letters to Charlie · parenting · Theo is here

Maybe tyranny just this once

Charlie, I have to tell you. We had a wonderful time at Disney on Ice last night. You’re beautiful, magical and brilliant.

You’re also stubborn and strong-willed. You’re in your room right now. I’ve taken most toys out of your room. You’re taking it pretty hard. Here’s the problem. You just… won’t…. listen. I tell you “no” and it’s a battle. Sometimes you amuse me by saying, “Ok, Mommy!” Like you’re sending me a message, “I didn’t really want that anyways.” You throw things. I’ll admit… I throw things on occasion. Do what I say, not what I do… whatever… I am the parent and you are the child. If we are going to have a manageable, mostly pleasant, fulfilling relationship, you must listen to me. You are not allowed to be disrespectful. And, if you are, you are going to be punished. These parenting books are driving me crazy. What works for one child doesn’t always work for another, but there is a general code when it comes to “good parenting”: Children need to know what you expect from them. They need to know what will happen if they choose to act in a way that does not meet the agreed upon expectations. Most expectations are as follows: Listen to Mommy and Daddy, do not hit, do not whine and do not throw things. When it comes down to it, is this really so much for me to ask? Ok. So, these are the rules, and Charlie knows these are the rules. She gets mad about something. Anything. Everything. She chooses to break one of these rules. I tell her to do something, clean something up, or I tell her we can’t go to the mall, or she can’t watch a show. Let’s call this category “Anything Charlie disagrees with.” Sometimes she will say, “Ok, Mommy”, which means that I have presented her with something that she does agree with. “Put this away or you won’t get to watch a show later.” “Oh, ok“, she grumbles. The same conversation could take place about the same thing and for whatever reason, the outcome is very different. (Maybe she’s tired, maybe she’s feeling like she’s not getting my attention, maybe she’s hungry, maybe she’s frustrated about something she doesn’t even know about). For whatever reason, she doesn’t care that she won’t get to watch a show because at that moment, it’s more important for her to say “no” to me, than to get to watch a show. The balls on this girl. She really thinks it’s in her best interest to defy me over cleaning up a few crayons? She’s really going to sacrifice one of her Beloved shows just so she can get a rise out of me? I’d be slightly flattered if it didn’t pi$$ the h@ll out of me. Respectable, compassionate and energetic mom replies, “Ok, then you don’t get to watch a show and unfortunately, you won’t be able to play with your crayons anymore.” The fight begins. She raises her voice and yells, “NO!!” and throws her magnifying glass. I take her prized possession and put it away. She cries. I tell her if she throws her toys, she won’t have them anymore. She slowly picks up Theo’s rocker and throws it over. What I should have said, “You’re not allowed to throw Theo’s toys either. How would you feel if he threw something of yours?” She would probably have understood, and respected me for explaining and taking the time to give her the attention she wanted. What I did say: “Go to your room, now. You do not treat things that way and continue to disrespect me. Go, now!” She cried and forced herself against me in order to keep me from putting her in her room. I forced her in her room and shut the door. She started throwing things at the door. I then began what I like to refer to as “the garbage bag method.” This means I take a garbage bag and fill up whatever I can in her room. This time, after feeling like I’ve tried every tool up to this point in her life, I decided to forget the garbage bag. I just took everything I could get in my arms and took it down to the garage. I probably made five trips. She just say there and cried for her toys. I calmly told her that she needs to stay in her room until I tell her it’s time to get out. She came out a few times, I told her to return, and she’d go back and cry. Now, she’s coming out and I tell her to return and she just does it. Now she’s on the potty. Now I just got her off and back in her room. This would have all been solved if only I bribed her with a lollypop. I’ve never been a briber and it’s hard. I wish that were the solution. Is it possible that my child is different and I can put her in her room for the rest of the day? Can I do that to a 3-year-old? She’s almost 4. It’s just like, something has got to give. I try hard enough to cater to her feelings and re-direct and ask her questions about her feelings and really listen to what she says. I try so hard to be in tune with her feelings, thoughts, needs, wants and fears. I love her so much. I’m sure the general consensus about discipline these days, is that being a tyrant doesn’t work. It’s not good to just order your kids around. They’ll rebel… they’ll get aggressive…. they’ll be afraid of you and won’t respect you deep inside. I need to be a tyrant sometimes. Here’s the other problem: I need television. I need her to be able to sit there while I get some bills paid and/or respond to an email and/or just have 15 minutes to zone out. It’s hard for me, I’ve learned, to take television away from her because I need it. The best I’ve done is limited her time to a few shows a day, and she’s learning to be ok with it. I’ve explained to her that we all love to watch shows, but it’s not good to watch them for long periods at a time. She understands that and respects that I’ve set limits. So, now, when I say you can watch one show and then we are going to do this or that, she understands, and it’s not just because I said so. I think I need to maximize this going to her room thing. But she has so many toys in there that she just becomes to paralyzed to them that she doesn’t even care about them. The only thing I left in there, are her books. Now, she’s in there reading them. I’d like simplicity and control. I realize it’s hard to obtain control in a parenting situation because it’s my job to set limits and then stay out of it. She needs to make her own decisions and face her own consequences. How do you get her to stay in her room without physically putting her there? The garage is no longer an option, that’s where all her toys are…

Ok, I have calmed down and this is the longest “time-out” she’s ever had. Theo was sleeping on the couch, now he’s laughing at The View, and not in his crib because that will defeat the purpose of Charlie in her room. She has no other favorite toy that Theo.

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