Friday, June 13, 2008

The Stare Down

I have this rule in my house and among my family, no adult is to EVER be the first to look away when one of my children has initiated a stare down. You may be thinking, "Why does Gina care if she loses a staring contest with the kids?" Listen a parent of a toddler, two former toddlers and a soon to be toddler this is valuable advise!

There will come a time when your child understands what the word 'NO' means, he will understand what your 'mean face' looks like (if you don't have a mean face, get one immediately). Undoubtedly, there will also come a time when your precious toddler will test his limits to see how serious you are when you say 'NO'.

The other day, my sweet baby Colton was climbing on the dining room chair. I told him NO and removed him from the chair. No sooner had I turned to walk back into the kitchen, than the little bugger started pulling himself up on the chair again. I immediately turned around, abruptly pulled him away from the chair, knelt down and said in my stern mommy voice with my 'mean face', "Mommy said NO."

And the stare down began! Colton stood there still as a statue as if he were hoping that I might forget he was there...eyes dead locked on mine. I had a bazillion things to do but I knew that I had to let him know how serious I was and that meant not moving. No grinning, winking, standing up, speaking, hugging, looking away, negotiating, NOTHING. His face was as serious as mine and I wanted so badly to just pick him up and smother him in kisses but I couldn't...a lesson was being learned, and an important lesson at that...

"I have to do what Mommy tells me, period."

Now listen carefully parents...

We cannot always use redirection as a tool. We cannot remove from our homes every single potential hazard. We cannot always discipline by spanking (although I do spank my children when it's appropriate). At some point our little ones have to learn what NO means and they have to learn who is in charge (that would be the parent by the way, in case there is any confusion). And this lesson can be taught in the form of the stare down. It's really quite simple, if he wins he's in charge and will most likely return to whatever he was doing that got him in 'trouble' to begin with...if a passive sweet "No honey" is what you consider 'trouble'. But if you win, then your in charge and this is the goal.

Teaching your child to obey you is not taking away your child's individuality or curiosity. It's not being strict or unkind or demeaning to the child. It's not teaching them to fear you or any of that bull cah-cah that the world would have you to believe. It's teaching them to understand boundaries...often for there own safety. It's teaching them to respect and appreciate the material things that you are providing for your children by not destroying them. It's teaching them to respect you and in
turn receive respect and praise for good behavior, which will make them feel good about who they are and the decisions that they make.

Will Colton test his boundaries again? Most definitely, he tried to climb on the table again last night, but to my surprise Jeff handled to beautifully, stare down and all. The important thing is that Colton learns that we are in charge. And not just because we are the parents and we're trying to be mean by asserting our authority...because God has made us responsible for our children, and in the end God will hold us responsible for the way that we raised them.

He has given us these children and expects us to not only love and cuddle and play with them, but to also teach and instruct them about what is appropriate. To teach them to be generous,kind, humble, to be helpful and respectful to others. All of these lessons are taught by example, enforced by discipline, and encouraged with lots of praise.

Parents, do not be afraid to discipline your children in public, whether that be in church, a restaurant, at a friends house, the ball park, or anywhere else. Parenting does not stop just because you are in public. Many times I have told a waitress in the middle of ordering my food to please give me a few moments to help my children calm down. If my kids start acting up while I am speaking to someone that I have run into, I have no problem stopping the conversation for a moment to quickly tell my children what I expect of them and what the consequences will be if they continue to misbehave. My children know what I mean when I say, "Do we need to go to the bathroom and discuss this?" That has never been as empty threat, but rather a place to speak sternly and most likely to have their butt busted for continuing to be disobedient. I have NEVER left a public place because my children were misbehaving, and I won't. I will deal with bad behavior on the spot no matter where I am or who is around me. And my children will be better for it.

My mom was a strict parent, she had to be. With three daughters, the first time she let something slip by without it being corrected, we would have taken her out! It never occurred to me that she was out numbered, all I knew was that I had better do what I was told and do it the first time because the consequences were crystal clear. As we got older, she didn't even have to go over all the details of her expectations of us in public. All she would say is, "Girls, you know what I expect of you."

Sometimes I feel like I am too lenient on my children, I feel like there are things that I let slip out of pure exhaustion and I wonder if they notice or if it gives them the fuel to push the envelope a little further. However, the other day my (strict-never let them get one over on you) mom admitted something to me...she lost a stare down between her and Colton.

I have been a mother for almost 9 years now and I have NEVER lost a stare down...I feel redeemed!

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