Saturday, 11 December 2010

Long haul parenting

My new latest phrase that I save specially for me and my husband is that we're in this parenting lark for the long haul.

Every day we have decisions to make about how we bring up our children. Some are small and seemingly inconsequential, others are bigger and the value of them is apparent. I do strongly believe that I need to carefully pick my battles. Endlessly picking at children will just result in them feeling got at, hassled, resentful and ultimately erode their natural in built confidence.

It's ok to 'let it slide' every now and then on the small stuff; the decision does need to be made about what we consider to be the 'slidable' small stuff. I can't say what that might be for anyone else, but for us, the 'small stuff' includes things like shoes still on feet on the new sofa for example.... but for some people that might be a deal breaker.

But for us, some small stuff is the important stuff. The pleases, thank-yous, sorrys, basic manners, the social skills that will carry them through and help them to get the most out of their interactions with other people.

It's such a balance though and we are finding that the vast majority of the challenge is consistency. Sometimes is just so tiring and all I really want to do is go and read a book in the garden and leave them to it (hubby included!) but I try to keep my 'eye on the prize'.

Children who are a pleasure to be around, who are confident in any given situation that people will respond well to them because good manners helps to bring out the best in others.

So what provoked this post? This afternoon, we decided to do cinema night at home after dinner. We often do it, choose a film together from the library, make popcorn, snuggle under our duvets on the sofas and watch the film. The kids sometimes fall asleep and we carry them to bed. They love cinema night, its a real treat.

Well everything was going fine, until dinnertime. My eldest started playing up. Getting up and down from the table for no reason, running around, throwing his food onto his brothers plate, pushing his chair around the room. I asked him to sit up nicely and finish his meal... the quicker he finishes obviously, the quicker we can get on with cinema night, he was clearly excited about it. And he didn't get back up, I asked again, he comes back to the table and is shuffling around, picking at his brother. I lost track of how many times I asked him to come sit nicely and finish his food. Finally I brought out the big guns. Do as I've asked or cinema night doesn't happen... "yes it will".... uh... no, it won't, come sit up please.

And round and round we go. Me not quite believing that he is behaving so badly when his treat is in danger of being pulled, and him simply not believing me.

So we have it, one last chance. I asked him to sit up or thats it, no cinema night tonight. He pushes his chair away even more... me: "now please"... him... "no". Me... "ok, no cinema night".

Him, cue hysterics.

Me, not budging.

Him, yelling, crying, shouting.

Me, resolved now.

Him, now in bed.

Me, hoping that tomorrow when we attempt cinema night again, he'll remember that there are consequences to behaviour and we can finally get round to watching Toy Story 3!

I genuinely do not expect him to be an angel all the time, but if I had caved then what does that teach him except that if he screams and yells at me enough then he gets what he wants.

It would have been easier to stick the film on once he'd said sorry, which he did say repeatedly, but we're in this for the long haul, for his benefit, not just our short term peace and quiet at parents.

I did obviously make my peace with him before bedtime, sitting down and having a cuddle and a chat about it. He agreed that his behaviour resulted in his losing a treat that he wanted and that he would try to remember that tomorrow. I explained that I wanted to treat him but he needs to sit nicely at dinnertime so that we can enjoy the time together as a family.

What a palava. Disney Pixar have a lot to answer for!
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