Welcome, Mamma Crew, to another chaotic, exciting, but always beautiful day of an older mom like you!
In the last couple of episodes, I have been discussing discipline and how we came up with a definition that worked for our family. But theory and practice are completely different. The ideas that we have actually applied in them. It’s a different experience.
Andy, a “Ruby-On-Her-Own-Time,” this child has always done things at her own pace. She is our troublemaker extraordinaire, constantly pushing boundaries and forcing us to look for healthy options to discipline. Now, if you ask Andy, “Why are you doing this?”
She will often tell you, “I’m not trying to get in trouble. I’m not trying to be difficult. I don’t know how it happens. It’s just me.”
I understand what Andy’s saying because I have a difficult personality. In fact, I often see myself reflected in her. So I have to understand what she’s saying to me, but at the same time, I have to do my job as a parent and help her develop self-control and teach her how to make healthy choices.
So as I was saying in our last episode, after spanking Andy once. Only once! I knew I never wanted to do it again. It was extremely traumatizing for me. Actually, she was fine! But it was extremely traumatizing for me because I come from a family in which physical abuse was very commonplace. So I was desperate to find a different way. Through my search, I found Love and Logic.
Unfortunately, our local library carried a lot of local material, but this material was constantly checked out. It was one of the most popular check-outs, so I could never get a hold of it that way. I actually had to order it from Amazon. This was 14 years ago, so there was no Amazon Prime. It took a while for things to get there! I was very happy to find that it was a very thin book and got right down to the point. Because, let’s face it, in my lifetime, I’ve read many parenting books. It’s like this whole bunch of reading and like one or two pearls inside of it. Love and Logic was the opposite. It was a very thin book, and it got right down to the point, lot’s of pearls.
So what is Love and Logic? The program does go beyond the meaning of discipline to the actual application of it. But it is definitely an approach I have never experienced or witnessed. It’s an approach that allows children to make decisions, make affordable mistakes, and experience natural consequences.
Now, what do I mean by that? Well, there was a story in that original book that I just love, and I’m going to relate it to you. Now just imagine that you’re speeding down the road. Does the cop stop you and say, “Stop speeding because if you don’t, I’m going to give you a ticket. Now I’m going to give you another chance. Go ahead and go on your way.”
And then you speed again, right? Does the cop stop you one more time and go, “Didn’t I tell you that you’re not supposed to be speeding?”
The cop doesn’t do that. And certainly, the cop doesn’t stop you a third time to say, “We’ve been through this two other times! Didn’t I say to you, you need to stop speeding? Now, I’ve given you many opportunities. This is your last warning!”
And then, on the fourth time, the cop is angry, slams the ticket on you, and goes on his merry way. No! The cop doesn’t do that! You’re speeding, the cop pulls you over, says, “Ma’am or Sir, you’ve been speeding 20, 30 miles over the limit. Here’s your ticket. You’re going to need to go through the process, appear in court, or go through driving school…” or whatever the case might be. That’s it!
Most people are cautious after they get their first ticket, right? But in the case of our kids, we tend to do what I said the first time. We give them and give them chances, and they keep pushing up the boundary because it’s a permeable boundary. It’s not actually a boundary. We’re calling it a boundary, but it’s not that because we allow them to break it all of the time. We keep making allowances for it. So because of that, they don’t learn. We’re not teaching them anything.
I remember reading that example in the book and just laughing! Just laughing because I’ve realized how many times I have been that bad cop. The one that kept giving chances over and over again, instead of the good cop that said, “You did something wrong; this is the natural consequence.”
There was no anger. Well, at least not on the part of the cop! There was no drama. Over!
The nice thing about Love and Logic is that it uses humor, hope, and lots of empathy to build and strengthen the adult-child relationship. It emphasizes respect and dignity for both the parent and the child. It helps you lovingly provide real limits. It teaches good decision-making, and it teaches natural consequences.
Does it sound too good to be true? Well, that’s because anything that sounds good, anything that actually works, is hard work! And for us, for our family, the beginning was really hard. It got a lot easier as it went for both the adults and the children, but I’m not going to sugarcoat it for you—it was sheer hell in the beginning! Now, what made the beginning so difficult?
Well, my children were used to the bad cop, the one that kept giving warnings and didn’t really mean what she said and got angry at the end. So just imagine, I went from being the bad cop to being the good cop. Meaning I was setting healthy limits and allowing the natural consequences to happen.
One of the most challenging experiences we had was about three days into Love and Logic. I’m being honest with you; I don’t even remember what Andy did. I don’t remember what she did, but I remember I did what the book said what to do, which was, I said, “Bummer. That was not a good choice. We’re going to go on time out. When you’re ready to talk about why that was not a good choice, come out of your bedroom.”
So I picked her up, and I went and put her on her bed. Before I was even out of the room, she decides, “We’re done!”
She was going to get off the bed and start playing. I said, “No, we’re not going to do that. We’re going to sit back on the bed.”
So Andy starts throwing a tantrum. Now you would think that I was killing her, but I wasn’t doing anything to her. She was flailing and screaming, and I was kind of shocked because we have done timeouts before. Honestly, before, I have given her three or four warnings, sometimes five or six, and then I would put around the timeout chair. This time I put her on timeout right away.
