Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Dangling Carrot : Wonder Arts

Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that. 

Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
From time to time, I seem to stray off course from my authentic parenting self.

I don't know why...or how it begins, but then all of the sudden, I find myself being the parent I absolutely don't want to be.
I find myself annoyed with my children...annoyed with my husband...and annoyed with myself.
I'm yelling, I'm angry, I'm nitpicking, I'm issuing threats, I'm Miserable.
At first, I am certain it has nothing to do with me.  It's the children...They are misbehaving.  They need to listen to me, they need to do what I want them to do.
I am the boss!!!
This time around it began with my daughter using the most annoying whining, "robot-like" voice every time she said ANYTHING.  
I would begin my confrontation with her by being honest..."Ava, I don't like that voice, please talk to me with your regular voice."
And then she would forget and use the voice again and then again coupled with other unattractive 5 year old behaviors...until I get to my breaking point..."Ava go to your room."
Days go by of these types of interactions...Parenting is not enjoyable at these times.  I want to punish her.  I want her to do what I say!  I want parenting to be Easy!
My daughter loves to play school.  She spends hours doing so.  It's no wonder, with a very passionate teacher as her Mama and growing up hearing me talk about education and making the plans for my classes.  She didn't stand a chance, poor thing.
Desperately, wanting her behavior to improve, we tell her she is not allowed to play school for 2 days.
Behavior improves and then she can play school again.

Then sure enough, a few days later, we're right back where we started.  She is punished again with no school.
Only this time, instead of being sad...she says, "I DON'T CARE!"
Those words seemed to wake me up out of my parenting haze and gave me a jolt that I hope to not forget any time soon.
"I don't care" is about the worst thing I could expect to hear from my daughter.
She had quickly come around to realizing that she needed to act as if she didn't care about her punishment in order for us to not punish her with it.
Or even worse, perhaps by taking away the play she loved the most, we were teaching her NOT to care.
Dangling her passions above her head, we were ready to snatch them away at the slightest infraction.  This technique seemed to only make us all MORE miserable.
But what now?

What techniques am I left with?
I am reminded of Dr. King's message "Hate cannot drive out the darkness...Only Love can do that."
Now, of course I am not trying to equate Hate with punishments.

I believe that punishments are sometimes warranted. BUT...It must be logical.  It HAS to make sense to have any real effect.

You threw your food on the ground, Now it cannot be eaten because it's dirty.

You left your markers out and your brother found them and scattered them all over the we don't know where they are.
With my daughter's issue, she needed LOVE.  I began sitting with her, hugging her more often, playing with her...Being more patient. Talking with her.
And things are getting better.

We still have our moments but I'm not going to Dangle the carrot over her head any longer.
Punishments might happen, but it's going to make sense...sense that she can make of it.  
Caring is what our family is based upon...we can't have a member Not caring.
Someone said, "Pay attention to your children or else they will take it."
Ultimately, Ava needed my love.  
She needed validation.
She needed me to be a leader not a dictator.