Saturday, 20 October 2012

An updating sort of post.

I thought I'd just do a quick update on several things as I meant to and I never got round to doing it.

1. Operation Sleep Through.  This has been largely successful.  Now, unless the baby is ill, or teething, she generally sleeps a full night.  It only took a couple of nights to achieve as well which we were pretty amazed by (we had given ourselves a week to deal with it).  Of course, the others will wake at times, so I can't guarantee a full night every night for me, but it's made a huge difference and I am much less tired and snappy.

2. Back to school blues.  Really, they haven't been as bad as I feared at all.  Getting up early has made a huge difference to the way our mornings happen.  The Eldest seems to have "woken up" at school, continuing to make good progress with her reading and spelling generally.  I am very proud of her.  The Boy has taken big school in his stride, we've only had a couple of weepy mornings, apart from that he's settled in well and is a rather splendid little lad.  The Feral One LOVES preschool, she thinks it's the best thing ever. Preschool seem to love her too :)

3. Time to stop yelling.  I'm extremely pleased to announce that Screaming Harpy Lady has not been seen this week.  Hopefully it's the start of a calmer stage in my life, now that the baby is nearing a year old and I am less tired.  I still have grumpy days and I'm not all sweetness and light, but at least I am always in control of my temper.

Trying to get the little "cherubs" to do as I wish.

My children are generally pretty well behaved little beings - or at least they are when we are out and about.  At home they can drive me totally nuts with their squabbling, but (apparently!) fighting with siblings provides important social lessons for them and so it a Good Thing.  Right.  Whatever.

Anyway, back to behaving.  I try to set them clear boundaries.  I am clear about the consequences of crossing them.  I try to make consequences logical and, as far as possible, immediate.  I try not to use threats that I know I cannot or will not carry through. I am consistent in the things I pick up on, BUT sometimes you have to know when to fold.

Example - walking along the road as a family.  The walk up the hill to school gives me the heebie jeebies.  The pavement is narrow and the cars are fast.  The children cannot mess around for fear of falling off the edge of the pavement and being squashed.  The Feral One is good at walking, but can be distracted, so I warn her that if she cannot walk nicely, she will have to hold my hand and I follow through.  I've been known to carry her a considerable distance by her arm (I do not recommend this as a course of action, both for the safety of their arms and the good of your back).  We also walk in the woods with the dogs and, fairly early on in all their childhoods, I've left a screaming child on the floor and gone ahead and hidden behind a bush where I can see them and ensure that they remain safe (normally with the older children sobbing "Nooooooo!  You can't leave xxx behind!", "Shuddup and hide!").  Sooner or later, they've got up, dusted themselves off and come to find us.

Example - squabbling over toys.  They drive me nuts with this - they have thousands of blimmin toys, but you can bet your bottom dollar that they will all want the same one at the same time.  So the first warning goes out, "Please play nicely and share with the bag/dolly/crayons, or I will take them away".  Second warning repeats the first and may also offer a solution, "If you cannot play nicely with the toy, I will take it away and neither of you will have it.  Why doesn't xxx play with it for a few minutes and then xxx after?" or, "Could you get her another dolly to play with?".  Then a final warning and it's gone.

Example - physical fighting and hurting one another.  They actually don't get a warning for this - they know full well that they shouldn't do it.  They have Time Out which removes them from the situation and gives it a chance to simmer down.  After Time Out, they need to come back in, talk through why they shouldn't hit/punch/claw eyes out/hit over the head with a wooden car/kick and make amends, normally by apologising and giving the hurt one a cuddle to make them feel better.  Sometimes a cuddle is the only sorry that you can get from The Feral One, but you've got to allow them some wiggle room.

There are hundreds upon hundreds of examples I could give - daily battles and hurdles to jump.  As well as the consequences I've outlined above, others could be not getting pudding because they won't touch their tea (I don't ask them to clear their plates if they don't want to, but I do ask them to try it), sent to their rooms to spend some time simmering down.  I would not, however, threaten removal of pudding for a fighting infringement earlier in the day - firstly because pudding has nothing to do with fighting and secondly because it's too far away.

