while they are young so that as they grow older they will know what they should do. I need to teach them self control and to think before they act in order to save them trouble as they grow, and I have to do these things now. I have also realized that my children need me to give them consequences. I don’t need to have drastic consequences for everything, but they feel safer and more secure when there is a clear set of boundaries. So I am okay with it if they feel like I am a bully because it means that I have done my job. I have found something that matters to them, and I have found a way to teach them that is going to make a difference. They will learn to think before they act because they know I will follow through and they know that there will be consequences. Isn’t that a real life skill? Knowing that there are consequences for our actions?
I’ve met too many adults who believe they should be able to do whatever they want and I have seen how it ruins their lives, and at the very least, makes their lives a lot more difficult than it needs to be. And I refuse to sit back and do nothing and let my children get to that place.
So, today I am a bully. I might even be a bully tomorrow and the day after that. But it’s okay. I’ll take it now and pray that these lessons make a difference for the future.
I’d love to know I’m not alone in this…what are some of your most creative parenting moments (or moments you have witnessed with others?).