Tag Archives: discipline


This morning, I wondered vaguely why the kids were so quiet. This was, of course, foreshadowing, because my younger little angel came tiptoeing over, ready to shop his brother. “Mommy, come see what we are doing.”

I approached the bunk bed alcove and saw my older son guiltily stuffing his scissors under his brother’s pillow.

They were doing this, apparently: cutting a large hole in the net that houses our stuffed animal kingdom. It is a vast kingdom, ever wider since the Wild Kratts entered our lives, and now their home has been destroyed.


Crime Scene. Do Not Enter.

As I gasped and loudly voiced my disapproval, these loving brothers immediately began to throw one another under the bus.

One: He did it.

Two: No, he did it.

One: He did it too. And it was his idea.

Two: I did it only a little. You did it a lot.

One: You did it a lot too.

Not sure what this will mean for their proposed future marriage.

And what to do? I’m more of a “consequence” parent than a “punishment” parent, but what the hell is a logical consequence for this? Is it that they have to strew all their homeless collection of stuffed animals throughout the fun apartment? That may be a logical consequence for them, but it is a cruel punishment for me.

I sent them to their beds (well, I can’t send them to their rooms) to reflect on their crimes, and to give myself a chance to try and parent my way out of this. After a few minutes of asking myself “What the blanking blankity blank were they thinking?” I came to the conclusion that kids just have incredibly poor judgement. And sometimes they just do stupid things for no reason.

I tried to plumb my own memories for similar offenses committed before I could be tried as an adult. And I did dredge one up. It still brings a shudder through me to remember the time I poked a nail in someone’s basketball to see what would happen. And then had to buy them a new basketball. So the Mr. and I sternly sent them to fetch their plastic wallets and extracted enough allowance to order a new home for all the stuffed animals now creating a vagrancy problem at the fun apartment. (I thought it was somewhat lenient of me not to ask them to pay for shipping, but we do have Amazon Prime, so . . . )

I’m not sure they felt the real wrath or have had their judgement improved. But pretty much everything else they have asked for today, from breakfast candy to screen time has been rejected. And we now have a scissors checkout policy.

Although I do agree to paint all of our toenails with glitter, because, really, who says no to that? I don’t know, but it isn’t me.


Glitter Toes.

Sometimes these consequence things just seem messy to me, instead of the crisp, clean message of reparation they are meant to send. But in some ways, most of our life is like that–muddled but generally well-intentioned.

And I can’t say I blame them for being a little lacking in self-control, when the previous evening had involved a past-bedtime dance party at school. Great fun, but I could almost see the next day’s meltdowns written on their faces. Summer, come ye quickly, but give me strength!





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Filed under Mistakes I have made

Elf Help

Last year, Elf on the Shelf came to live at our house–a gift from Grandpa. And it was a godsend. Big became immediately obsessed with it, and carted it around everywhere with him. The elf even went with him in kindergarten, and seemed to have a somewhat positive effect on what was otherwise a rather uphill slog toward appropriate behavior.

I was a little dubious, at first. After all, I am a Pinterest Denier, so I certainly wasn’t going to make more work for myself moving that elf all over the Fun Apartment every night. After all, there’s just not that many places to hide things around here. How many times can we hide the elf in the cat’s litter box before that gets old? But after only one time of nearly getting caught with the elf stuffed under my pajamas, we worked out a solution. Luckily, it seems we have an elf that is lazy and kids with low expectations. We don’t have to stay up all night stuffing the elf into unlikely incriminating situations. Instead, he stays put and just writes them notes in my handwriting. And he only does it sometimes. When he remembers.

And I was mildly uncomfortable ceding my authority to six inches of plastic. And I don’t love the dynamic of it: Shouldn’t the motivation to not grab from one’s brother be “Grabbing isn’t cool”? Not when the elf is there. Then it’s “Don’t grab because this elf has his overly-large eyes fixed on you. And he will report you.” And there’s this whole thing, too.

In the end, I swallowed my reservations last year, and the elf really did help, however dodgy the whole thing seemed.

This year, I was kind of looking forward to having the elf back me up on some discipline issues. The elder lad seems to be have some background application running, that doesn’t free up enough memory for him to pay attention or self-regulate. This rough patch was starting to get ugly and I was kind of looking forward to elf-regulation, instead.

Maybe I should have gotten a tougher elf. Do they make one that had a few inches of rubber hose, or some brass knuckles, a very deep voice and lots of interesting scars? Because it only took about two nights of “The elf is watching!” before the elf became less of a magical holiday friend and more of a snitching party-pooper. Before our first week of holiday preparations was up, the boys played a game in which the elf was stuffed in a bucket and sent to Africa.

No elves were (permanently) harmed in the taking of this photo.

No elves were (permanently) harmed in the taking of this photo.

At least it was a holiday-themed bucket.

