So since Mr. Bean's birth, I have to admit that Burrito and I have been clashing heads a bit. I must admit that a large part of it is my fault. During my pregnancy, I truly felt horrible most of the time, so I spent a lot of time in bed and gave in to what she wanted a lot of the time (loads of TV, anyone?). I am feeling much, much better since having the baby but of course now he needs lots of attention. And there are certainly times when baby coos are a more attractive option than preschooler tantrums (are you with me, anyone?)! I was finding myself losing my temper with Burrito more and more often. I was falling into the pattern of reacting instead of responding to poor preschooler behavior. I was starting to forget that I am actually the parent around here! We've all been there, right?
I was ready for a shot in the arm. Months ago, my husband bought me the book, Have a New Kid by Friday: How to Change Your Child's Attitude, Behavior & Character in 5 Days. I had read portions of the book but was finally ready to really sit down and focus on it now. Dr. Kevin Leman's advice is simple but not easy. What makes his book unique is the humor with which his advice is given. When your kids are on your last nerve, you need to laugh. You need to remember (with Bill Cosby) that "these people" (your kiddos) are crazy and that part of getting through the challenges of parenting is knowing how to laugh.
One of the best pieces of advice Leman gives in the book is this: "Say it once. Turn your back. Walk away." All too often, we as parents forget that we are the God-ordained leaders of our home. Though we are to be kind and loving leaders, we are to be leaders. And the kiddos need to learn respect towards authority. They need to learn that when we say to do something, we mean business. They need to learn to listen to rather than ignore our voice when we speak. Today's parents rightly are trying to correct parenting lacks in some previous eras by focusing on the relationship with our children, but it's certainly possible to take that course correction too far. I realized while reading Leman's book that I was overly concerned with my daughter liking me. This was a shocking realization, but I think tiredness and longing for some of the closeness we had in her younger years was getting to me. All the rest that I had to take while I was pregnant and now all of the attention I was giving the baby were making me feel guilty. So I was focusing too much on wanting to please her, or alternatively getting frustrated when she just wouldn't cooperate. Amazingly, I'm rediscovering that when I remember I'm the mom and she's the kid, when I give her freedom to make decisions without taking it as an indictment on me, when her decisions have natural consequences, I feel that I can relax and enjoy her more. It's almost counter-intuitive how good, calm, loving discipline frees parents to love and enjoy their kids just as they are. But it does. Kids are gonna misbehave and do dumb stuff. We all did when we were kids. But it's how we respond to them that matters.
Dr. Leman encourages parents to carefully differentiate between "mountains" and "molehills." Which issues are central issues which need to be dealt with and which issues are minor quirks of kid-hood? It's important that we're not constantly on our kids' case. Paul advises us, "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4, NIV).
Leman also advises that when a child does something serious like disrespect her parents, the parent simply calmly wait until the next time the child wants something (which he jokes will be in about 5 minutes since there are so many things little people can't reach!) and then calmly tell them, "No, you aren't going to do that today." He advises that, rather than get into a power struggle over the consequence, the parent let the child work at thinking about what they did wrong so that they can grow in maturity and attentiveness to their parents. Once they do apologize for what they did wrong, he suggests the parent forgive them but not lift the consequence. He says what the parent is trying to do is create a teachable moment in which they have the child's full attention. The teachable moment helps create an environment where the child will think twice the next time before he or she sasses mom or dad.
Leman suggests that the best consequences are natural consequences. He says, "let nature take its course. And when nature doesn't take care of the problem, you help nature along. Don't rescue your kids from the consequences of failed responsibility." For example, if your kiddo wastes time instead of getting a project done for school, don't stay up late trying to help them do it the night before. Natural consequences. They might get a bad grade, but they will learn a valuable lesson for life.
There is loads more good, wise advice in the pages of this easily readable book. After reading it, I felt empowered and much more positive about my role as a parent. I felt like, "Ok, I can do this!" Leman writes, "Today's children need guidance. They need accountability. They need to be taught that there are consequences for their actions (or their inaction). Otherwise their lives will run amok." We aren't being mean parents to have a high standard for our kids. We're helping to prepare them for life in the real world. This will sometimes mean that they are upset with us, but that's ok. If we keep the big picture in mind, we can weather the storms of parenthood. C'mon, parents. We can do this thing!
4.5 stars. Highly Recommended.