Monday, October 20, 2014

Tough love parenting

It's been a tough week of parenting 'round these parts. We spent the second week of the school holidays in Dunsborough with my parents, and the girls (and we) were spoilt by the ease that two more pairs of hands and sets of attention bring to the taking-care-of-small-folk gig. We came home last Sunday and the next day was staff development day so E was at home with C and I instead of at kindy. We had a really lovely day - E seemed happy with the return to normality and was pleased to be pottering around the house playing with stuff she hadn't seen for a week and there was minimal ignoring and grumpiness on her part and consequently minimal shoutiness on mine. 

The next day E went happily back to kindy and afterwards I agreed to her request for her friend A to come over and play for an hour afterwards. I sat in an armchair in the playroom where I could hold a sleeping C and watch the two big girls on the trampoline. I spent some of the time googling child proof gate latches on my phone and emailing my Dad asking his view on which one would be suitable for our gate. When A's mum arrived I didn't get up to see them out and say goodbye as C was still asleep on my lap. I did get up a few minutes later when I heard E messing about by the front gate where she had lingered to wave goodbye and asked her to bring inside the toys she had dragged out to the trampoline. She brought inside one lot of toys and I sent her back out for another. A few minutes passed, she didn't come back in, but I thought she had just wandered off in the garden. I was cross because she had promised (promised! because from a four year old promises mean so much!) she would pack up if I let them take toys outside. 

I plopped C on the rug and started wandering around looking and calling for E. She wasn't inside. I did a lap of the garden. She wasn't outside. Starting to panic I thought "I bet she's followed A out the gate." E has only been able to reach the gate latch for a little while, and knows she is never supposed to go out it by herself (and less than an hour earlier I had been researching what to replace the latch with!) but I had one of those strong, sense of doom feelings that she had done so this time. We live on a busy road. A really really busy main road. I raced out the gate, gambled that she had turned right rather than left as that is the direction of A's house and hooned about 20 metres down the street. And, thank goodness, saw A, A's Mum and E walking back towards our house. Their neighbour had found E in her front garden. She had made it all the way down our street to the traffic lights, turned the corner, walked another hundred metres or so and turned another corner onto A's street and got as far as the next door house.

E's explanation was "I was going on an adventure." What do you say to that?? I said all the obvious things about it being dangerous and naughty and that she was never to do it again. I took all of the good behaviour stones she had earned out of her jar in one go. I put her in her bedroom and told her she could stay there until dinner time. She started carrying on about being hungry and I told her that being hungry until dinner might help her remember not to do it again. A few minutes later she snuck out of her room, filched an apple from the fridge and tried to sneak back into her room. Like a crazy lady I wrestled the apple away from her, screeching, and shoved her back in her room. This was apparently more upsetting than the original punishment and she stayed in her room, sobbing. I stood at the bench, trying to make dinner, with C grizzling on the rug, wondering if I got to cry too or if my job was just to make dinner. I left E in her room until dinner was ready, which was about half an hour, and by far the longest we have ever made her stay in her room as punishment. Later we also decided she is on a three week play-date ban as we wanted there to be a more lasting reminder of the lesson.

Since then we decided that we have been overlooking too many instances of E ignoring us. Either she just pretends not to hear and carries on with what she is doing, or laughs whilst deliberately doing things she knows are naughty. She will sometimes appear sorry later and promise not to do it again, but really doesn't understand the significance of promises. So, since the great escape, every time she ignores us or doesn't do what she is told, we have been putting her in her room. Suffice to say, she has been spending quite a lot of time there. On Saturday we went to my parents' place after lunch, following a particularly gruesome morning behaviour wise. The performance continued once we  got there. I can't even remember what I had asked her to do, but given it was on top of a morning full of not listening, I sent E for time out in the laundry. She wouldn't stay put, and ran out about five or six times, culminating in D threatening to take her home if she didn't stay put for the five minutes we had originally told her. She did it again, and D said "that's it, Mummy and C will stay here and have a nice time with Granny and Grandad but you and I are going home." She immediately shrieked "no, I'll be good, don't take me home!" but D was resolute and wrestled her out to the car. I say "wrestled" because she fought it every step of the way, howling and shrieking at the top of her lungs all the way down the path and across the street. Once in the car it was another wrestling match to get her to sit still long enough to get her seatbelt on. But we managed it and they left, whilst C and I stayed for our "nice time" which mainly involved me feeling shaky and guilty about how physical we had had to be, but nervously determined that it was the right thing to do.

Since then things have been perhaps marginally better (although when D was putting her to bed that night and told E that we hadn't had a very good day but we would all try to have a better day tomorrow, E apparently looked astounded and said "but why didn't we have a good day?!") At least we have been resting slightly easier about the gate as we now have a new child proof gate latch, complete with lock.

Does anyone have experience parenting the small and wilful sort? I do want to raise strong and independent girls, but at the same time well mannered ones who listen to adults and who can at least follow instructions enough to ensure their own safety!

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