The Honest Mommy

Uncensored thoughts on parenting & more

Kids playing contentedly June 26, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — lotsofopinions @ 6:22 pm
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Yes, yes. This is what I need. This is what the kids need. To play at home contentedly; to get along with each other reasonably well; to enjoy outings but enjoy being at home as well.

Today the kids have been playing at home all day, up until the present (1 p.m). A few hours were spent with a neighbor playmate; the rest of the time they have been alone. There have been a few skittishes, but otherwise it’s been smooth sailing.

For me, I have so many things to do (lots of cooking; laundry; assembling products to sell for my business; doing work at my computer) that I need this time at home. Not to mention the fact that we will have company tomorrow (hello, housecleaning) and we are going out of town the day after tomorrow (hello, laundry and packing).

I believe that in previous generations, children have had to entertain themselves at home much of the time. Such a shocking concept, but one that I wholeheartedly practice in my home.


Working on 5yo’s attitude November 22, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — lotsofopinions @ 3:13 pm
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Well, this has been an interesting morning with my 5yo son, Adam. His preschool, which he loves, starts at 9 a.m. It is 9:09 a.m. as I type this, and we have not dropped him off at school yet. The reason is that I will not take him to school until he can go through the process of getting dressed, going out to the van, etc., without misbehaving or being sassy.

I thought we were going to “make it” on our last attempt, but while he was waiting for me to strap his younger brother into the van, Adam banged on the outside of his door with his show-and-tell bag “because [he] wanted to get in.”

Um, no. Not acceptable. I will not accept the possibility of damaging the van or the contents of his show-and-tell bag just because he is feeling impatient and sassy.

I am probably a little more strict than other parents. I feel it is worth it in the long run to address these issues now. I realize we won’t be able to do this once he starts kindergarten, but for now I will use the leverage that his love of preschool gives us in order to shape his thinking and behavior.

One. Step. At. A. Time.


No discipline is pleasant at the time: Thoughts on rewards June 23, 2010

My recent post about helping my almost 5yo son overcome his desire to withhold his urine has garned a fair amount of traffic and comments. I want to thank Trish and Flybaby for taking the time to share their thoughts in the comments section.

I agree with Trish that the chart was helpful for him, especially since his grasp of time is still developing. I think it’s interesting to note that a chart which keeps a track record is different from the “reward charts” that we as parents are accustomed to. With a reward chart, a sticker is emphasized as the reward (or, a sticker is used as a way to mark progress toward some type of reward, like a trip out for ice cream). If such a chart is being used with a child, s/he can easily decide at any time that s/he is no longer interested in the reward, however enticing it may be.

In contrast, a chart that’s used to keep a track record of how a child is progressing toward earning back normal, everyday privileges (in my son’s case, the privilige of being out of his room, playing with toys, and so on) isn’t really a rewards chart at all, but rather is a visual aid to help the child understand things like the passage of time. It is also a memory aid that allows the parent to point out, for example, “Yesterday, you got a sad face because you chose to wet your underwear after lunch instead of using the toilet.”

I suppose I’m in the minority because I am not a fan of rewards. It’s not that I never, ever use them, but I use them so seldom that it’s hardly worth mentioning. (Recently I used small candies to get my 20mo son over a potty training hump, and I took them out of the picture after a very short period of time.) I am truly grateful to John Rosemond for educating parents, and anyone who will listen, about the farce of rewards. I feel it has saved me a good deal of time and heartache to avoid the topic from the get-go.

I don’t claim to be an expert on the topic, but I imagine that my grandmother would have frowned on reward charts or any kind of special privileges bestowed on a child for doing what s/he should be doing anyhow (keeping pants dry, doing homework, etc.). And I think she did a pretty fabulous job of raising her five children!


No discipline is pleasant at the time… June 10, 2010

Oh my, what a day. The extent to which we are trying to compel our children to do the right thing is something I think few, if any, of my friends would understand.

First there is my son Adam, almost 5 years old. He has had a “hold and wet” habit for years, where he will withhold his urine until he slowly wets himself. This goes on for hours sometimes, and I refuse to accept that he isn’t aware of what’s going on. Last weekend, DH and I had had enough of this habit of his, and we agreed to confine him to his stripped-down room until he kept himself dry for three days in a row. A “mistake” would start the three days over again.

Sunday was the day of his offense, so Sunday he spent the entire afternoon until bedtime in his room (except for meals and necessary outings). On Monday, his one break from his room was an outing to Mommy & Me, where he decided he “just didn’t want to go” potty there, and therefore wet himself. On Tuesday, during/after a trip to the grocery store, he wet himself. Wednesday, he managed to stay dry all day, with no real reminders from Mom or Dad. That brings us to today, Thursday. He has kept dry, but has broken the rules a few times, with compelling consequences afterwards.

