Welcome to Words on Wednesday for April 6, 2016.
It’s still Wednesday, right? In my neck of the woods I’ve still got about four hours left so I’m going for it!
Today I want to talk about a tough parenting issue my husband and I had to deal with recently.
“She’s a thief and a liar!”
Not the words you ever want to use to describe your children, right? But those are the ones I found popping into my head and out of my mouth last week. For those of you who know me and my girls this may come as a shock to you. They are, in general, sweet, polite, respectful, and honest little girls. But last week we had to lower the boom on our youngest when she stepped so completely out of line at school!
Let me paint you a picture. Our sweet little seven year old (she of the rainbow cake from last week) has a dark side. It is well hidden from the general public – she’s got you all well and truly fooled! But I know better. She sweet talks me, my husband, her sisters, her aunts, uncles and grandparents on a regular basis. Somehow, you find yourself doing things for her that you swore earlier that day that you’d never do! It’s uncanny! If we could bottle it we’d be rich!
I’m not entirely sure where it comes from but perhaps it’s from being the youngest of three. Hers was a hellish pregnancy and gruesome delivery so perhaps she knew from the start that she had to make sure to give extra big smiles to attract the proper level of devotion from us. Who knows? All I know is, it worked! From day one she had us wrapped around that little finger of hers! We were doomed!
Her reign of sweetness has gone on for seven years without a hitch. We stomp our feet at her naughty behaviour and then smile and give her cuddles when she pouts.
But through it all we have been consistent with our message of “do unto others” … or so we thought.
Yes, there are more felt drawings on her walls and her bedroom door than we would have let the other two get away with.
Yes, when she cut a chunk of her hair just before family portraits were taken, we took photos, laughed and saved the hair for a future scrapbook page.
Yes, she has yet to eat an entire meal that I make for her without complaining and negotiating away some portion of it.
And yes, her method of cleaning her room is to stall, whine, and play the baby until one of her sisters (usually the middle one) takes pity on her and cleans it for her!
But she’s so darn cute!!
Now that she is seven we feel it’s time to stop treating her as the baby and start forcing her hand. We made her sit at the table until her bedtime and then served her the unfinished dinner at lunch (and dinner) the next day. That’s what we’d done with the older girls and now they generally eat what we give them. (As long as there are no onions, peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms and the sauce doesn’t coat ALL the noodles!) Rules are rules. Don’t eat your dinner then you don’t get dessert. Go on one of the billion devices in our house after 7:00 and you lose tech privileges for the following day. Stuff like that.
Teaching her to respect our possessions and those of her sisters has been a losing game from day one. ALL the stuff is hers, right? (Remember the sea gulls in Finding Nemo? “Mine!” “Mine!” “Mine!” Yep, that’s her!) But she’s never – to my knowledge – taken any of her sisters candy without asking. They all have a bucket or bag of candy in our “candy cupboard” (every house has a candy cupboard, right?) This is where their Halloween candy lives, all the candy from goody bags gets dumped, and anything they receive on Holidays gets put. Since they’ve each got one and we’ve been pretty strict about doling it out in a one-a-day manner, we’ve never felt the need to police it. They girls just know that they a) need to ask for permission before getting a candy, b) only take one, and c) only take from their stash.
Well, that delusion was killed just after Easter this year!
It had been a week of treats. First it was her birthday with all the cake, presents, and meal out (with more cake) that go along with it. Then it was Easter with all the chocolate and friends and family visiting. I suppose it was enough to turn her head. On Easter Monday we discovered she had not only eaten ALMOST ALL her Easter candy (not a small amount), but some of her biggest sister’s too. (She was most displeased, let me tell you!) So the few remaining mini eggs and whatever else she had in her candy bag was confiscated. As per our rules. This was not a surprise to her at all. In fact, she accepted this as the natural consequence of her actions and we moved on.
Then a couple days later, while she was at a friends for a pre-arranged play date, I heard from the friend of my eldest that she had done something at lunch that shocked me to my core. She’d taken one of her classmates Easter eggs, hidden it in her lunch kit, then lied to the teacher about it. Saying I had packed it for her! WHAT?!
The only thing that saved her hide at that moment was the fact that she was not physically near me!
I had time to think, calm down, think some more, talk it over with my husband, and together come up with a plan. When she got home I sat her down and very calmly told her that I knew what she had done but I’d like to hear it from her side. Then told her that in no uncertain terms this was completely unacceptable behaviour and there were going to be big consequences. For starters, she was going to be making cards for her classmate and her teacher to say sorry and I’d be walking her to school the next morning (something I don’t normally do) to make sure they were handed out with the proper contrite attitude. Then there were going to be no more play dates, no desserts, or treats of any kind, and no tech for a whole month. April is a hard month to go with no desserts as at least one of her friends from school will be having a birthday party and her own sister has one too!
This may seem harsh and I read an article recently that would definitely categorize this as “parenting with fear not love” but I stand by our actions. I totally get that she likes candy – I’ve got a pretty big sweet tooth too! But stealing something that you know you’re not allowed to have because a) I very rarely allow them sweets at school, and b) you’re already in trouble over stealing your sister’s candy, and c) is clearly not yours to begin with, is just plain stupid! I also totally get why she tried to lie about it too (thankfully she’s a really bad liar!) But telling lies to try to get out of the trouble you know your actions have put you in, is no way to lead your life. And we as parents strongly believe in owning your mistakes and taking the consequences for them.
Do the crime, do the time!
Kids need boundaries, not hippy dippy parents who think roses grow out of their little behinds! Love them completely but don’t fall into the trap that you have to be their friend or that they even have to like you all the time. I’ve seen, ironically with my youngest, how a teacher who lays down the rules and expectations at the beginning of the year – rules for both the children AND their parents – is so loved that said child cried every night of Spring Break because she missed her teacher. This teacher is tough! No nonsense, total old school. And the kids lap it up!
Boundaries! It all boils down to boundaries. They help kids feel safe. When they overstep those boundaries they know what the consequences are going to be and they are prepared to deal with them.
As for my daughter, she took her punishment pretty well, all things considered. I know we’re not “supposed” to use that word anymore. It’s too negative. But I’m calling a spade a spade here. She is being punished! Back in my day we called it “being grounded”. I don’t think any of us were any worse off for it and she won’t be either. And I don’t think she fears me or my husband any more now than she may have done before. She knows how much we love her. She also knows that she disappointed us and that we lost trust in her. This hit her harder than any loss of computer time! Since then she has shown remorse and an eagerness to make things right. Maybe there’s hope for her yet!
So, is grounding still a thing? Apparently it is in our house! How about yours?