So how did I do?
One word: FAILURE
I’m not going to lie. I still shout and get cross when NJ (eight years old) is rude and disrespectful or doesn’t listen and stomps off before I’ve finished telling him off talking to him. I still shout ‘don’t jump on the sofa!’ when I see Roo (four years old) stand on the sofa with a cheeky grin on her face. I know I shouldn’t be doing this and I know that it doesn’t help.
It started so well
The first few days were easy. Every morning I gave NJ and Roo a cheery smile and a jolly ‘Good morning kids!’ They smiled back. I made breakfast, they ate their breakfast, they even got dressed AND put their socks on. I trotted off to work feeling smug after giving them both a kiss and cuddle at the door. It felt great. ‘Why didn’t I do this before?’ I wondered.
I am happy to report that I was nowhere near this:
And more like this:
So where did it go wrong?
There was one glaring oversight when it came to this new dawn as an amazingly calm and positive dad: it was still the Easter holidays.
Whilst I still waltzed off to work, the kids had no school so got to chill out at home with their mum. For our kids, this is an incredibly significant plot-twist. I’m not going to lie – they aren’t big fans of school. They both find it boring and it often seems to be bringing out the worst in them.
When they’re actually at school of course they are apparently delightfully polite and hard-working children, frequently praised by their teachers.
Yet in the evenings, when I get home from work, they are often so exhausted and cranky from being cooped up in a classroom for the majority of the day, that bedtime can easily descend into a fraught affair littered with protests and refusal. When I watch Roo sobbing and screaming and stamping her foot because her dad won’t carry her up the stairs because he’s already carrying her 13-month-old brother, his bedtime bottle and a pile of nappies, I wonder if they’re talking about the same children.
So once they returned to school after the Easter break, I came home to irritable kids and normal the frustrated and shouty service sadly resumed.
Is this the end of my Positive Parenting challenge?
Well, yes and no.
What I underestimated is how hard it is to change behaviour, and that it is not only my behaviour but that of my children I wanted to change. There are some days that I think it is easy and that we’re making progress. There are some days I wonder how I’ve managed to raise kids that can be so opinionated, bolshy and, of course, never wrong.
I’m naturally not like this and I typically tend to avoid people who are. This isn’t an option with my kids. There are some days I’m sure NJ disagrees just for the sake of it, that I could say that the sky is blue and he would most likely say no it’s grey (we do live in Manchester after all I guess…)
I once asked him whether he always had an answer for everything and he flatly replied ‘yes’. Taking the bait I asked him what was the other side of a black hole.
‘I don’t know,’ he replied.
‘Ah, so you don’t have an answer for everything,’ I replied a little too joyfully.
‘”I don’t know” is still an answer,’ he said.
He had me there, and with that I changed the subject.
However despite this I have noticed slight differences in the way I talk to my kids – or at least, I realise things before I say them more now.
One morning NJ was offered some chewing gum by a 10 year old friend on the walk to school. Now, we don’t let him have chewing gum and he knows this, but thought he’d ask anyway.
I didn’t instantly say ‘NO!’ as I normally would have done. Instead I found several other ways to say it and explain why, but he still sulked and protested. I then said:
‘We don’t eat chewing gum. They have their family rules and we have ours. If you’re not happy with our rules and want to talk about them we can do so later with Mummy. But right now, you can’t have any chewing gum.’
I’m not sure where that came from, but I was convinced it would do the trick. It didn’t. He still sulked off to school, but I felt better in myself for at least trying to show a bit of reasoning with him and not once shouting with frustration.
One thing I have found much easier is encouraging signs of independence, even if they’re scary ones, rather than shouting ‘don’t do that!’
For example, From the kitchen window I watched NJ painstakingly climb off the trampoline with Jasperino (13 months old) in his arms. He did it perfectly, and I knew he would be capable, but I still watched and waited for a trip or a fall and a screaming child. Thankfully It never came and I never shouted ‘Stop! Put him down!’ or ‘Wait, let me do it!’ like I probably would have done a few weeks ago. Instead I praised him and added ‘just let me know if you need help next time.’
So what next?
As I wrote in my original post, encouraging these ‘big ideas’ and empowering my kids to try new things is incredibly important to me.
Yet, there must still be work to be done if NJ asks me too play football in the garden and before I can even open my mouth he adds ‘Let me guess, the answer is “no”‘
That’s not the opinion of me I want. So I will continue to check the tone of my language and try to find that elusive ‘yes’ that suits all of us. And most importantly, I will talk and explain more rather than just shout or get annoyed.
So what about you? Does any of this resonate with you and your household? I would love to know your thoughts.