Saturday, January 20, 2007


Are my expectations for my children’s behavior set too high?

I am so tired of telling my kids not to touch something and 30 seconds later they touch it anyway. My kids start jumping off the couch? I start by calmly telling them to stop. They ignore me. So, my voice gets progressively louder until I’m essentially screaming at them to stop. They will then stop for about 5 minutes, then continue on as though I’d said nothing to them. I can’t even tell you how many times I have told them to not touch their nightlights, or to not try to plug anything into the outlets. Obviously this is a really dangerous practice, but I don’t know how to instill that fact in them.

My expectations:

I expect that I should be able to tell my children to stop doing something and they will stop. I expect that I will only have to tell my children something is dangerous 10 times before they heed my warning and I no longer have to worry about that danger.

I expect more from Miss M. I expect her to stop sooner than her brother. I expect her to not get as carried away so easily. She’s 4 ½ (almost).

Therein lies the problem. She’s 4 ½ and I think she should know better. But as I type 4 ½, I see that so clearly. She’s ONLY 4 ½. Fewer than 5 short years ago, she was still growing in my belly.

At the same time that I realize I have set my expectations too high, I think, well, expectations should be set high, to motivate children to rise up to those expectations. Except most of the time they don’t.

Clearly this is my issue.

What am I doing wrong? This parenting thing is apparently too difficult for me. I have too many questions and too few answers. Moments of clarity when I know just what to say or do are few and far between.

My son is in the process of giving up naps, but when he doesn’t nap he is so tired that he has major meltdowns. I just let him finish what he needs to do, (scream, cry, hit me) while I’m holding him (if we’re not in public). I tell him calmly that he may get down when he is ready to be pleasant again. These are major tantrums, people. He’s had them in stores, in the hallway at church, home, wherever. In public, he throws himself to the ground and shrieks as though I’m stabbing him. Or, if he’s confined to a grocery cart, he’ll throw his body as far back in the cart as possible—to the point that I worry that he’s going to flip out of the seat. People look at me, and him. I feel their judgmental stares and mostly don’t care. But sometimes, when I’m tired, those looks just make it worse.

Input from others:

Parents with older kids say things like “You think it’s hard now, just wait!” Yeah, your kids are older than mine are, I get that. But how is it helpful to say condescending things like that to me? I really try to not say things like that to people, but instead say something like “you know, having 2 kids really got easier once the baby was about 5-6 months old.” You know, a glimmer of hope.

There’s a woman at my church, who, as far as I know, has no children. So, she has no idea what it’s like to try to chase a 2-year-old around the halls while his big sister is in choir practice. But she wants the parents to stay on-site. I’ve requested that the nursery be opened so that he can play in there for the hour, but it’s never open when we get there.

There are just some things you can’t expect kids to do. They’re kids, after all.

Which brings me back to my expectations.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask that my 4-year-old doesn’t hit people. I’ve told her that they won’t allow it in Kindergarten and that when people grow up if they hit someone they have to go to jail. Too much? Maybe. But it still isn’t sinking in. She’s teaching this hitting to her brother, and that drives me insane.

I expect my kids to say please and thank you. I just do. If they want something from me or anyone else they need to say please. If they forget, I prompt them.

I expect my kids to hold onto my hand in parking lots and streets. At the very least, Miss M must hold on to whatever package or bag that I’m carrying that’s preventing me from having another free hand. Once in a while she doesn’t have to hold on, but she must stick to my side like glue. I know, a no-brainer rule, but M has run out of buildings and into parking lots without me. Her zest for life is commented on by strangers constantly, and it is also a constant source of fear for me.

So what do I do?

Do any of you have some solutions for me? I’m looking to those of you who are currently in the trenches with me with at least 2 preschoolers. Not that the rest of you don’t have advice, (and feel free to tell me how terrible it has yet to get) but I’d like to hear from those who are feeling my pain right now.

7 people like me!:

Anonymous said...

long day heather? can't give advise-i just have to say i feel ur pain. w/ sonya i have to set a timer for everything lately. she just ignores me otherwise. i think it might be cabin fever!
hope others have some advise.

Sandy said...

As I read this, I felt like you had been reading my mind.

First of all, you are a wonderful mommy. We all have our (ahem) moments, and you would not be a good mom if you didn't feel guilty sometimes.

Here, we struggle with these same issues DAILY. And I have come to the realization that it is NOT ME. It is the situation I am currently struggling to survive in. Kids are kids. They get into things. They destroy things. Heck, they destroy each other sometimes. But this is NOT necessarily a reflection of our parenting. No, I am convinced that it is a necessary phase of development that they must go through. And I constantly remind myself that even the best behaved children must save it all up for when they're behind closed doors.

Oh, and for the record, reading this post made me feel better. Because I thought I was the only one who felt this way.

Mom Thumb said...

I'm not in the same trench, because my kids are grown, but I sure remember it. Please don't beat yourself up, you really ARE doing a good job. I know it seems like it, but your guidance is not lost on your children. On some level, they really do get it. Hugs to you.

Jennine said...

It kinda sounds to me like you want empathy more than advice and believe me, I have gone through the stages you are in right now. I'm not gonna tell you it gets harder. There is always challenge and joy in each milestone of parenting.

If you want to talk more, email me. I have some practical ideas based on experience.

Jennineofnine at yahoo dot com.

Hang in there, kiddo. You're a good momma!

Jennine said...

Oh my gosh, Heather...if that sounded bit-chee, I'm soooo sorry!

I worded that poorly: "It kinda sounds to me like you want empathy more than advice...blah blah blah."

I was recalling your post when folding laundry tonight and I thought to myself "Did I use those words??" This is why I should stay away from the computer when I have PMS.

Anyway, I'm getting a cramp back peddling. I love you. Empathy, advice, whatever..I admire you for parenting with love and a sense of humor.

Forgive me.

Mrs. Chicken said...

Heather, you know I'm in the same spot! I sometimes think we overestimate how bad our kids behave. The Poo is a really good kid who has a few bad moments. Seems to me like you are in the same boat.

I think you are handling the situations you are presented with exactly right. The tantrum response sounds perfect, and M is old enough to have expectations to meet.

You are on the right track, from my POV. Keep on keepin' on. They grow, right? And you are a good, moral, functioning woman who does not hit and who says please and thank you. Ergo, your children will be the same.

Peace, friend.

Heather said...

Thanks everyone for the pep talks.

Jennine--no worries. I knew what you meant.

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