You guys, I've broken all the parenting rules. And, I don't mean the ones that everyone likes to laugh about breaking..the ones about no TV before age 2, or no putting the Bumbo seat seat on the table. Or the kids don't drive boats rule No I'm not talking aboutthose rules.
I'm talking about the rules that EVERYONE agrees on.
Don't give in to temper tantrums.
Be gentle but firm.
Don't let crying bother you.
I've given in to temper tantrums. One notable instant was when Heidi was only 2 and I bought her large, standing toy horse in Wal-Mart because she cried for it. Yes, I totally did. She was my first, we had more disposable income back then, and come to think of it, I would have loved a horse like that when I was a kid. So, I gave into the crying and I bought it. Amazingly enough, it turned out fine. She didn't forever throw a temper tantrum every single other time we went into a store. In fact, I can't really remember another incident of a store temper tantrum with her. She's now 12. She's not spoiled. She doesn't have her own cell phone or her own ipod of even half the things that other kids her age are supposedly screaming for.
And that's not that only time.
I'm totally the mom that gives in and puts the milk in the pink cup instead of the green cup. Or gives them the flowered plate instead of the plain white one.
I get to choose my own cup (I really love my horse mug) so why shouldn't they? And occasionally I give in to myself and buy things I shouldn't. Just occasionally mind you.
I'm not always consistent. I forget my own rules. I forget my own rules A LOT. Sometimes I say that we're leaving the park and then we don't leave right away because I get to talking and just can't tear myself away. Sometimes I say no eating away from the table and then sometimes I let them (usually depends on what they are eating).
I've actually found that most of the time it doesn't matter. When my kids see that I'm really ready to leave the park this time...they come, willingly, without a fight.
And sometimes I even change my mind. Sometimes I realize that I said "no" too quickly or that it really doesn't matter if they do x, so I change my mind. Sometimes I do that, even if they are crying or whining. Not all of the times, just some of the times..just when I realize that I said "no" too quickly and that it's something that really doesn't matter.
I let crying bother me. A lot. As you can guess, I've never let my babies cry it out. But it goes beyond that. I pick them them up and carry them when they want it...even if I'm tired and there is a perfectly good stroller they could ride in . I let Elsa eat on my lap even though I hate it.Somehow I got into a bad habit of letting Elsa sit on my lap to eat. Not sure how that started, but it's the way she wants to eat now. If I'm sitting down to eat, there she is asking to get up in my lap and eat too (not off my plate, off her own plate). She eats super well that way...lots of variety, tons of vegetables, she's the least picky one in the family.
I tried breaking her of it and that lasted all of 1/2 a mealtime. I couldn't stand the crying....couldn't stand the sad, pitiful look in her eyes. The mommy, you've rejected me look. Plus, her older siblings were all, Elsa, you can sit in my lap to eat. And, I don't want my older kids to lose their natural empathetic nature towards their crying baby sister. I think it's good that they are bothered by crying too...it helps foster empathy.
So, I'm pretty sure she'll outgrow this. I'm pretty sure she won't still be doing this when she's 10, or 7, or even 5. Pretty sure.
Be gentle but firm. I'm not always gentle because I sometimes yell, and I'm not always firm because I change my mind and give in sometimes. Mary Poppins I am not.
Sometimes this all bothers me. The fact that I can be so weak when it comes to discipline.
But, I've come to realize that it's all okay. It really is. Despite all my faults and failings and weaknesses my kids are turning out okay and they really are very, very good kids. They really are. People tell us that all the time...how good my kids are. Sure they fight and they bicker and they are messy and sometimes lazy and moody (but then I am all those things too). But they don't lie and they aren't sneaky and they aren't disobedient and they do their work and help out without complaining. They are kind and caring and empathetic and honest. They actually tell us (all on their own) when they do something wrong.
I'm come to realize that parenting isn't a set of rules you can never break. Parenting is about a relationship. We compromise with our friends. We compromise with our spouses. And, it's okay to compromise with our children sometimes.
It's not about who is in control. If I worry about "winning the battle" I've already "lost the war."