This article is as much a pep talk for me and my husband to stay strong as it is a cautionary heads-up for those who struggle to maintain control and keep that certain child from growing into a manipulative troll.
Stand your ground.
It is so easy to stand your ground at the checkout counter with your coupon that is clearly not expired? A lot of us will waste 30 minutes (or more if someone else is watching the kids) waiting for the manager to saunter in looking bored jingling all those bracelets and keys dangling from their wrist and do that clickety-clack magic coding on the cash register to make sure our discount is honored. So what if there is an exasperated line of shoppers behind us, each sighing louder than an asthmatic on a breathing treatment? We stand our ground, because, h-e-l-l-oo.. 20% off a second item! I’ve been carrying this coupon around for weeks and I only came to this store to buy tangerine scented candles because of this here coupon!
Some of us will even risk long term friendships by standing our ground in what begins as a casual discussion on the upcoming presidential election. But later ends with something like, “We’ve been friends for years, and loved each others’ kids, and cared for each other through good and bad, but I had no idea you were stupid enough to vote for __________! And here is a list of all the reasons you’ve lost your mind or clearly never had one. Sorry, but I’m just standing my ground. It’s what I believe is right. So you can just cancel that play date we arranged, and have that casserole dish you borrowed on my porch swing by Tuesday.
But why is it so hard to stand our ground when setting boundaries or punishing our children? “You’re grounded!,” comes easily and with deep devotion when my husband and I are disrespected, repeatedly not minded, or WWIII breaks out in the backseat. Our go to grounding of choice is to forbid computers and television for an inhumane amount of time. We start out firm, hitting them where it hurts with a digital assault!
As a side note: After many talks and arguments I’ve finally convinced my husband that its best not to ground our children from something we can’t possibly follow through on. Such as, vacation the night before we leave for a paid-in-full 7 day trip, or Christmas, or air. He mostly has toned it down with the shock and awe groundings. Next up I’ll break him from groundings that affect me more than the child. Like assigning housework that needs to be heavily supervised (closet cleanouts) and/or Minecraft bans while he’s at work. Where I’m left crying asking, “What did I do?!”
Nevertheless, we set the punishment and vow to stand our ground. Sometimes we manage, but often we are played like a fiddle by our own offspring in just three easy steps.
- It begins with the tantrum. This is the first method they use to try and make you lose your footing in the battle to stand your ground. It likely includes, yelling, door slamming, crying, and possibly insults, wishes for new parents and no siblings, and may even include questions as to why they were even born since you clearly don’t love them anyway. Now don’t you feel awful? No? Good, don’t fall for it. This is an irrational display of anger and frustration meant to hurt you like they feel they’ve been hurt. It will pass momentarily. Or in an hour or 4. Hopefully.
- And when the tantrum and vengeance subsides, they’ll try pity. The big, sad, googly eyes come out. Maybe even real tears. Even real remorse. They’ll plead their case with statements like, “I didn’t hear you tell me to pick up my dirty clothes 3,247 times!” or “I thought he was laughing while I was hitting him over the head with my xbox controller!” or “What am I supposed to do now that its too hot to play outside and I’m homeschooled and have no friends and you’ve grounded me from everything worth living for?” The fog of guilt is so thick it is hard to remember why you grounded this poor child. And it would be so easy to just open a window of escape and let the child and yourself both out of this choking misery. Stay strong though, its all fog and mirrors.
- And when guilt doesn’t work, next comes the good Samaritan act. Beware the child’s sudden desire to vacuum, take out the trash, or conjugate verbs in Latin. Although you can monopolize on this eagerness to please and get some much needed baseboard and window cleaning, brace yourself for the sweet request of time off for good behavior that will inevitably follow. To keep the trust between you, it is best to let them know before they fold 3 loads of laundry that, while you appreciate the gesture, the punishment stands until the stated end date/time. If you don’t make that clear, you’ll end up caving on account of their obvious need to be rewarded. Or you’ll refuse probation and the child will revert back to step one, the tantrum. You get to experience it all again. Fun, huh?
It takes extraordinary amounts of strength, love, and great moral expectations for their future to stand your ground with your children. Making it through these three attempts to crack your armor deserves applause, deep breathing exercises, and maybe chocolate or wine. But if you routinely falter at steps #1, 2, or 3 your child will learn just how to manipulate you to get the fastest escape from their punishment. They can become so skilled at getting out of a grounding that they may no longer be worried about getting punished for anything in the first place. No matter if you cave or stand your ground, they will still love you. But if you stay strong, they will learn to respect you and even themselves.
I hope you are listening to your own advice, Me.
Maybe you ought to print this out and tape it up in various locations around the house, out of sight of the children, of course.
Remember, if parenting were easy, it would come with instructions. Like microwave popcorn. This side-up.