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Location: Viljandi, Estonia

Thursday, September 27, 2007

How do you solve a problem like Marta Maria?

I have recently reached an impossible barrier in my life as a parent. Disciplining my child. All children are bad. Some are worse than others. Some are quiet as church mice and then grow up to be homeless people or prostitutes. Others are wicked and selfish and mature into successful politicians or clergymen. There is no way to gauge what straw of life your child has drawn -- all you can do is try to help them along the way.

Marta is a cute child. She is talented, entertaining, and energetic. And she is also moody, cross, whiny, and nearly impossible to discipline. If she wants bread, she gets bread. If she wants another lollipop she will get another lollipop. If she wants more Barbie Island Princess, she'll watch more Barbie Island Princess.

Are her parents pushovers? Maybe. The truth is we have a hard time making up our own minds on what to eat for dinner and things of that nature. Perhaps it is this perceived softness that has allowed this little Mussolini to blossom in our ranks. But now that it has occurred, how do you deal with someone who will fight you to the death over a lollipop?

There are three methods of dealing with Marta Maria. Psychological, Administrative, and Physical.

Psychological is the the most preferred method of parents. This is where you guarantee certain things in return for others, ie. you can watch Barbie Island Princess if you brush your teeth. You can have ice cream, if you take a bath. You can do X, in return for Y. The problem here is that the tired parental mind is not always as sharp as it must be to deal with the cunning three-year-old swindler. It's hard to constantly make good deals and eventually the kid gets what they want without doing the returned service. They wear you down. You lose in the end.

Administrative is the method where one action deserves a penalty. If you are loud, rude, pushy, hit your parent, you go and stand in the corner. If you act out, you don't get certain rewards, like Barbie Island Princess. In the administrative method, lines are drawn. If you hit your daddy when he doesn't give you a lollipop, certain punishments are handed down, like standing in the corner.

The problem is that sometimes this does not do the trick. No matter how many times you say "No, don't do that", the child does not cease and desist. This is when Physical methods are brought into your arsenal. For example, the other night Marta continued to bite my butt. She kept coming up from behind me and biting me. I told her no in as many ways possible. This was dangerous because I was cooking. I am a big guy and do not want to lose my balance. Finally I was forced to put down what I was doing, and spank her with three hard whacks on the rear-end. Marta started to cry, but at least she wasn't biting my butt anymore.

In the end a combination of all these methods doesn't seem to work. My child is still disobedient, and I don't mind it all too much. I mean she is a child, and *all* kids I grew up around acted like that once in awhile. I too had my temper tantrums and I am sure Epp did as well. Now that we are adults we are faraway from this childhood land, where denial of ice cream could be a factor in a decision for you to trash your room in protest.

It's interest seeing it all now from the other side.


Blogger Martasmimi said...

"I too had my temper tantrums"

Yes you did.
You must remember kicking my ankles on the checkout line, and kicking the back of my seat as I drove home. This was done to show your displeasure over not getting what you wanted from the store.
I believe you also had a chant or a mantra of was
"I want.. what I want ..what I want."
Now say that loudly for 5 minutes or so, and bang your head against the back of a couch or a car seat...for some additional emotional impact.
Some loud whining along with the chant in a closed car made it just a tad more unbearable.
Grandchildren, ah....
"what goes around comes around." : )

8:56 PM  
Blogger Jim Hass said...

It is a Father's curse to love a daughter and be so helpless when faced with her female whiles. As they get more sophisticated, we get more clueless. You are indeed fortunate to have 2 girls, maybe even after they start dating god-knows-who from the other side of town.

4:08 AM  
Blogger katt said...

For stopping a 'bad' behaviour at the moment, it may be more effective to give the child your full attention instead of saying her 'stop it!'. And it is a matter of decision whether it is an ADEQUATE option in given situation and circumstances. As it MAY mean that your action (dinner for instance) remains undone (bad Estonian English, ask Epp for translation :)) this time. OR it may happen, that after shifting your full (positive) attention to your (bad behaving) child, she lets you continue with YOUR action after five of fifteen of fifty minutes of getting your full attention. And I don't know and say nothing about how this kind of solution affects her ability to cope at school or anywhere where standard reaction to bad behavior still is 'stop it!'.

Betsy Hart has in her book "It Takes a Parent: How the Culture of Pushover Parenting Is Hurting Our Kids--and What to Do AboutIt" a chapter about spanking where she argues that 'spank or not to spank' is not the right question to ask (I enjoyed reading the book and I can't say it helped me much to change the behavior of myself or my kids). I myself have never been able to spank my children as I am too stuck in the 'social' ads saying 'DO NOT spank a child' (emm, another example of 'stop it!', isn't it?). And the ads do not say, what to do INSTEAD!? So I have done all horrible things to my children instead spanking. AND I have had experiences where giving my children my full attention BEFORE cooking has resulted in peaceful cooking some time later instead of starving together...

With the first child you learn how to raise a child. With the second child you learn how to raise several children together. I know nothing about it, I was the only child in my family... But 2,5 years after becoming a 'multiple-children-family' it looks like anything happening with the first child (like different ways of showing his higher need for attention) during the first (and maybe more) years of the second child could be connected to the first one not being the only one any more...


this comment in my blog

with citation of the 'biting-butt' paragraph.

5:37 PM  
Blogger Colm said...

Heem, that reminds me of teaching 16 year olds in EBS....

12:31 PM  
Blogger Martinha said...

Ow, you have a daughter called Marta Maria? That's so cute -my name is Marta Maria as well... Anyway, I just couldn't help commenting. Bye

7:46 PM  
Blogger Kaur said...

martasmimi - have you heard the saying "Insanity is Hereditary - You get it from your children"? :)

Good writeup. I'd love to read the same from Epp's viewpoint... And later, from Marta's - "How do you solve a problem like my stubborn dad?" :)

1:37 AM  

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