Then Darcy came along. And some point, it just felt like we were spanking her literally, all the time. She was so hard-headed. So unrepentant, it seemed, that we just kept on spanking her. Except what those books said would happen, didn't. She wasn't thankful for our correction. It didn't bring us closer. No way would that child lay still and "take" a spanking. It was UFC to give her a spanking. My heart started feeling burdened about the number of spankings we were giving and how they were not working. I started questioning the brand of parenting we had been using which was hard because we basically loved the results we had in one child, and couldn't figure out what we were doing wrong in another child.
What we didn't realize until later was the results we loved in Lily, were only the result of her deep-seated need to self-preserve. Not really what we intended at all. She didn't see the problem with disobeying Daddy's rules when he was at work because he "wouldn't know".
For years we have struggled with issues like this. Wanting to do the right thing, but really having a hard time knowing what that would be and what it would look like in this family. What a hard lesson for me to learn. Kids and families are not cookie cutouts. Even if my kids are (which they aren't), I most certainly am not. Most people would not describe me as warm or open or even sweet. I laughed recently when a friend actually admitted to telling someone else I was "sweet". She thinks I'm "closet sweet". Learning that there is not a one-size-fits-all answer to ANY problem is something I'm trying to keep in mind when I hear people managing their lives in a way that's different from what I would do.
A couple of days ago, I managed a bedtime/naptime issue very differently than I ever have before. I still have children who need a nap, but are at an age where they can just play around for a few hours and then naptime is over and they didn't have to take one. Bedtime is a battle. Up and down, up and down. Thirsty, need to potty, wants hugs and kisses. A nearly imperceptible injury. Scared. Et cetera. We might handle this variety of ways. We might spank them and hope that would settle them down enough to go to sleep. Maybe we would make them stay in their bed until they actually took a nap. None of these solutions were ever consistently effective. But Sunday, I went another way. Instead of trying to keep them in bed, I let them out.
I told them we were going to stay up and not go to bed! When the other kids went to bed and they were able to stay up, it hardly seemed like a punishment. Seemed like fun! Then 11pm came and our little people started getting cranky and whiny and heavy-lidded. Every few minutes, I would ask in a loud voice, "You guys aren't going to sleep yet, are you? We can't have that!" We finally let Darcy go to bed at midnight and Lily at 1245am. People who don't want to go to sleep, don't have to! Surprisingly enough, naptime and bedtime on Monday went off without a hitch. It just took a small reminder from Mom that if they weren't ready to go to bed, they could always stay up with me. I like staying up late!
Consequences of actions seem to have a better result than punishment. It takes me out of the middle and makes them responsible for their actions. This can only help them as they get older. I'd much rather my children pay a smaller price now and learn lessons than to pay a higher price later.