Finally, the other weapon in my arsenal is Time In.  I use it if I need to break down defiance (when they are standing there rigid with determination, a cuddle is of more use than escalating the situation further - I normally get my own way anyway, but with happier children).  Oh, and I praise praise praise when they do something kind, or that I want them to do - there is no point just picking up the bad, you have to reward the good too.

I hope that this doesn't sound like I think I have all the answers - I know full well that I don't and I also know that all children are different and what works for one will not always work for another.  The way that you deal with your child will depend on their own personality and also on yours, but this is what works for us.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Time to stop yelling.

I've been a bit remiss about writing this blog since The Boy started school and The Feral One started preschool.  They've both settled in well and I thought I would have loads of time to get things done.  Well I don't.  I won't say that I have less and it's certainly easier to get things done when they are at school, but I still seem to be chasing my tail most of the time.  Still, time really to try to get back to the blog.

I would generally say that I am a good parent.  My children are happy, reasonably well behaved, bright and interested in the world around them.  Of course we have our ups and downs, some days they are more polite than others - all four of them played a blinder today whilst out at lunch with friends - some days they squabble and fight more than others, but all in all, they are good, sweet kids.  However, I do have an area that I really need to work on.  Where I really fall down is my tendency to shout when stressed.  I'm not talking about when I shout "Stop!" across the field, or raising my voice to make a point or to be heard above the general insurrection, I'm talking proper screaming harpy, about to burst a blood vessel loss of control.

What is so baffling about this complete loss of temper is that it never happens with anyone except the children.  I don't shout at my husband (I prefer to snipe), I don't shout at my parents, siblings, friends, acquaintances or even random strangers, however rude they may be to me.  I certainly don't shout at children who come round to play, or even in front of them.  I don't shout at the baby, and it is rare for me to shout at the Feral One (although she is sometimes caught in the cross fire).  Mainly, it is The Eldest who gets it in the neck, followed in second place by The Boy.  So why do I lose it with the children?  Those little beings who really are the most important things in the world to me?

I recently read THIS blog about stopping what she refers to as a "Mama Tantrum" and I can relate to it.  I've sat down (well, I haven't, but I've thought about it whilst doing other stuff) and tried to work out where my triggers are and I think I have it.  It's not children wetting themselves.  It's not drawing on the walls.  It's not treading mud (and other unmentionable stuff) into the house.  It's not attempting to cook dinner with The Boy wrapped around my legs.  It's not refusing to eat their dinner and throwing it on the floor.  It's not them having a tantrum in the supermarket.  Most of the time it's not even them beating each other around the head with toys (although that is close to being a trigger point, especially if I'm trying to get something done at the time). All those trials of parenthood are met (normally anyway) with equanimity and calmness.

My trigger for a loss of control screaming tantrum from me is when the baby is screaming and I cannot pick her up to stop her because I have my hands full of other children.  As soon as the baby starts to cry, my stress levels soar, I get hurried and impatient with the older children which flusters them as well and then it all goes downhill as fingers start to fumble with seat belts, water bottles get dropped, bags get forgotten, time starts to tick on and we're not ready to depart for the school run (see, it's that time of the day again, oh how I hate it) - cue Mummy having a hissy fit.  Of course, me screaming does NOT make fingers any less fumbly, or find bags and pick up bottles, it just ends with a stunned silence (except from The Baby, who just ignores me and carries on with her own woes) and possibly tears.  It does not help the situation in any way, shape, or form, and I need to stop doing it.

Don't be fooled by the innocent exteriors,
they are perfectly capable of throwing at least as big a tantrum as I am!
So armed with the knowledge of my trigger point, I am going to follow her STOP strategy.  Wish me luck, I will report back in a week.

Here is a short UPDATE on how it's going so far.