Andy is flailing, and she’s screaming, and I repeated, “Okay when you’ve calmed down, we can talk about it.”
And she ran past me. So I’m, like, “Okay, don’t get upset. Don’t get upset!”
That was my mantra. And I went. I didn’t run. I didn’t yell. I didn’t get angry. I followed Andy to the family room. I picked her up again, and I said, “You’re going to sit on your bed until you’re ready to talk about what you did wrong.”
That was her big consequence. Andy was just going to talk to me about why her choice was a bad choice. She’s screaming, crying, and she’s carrying on. This went on for about two hours. The whole time, I was wondering, “Is this worth it?! This is worse than it was before!”
But I just took a deep breath, and I waited. And then, eventually, Andy came out and said, “Mom, I’m ready to talk.”
Okay! So we talked about the problem, and I said, “Okay. We’re working on it. This looks good. We’ve gotten through the hump.”
No. No, that was just the beginning of the hump. The following day, Andy hit her sister with one of her toys. I said, “Bummer…”
Because bummer became our keyword that told our kids that they’re either about to do something wrong or had done something wrong. I don’t remember what the toy was, but you know, I’m almost 55, I forget many things. I gently took the toy from Andy. I didn’t grab it; I wasn’t nasty about it. I said, “I guess your toy is going on timeout,” and I put it on top of the refrigerator, “Your toy is going to be on timeout for the next twenty minutes. You need to think about why it’s wrong to hit your sister, to hit anybody. When you’re ready to talk, come back and talk to me, and after the twenty minutes and we have a little time, I’ll give you your toy back.”
Andy threw a massive fit! She made the first day look tame by comparison! She was screaming, crying; this was the end of the universe! The end of the world! It was like this for about two weeks. I remember one of the days, Andy had been carrying on for about two hours, and Emmi said to her, “Andy, just do what Mom is asking you to do, please!”
I was emotionally exhausted. I was so tired. I couldn’t believe how difficult this was, but I had made myself a promise to stick to it for thirty days that had been my original promise to myself. I was going to try Love and Logic for thirty days. It didn’t take thirty days. It took two weeks. Yes, as I said, those two weeks were hell, there were more tantrums than usual, and I was exhausted by the end of each day. But then it was like magic!
Two weeks after it, if I would see that Andy was about to do something wrong, I would say, “Bummer…”
She would turn around and ask, “Bad choice?”
I would say, “What do you think? Do you think that’s a good choice?”
And she would say, “No because of…” this or that.
Did it stop Andy from hitting her sister? No, it didn’t. I wish it had, but honestly, she has ADHD; she’s very hyper and impulsive. And that was a serious problem, but we did keep on working on it, and it kept getting better, and better, and better, and better. Until it stopped. Now she can still get handsy once in a while, but she stops if you call out her name.
One of the most challenging things for my husband and me was that we actually had to follow through when we said something. One time we went to Florida, and we were taking the kids Putt-Putting at Disney World. You know, mini-golf. We said, “If you behave during this time period, this will be your reward. We’ll take you mini-golfing at Disney.”
Andy didn’t do it! She did not follow through on what was asked of her to get this special treat. So Emmi and Daddy got to go mini-golfing, and I stayed in the car with Andy. The whole time, she was upset. She was sobbing. She was talking to me. She was pleading, “If you only just let me go play, I promise to behave tomorrow. I promise I will be good for the rest of the month. For the rest of the year!”
Of course, I wanted to be on the golf course with my husband and my other child, having this wonderful experience. Of course, I wanted this experience for Andy. But back to the bad cop vs. the good cop. Natural consequences. She did not follow through with what was required for her to earn this treat. We followed through, and we did not let her have the treat. It was hard, but we did it. It taught both of our daughters that we were going to follow through on our boundaries, on our promises. Because we were serious, they were more aware of their choices. They made better choices.
Now I’m being honest once again that we did lose our Love and Logic foundation. Why? We moved three times. We go back and forth. We added children to the family, and you would think that this would have strengthened our foundation, but it hasn’t. The teen years also totally took me off-guard because my wonderful well-behaved children, all of a sudden, were being moody, rebellious teenagers. I find myself yelling, overreacting, coming up with unreasonable consequences to their actions. You know the punishment has to fit the crime or the consequence has to fit the action.
I really had to remind myself that to effectively teach my children that discipline equals freedom, I had to remind myself to discipline myself first. So guess what I just bought? “Parenting Teens with Love and Logic.” And that’s what I will be reading this weekend. We’ll be getting back to that foundation. I’ve learned from my Love and Logic experience and conversations with other Love and Logic parents that it’s never too late to change a child’s behavior. It’s never too late to help a child improve their behavior. We’re just starting the teen years. I still have four more years to go.
So back to the Love and Logic basics. At least this time, I didn’t have to wait for the book. I got a Kindle copy! I wish I could tell you that I have always been perfect at this discipline thing. But I can’t. All I can say to you is that I continue to learn. I continue to try. I love my children, and I continue to work on being the best parent that I can be to help them be the best version of themselves that they can be.
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