Thursday, June 14, 2007

Less Crying, More Laughing?

More than once I have opined (and whined) on parenting issues. I am continually dismayed by the fact that in spite of having a degree in child development, a great deal of the time I have no freaking idea what to do about these children of mine. Much of the time they are wonderful, sweet loving children. But there are times when I would all but swear that they are indeed the spawn of Satan so defiant and unbelievably aggravating are they. And while I often promised myself (in my childless days, of course) that I would never scream at, spank, shame, or otherwise torment my children, I find myself doing just that on more occasions than I would normally care to admit. Because I have the information that I need to raise these children effectively. But sometimes....sometimes, my brain fails to access that information. Especially after the cheerful call, "It's jammie time!" has progressed to "Get your damn pajamas on already or someone is getting their little butt spanked!" Allegedly.


During my twelve days of exile I had the opportunity to finish reading Elizabeth Pantley's The No-Cry Discipline Solution: Gentle Ways to Encourage Good Behavior Without Whining, Tantrums, and Tears I was so relieved and happy that I almost cried. This book. It is wonderful. Now, let me tell you that I am somewhat skeptical of most parenting books. I read them. I take bits and pieces and apply them to my life. But usually, they end up pissing me off because of the arrogant, "If you will just do things exactly this way, you should never have a problem with your children ever again!" attitude that they convey. No, they never come out and say that, but most of them give a "one size fits all" approach to parenting that just ain't true. So I find myself with a little bit of Sears, a little Spock, a dollop of Dobson, a pinch of Penelope Leach, with a smidge of Ferber in there for good measure. But every time I read one of those books I spend so much time sorting through the "yeah, right, whatever" that I am totally annoyed by the time I get to the end. If I get to the end.

Now, Elizabeth Pantley is my kind of gal. She is a mom of four. She admits she's not perfect. She is also a parenting educator and the author of the wildly successful No Cry Sleep Solution which I knew nothing about until my children had been through my own personal method the "Be quiet and go to sleep, for the love of Pete it's 3:00 in the morning and I'm freaking exhausted"solution. Although, "solution" might be a bit of a misnomer come to think of it.

Hmmmm? Oh, back to the point.

So, Ms. Pantley is a real person. She is a person who acknowledges that every parent is different. And every child is different. And every day with every child is different. And that what works for Martha and her son may not work for her daughter. Or for me and my kids. AND? She admits that what works for three months will likely, at some point not work anymore. Yes, I think that you are probably getting MY point.

What I love is that she isn't saying "do this and all will be peachy." She told me (because she wrote this just for me, you know...but we're letting you in on it, LUCKY YOU!) that most importantly I need to get to the source of the problem. You know, fix what is really wrong and not just treating the behavior. Sorta like giving a kid throat lozenges for strep throat instead of penicillin. Much of this I knew. Make sure that the kiddos have had enough sleep. Make sure that they aren't hungry -- low blood sugar accounts for a good share of the behavioral problems around here. But also, is she scared? Confused? Insecure? Sometimes, just figuring that much out can solve the problem.

The thing that I appreciate is the "bag of tricks" that she offers. They vary from distracting little ones from what is causing issues, to offering choices to, yes, time outs. She also gives parents permission to maybe overlook the small stuff and just laugh! When it looks like a meltdown is on the horizon, laughter and love can nip it in the bud and make a potentially long, tearful snotty hour-long ordeal into a gigglefest that can lead to your little guy revealing what was wrong. Which is so much better than than the screaming and crying that might happen otherwise. And that doesn't even account for what the kids will do.

Speaking of screaming. Elizabeth (because now we are on a first name basis, I call her Liz & she calls me Buff) also acknowledges that sometimes we all end up yelling at our kids. Even her. *gasp* No, it's not ideal. But we are human. And we mess up. But then, we apologize to the victim of our rant and move on.

Thing is, even though most of these things I knew, I guess that of the textbooks I read while studying my for degree and all of the subsequent parenting books I have read, not one of them gave me practical applications for their "solutions." But this book does! So, last week, when Bug thought that he would throw a big stinkin' fit because he didn't want to go to bed and refused to get his pajamas on, I laughed and made a game of it. And? Things went so much better and Bug got to bed so much more quickly than if I had followed my usual impulse to force his pj's on him and sit on him to brush his teeth. Nope. While he growled at me (yes, really) and expressed his anger in the bathroom, I turned him toward the mirror and made "angry faces" with him until we laughed and got his teeth brushed. When he ran away from the pajamas, I chased him while laughing and got them on him and then we joined Bear in the bedroom for our story and song. And it was all delightful. And instead of issuing the edict that it is naptime and dragging him off to bed, I pretend we are going into a cave (more on that in another post) or parachuting into his bed. So much happier!

As such, I have applied this to more situations lately and it's been good. Just don't ask about getting ready for VBS yesterday. Because there may or may not have been some yelling. Because I can't be delightful all the time.

But I'm trying. And truly, I can wholeheartedly recommend Pantley's No Cry Discipline Solution. Go check it out. There are even videos of Mrs Pantley offering tips from the book (off to the right about halfway down the page). See? I told you she is just lovely! And you know coming from an expert like me, that is high praise. *cough cough*

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