I’m relieved and disappointed all at the same time. I don’t necessarily want kids that slavishly follow a plastic doll’s instructions. (Or if I do, then I want a film crew in here now to capture the whole thing and turn into blockbuster!) But I wouldn’t mind a little fear of repercussion once in a while, or a little back up on the obviously empty threat of no Christmas presents.

That would really help on the elf control around here.




Filed under Not cool, Mommy


There’s not an easy way to admit this: My son is having trouble in kindergarten. Lots of trouble. And not the usual kind of trouble. Most kids who struggle in kindergarten struggle with the academics, the learning part. Not my kid. He’s a year and half ahead, according to the principal. Yes, the principal was at the meeting.

The learning part? No problem. But that’s not all kindergarten is. It’s also doing part. It’s knowing how to line up, how to hold a pencil, how to raise your hand, how to walk down the stairs, how to sit on the rug for a minilesson, how to put your folder away, how to find your partner, how to bring your lunchbag and gloves home again. It’s the business of school. And that’s where the trouble is: in the business.

Before I threw away my promising career, I was a teacher. And I specialized in the lower grades. “I know about kindergarten,” I told myself. “I know about kids who are 5. School is going to be easy for my kids.”

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. And let me tell you, I have a whole new perspective on parent/teacher meetings. My son’s kindergarten teacher couldn’t be more patient, kind, diligent, willing, resourceful, and all-around-awesome, but it is very hard not to leave the third meeting about your child’s behavior and not think “I have screwed up my kid so much that he is doomed to failure at school.”

So, what’s the trouble, you ask? Is he hitting other kids? Is he throwing blocks? Is he inciting rebellion? Nope. But he’s not listening, or if he is, he’s not doing. His class is late for everything because they are all waiting for him to get his act together and get in line. Does he hurry, knowing they are waiting? Nope. Instead, he creeps down the stairs during dismissal, seemingly unaware that the entire school backed up behind him. He has missed all of choice time some days because he took 15 minutes to put his folder in his backpack.

Hey, maybe he can’t focus, right? Except he can focus. We’ve all seen him do it. Maybe he can’t hear! Except he can hear, we had him tested. Maybe he can’t hurry. Well, take it from me, there’s no rushing this kid. He goes at his own pace. But sometimes that pace is really fast. It’s just not when I want him to be moving really fast.

Is he doing these things on purpose? I don’t know. The principal called it “determined defiance.” I’m not sure if I totally buy the terminology, because to me, defiance has an angry connotation, and the child isn’t angry. He’s just not. doing. it. Maybe it’s just blank stubbornness, abject cluelessness or sheer bloodymindedness.

It’s just sometimes . . . sometimes . . . the imp of the perverse sits on his shoulder and doesn’t let him shift gears, doesn’t let him transition to the next thing, doesn’t let him put his pencil down before he scribbles on his (completely awesome and well-executed) writing, doesn’t let him do the obvious and sensible thing, doesn’t let him give up and join the rest of the crew.

Maybe it’s a question of priorities. He has his number one priority, and that is whatever he is doing at that moment. And any other thing is second to his number one priority. And nothing overrides his number one priority.

It seems now that I was naive in thinking that school wouldn’t be a problem. I assumed that because he isn’t violent, aggressive, and has a great capacity for focus that school would be no problem. I thought coming from a family of educators would mean that school was just in him somehow. He has a natural love of learning, so school is the place for him, I always thought. Completely deluded, as it turns out.

I’d almost rather he struggled academically. That I could do something about. A few flashcards, a little extra practice playing games at home and we’d be back on track. But this is harder. There aren’t flashcards for compliance at home.

But there are opportunities for compliance at home, right? Sure. And I could be using each one to demand compliance at every moment at home. But that’s not my style. When we get in power struggles, I know that I lose when I win, because power struggles with a little kid mean, sure I come out on top, but look who I’ve beaten: my child. So I try and create a sort of obliqueness when our train seems to be heading for power struggle station. I divert the track so we don’t go down the tunnel, because a power struggle is his turf, he can stay engaged in it all day and isn’t afraid to let it get ugly. And I have to stay in it too, and come out on top. Believe me, we do go there, and I hold the Kind-but-firm-no-means-no line, but it’s messy. And I hate it. So when I can, I try and detour around. It takes effort, but we didn’t have to crawl through the screaming tunnel to get there. Hey, it doesn’t always work, but I’ll say this, I’m all for avoidance.

But when these times come up (and they do seem to go in waves) the thing that ultimately helps to dissolve the problem is . . . . well, love. Covering him in love, affirmation and attention, we can do it. Spending quality time wherever we can grab it, that works. Slowing down to his pace to see what’s important to him, that can work too. Somewhere in there, the problems start to ebb and we tug ourselves free, back into sure-footed-five-year-old waters again.

So that’s your solution, you ask? You sidestep a struggle and love the bejesus out of him? Yeah, I guess it is. Not much to go on, is it? All I got, though.


Filed under Mistakes I have made, Not cool, Mommy, The outside world