His first infraction today was that he took a book from a shelf (one of the few things I hadn’t removed from his room) and was looking at it. He tried to quickly put it away when he saw me coming, and he looked very alarmed and guilty. Therefore, I knew that he knew that he was breaking the rules.

Just last night I was reading in John Rosemond’s Parenting by the Book about how consequences need to exceed the seriousness of the offense. I believe he states that if an offense, on a scale of 1 – 10, rates as a 3, the consequence needs to rate as a 6. Keeping that in mind, I sent Adam to sit in a chair for one hour, with no talking, horsing around, or getting up allowed (except for potty breaks). I do hope that this long hour, with nothing to do, impressed upon him the importance of following the rules.

Later, he kept stepping out of his room to have a peek at his little brother (more on this later). At first I felt sympathetic to the idea that it might be hard to remember the rule (he is used to having the door closed or to having a gate there). But after reminding him of the rule five or six times, I felt I was being played. So, I sent him to stand in a corner for 30 minutes. When the 30 minutes were up, I had him tell me why he was sent to the corner and also why he was spending three days (more, actually) in his room.

It seems to me that he is becoming a little more humble-minded and meek as time goes by. It seems to me that being “kicked out of the Garden of Eden,” as Rosemond calls it, is giving Adam a lot to think about with regard to his normal privileges and freedoms.

To be continued….


Independence for 4yo June 1, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — lotsofopinions @ 8:40 pm
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Now that my son Adam is almost 5 years old, he is wanting to do more and more things on his own. “I can do it” and “I can help with that” and “I know how to do that” are things we hear often. At times we also enounter resistance from him when we ask him to do something on his own.

 Sometimes the resistance is because truly cannot do something on his own, or has a great deal of difficulty with it. Other times, he just doesn’t feel like undertaking the task and/or wants to call the shots.

A bit of creativity goes a long way in negotiating this stage. Today Adam kept asking to put the butter and syrup on his French toast. I am not too keen on this since who kinows how much of either condiment he’s going to use, but in the end I told him he could put on his own butter and syrup if he also cut up the French toast on his own (a task I don’t enjoy doing). He is capable of doing this, but often balks when asked to do it. Today he didn’t complain, however. I think he understood the quid pro quo arrangement and was happy to go along with it.

I am a big fan of expecting children to do everything that they are capable of doing. In other words, no coddling (or very little coddling, anyway) at our house.


It’s been a long day already, and it’s only just begun May 14, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — lotsofopinions @ 12:48 pm
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It’s only 7:30 a.m. in my neck of the woods, but already I feel like I’ve put in a full shift. Mark, age 18 months, woke up at 4 a.m. crying. He settled down when I directed him to his favorite blanket, but he did not go back to sleep. And, it follows, neither did I. So I got dressed at 4:45 a.m. and Hubby helped keep Mark quiet so as not to wake up big brother, Adam, age 4 1/2.

At 5:15 I loaded Mark into the van and we drove around for an hour. I got a coffee and a newspaper (so I could plan garage saling without poking around online so much). By being out of the house, I wanted to ensure that Adam could sleep as late as possible. It is so, so difficult to keep Mark quiet, and our house is fairly small so it’s not really possible to close ourselves off somewhere and wait it out, and Adam seems intent on waking up at at the slightest sound.

So anyway, imagine my surprise when we pulled into the driveway at 6:15 a.m. and I found Adam in the backyard in his pajamas, jacket, and Crocs. I knew right away that Hubby was still in bed and that Adam had gone outside without permission. This is something we have come across before and so I believe that Adam is fully aware of the rules.

Soon afterwards I discovered that Adam had changed out of very wet underwear and pajama bottoms, AND that his bedwetting alarm was switched to OFF. The only logical explanation (and I need to come up with my own explanations because for whatever reason it is essentially impossible to get a coherent explanation out of Adam) is that his alarm woke him up and he then turned it off, went back to sleep, and in the process completely evacuated his bladder into his clothes and bedding.

This all  made for a very crabby mommy. We have been using the bedwetting alarm for 2+ months now, and I understand that at times the alarm might  not wake him up. BUT, if it wakes him up enough for him to switch it off, then I expect him to get up out of bed and take care of business.

Hubby and I decided that as a consequence for Adam’s actions, he will spend the entire day in his room with no toys and no books. I credit John Rosemond for this concept and, while it’s certainly not easy to implement and stick with, it does serve as a compelling consequence.

It strikes me that Adam is nearly five years old, and more and more we need to hold him accountable for his decisions.  In doing so, we need to use consequences that will fully get his attention. It strikes me how ineffective it is to engage in what Rosemond calls “yada-yada discipline” in which the parent uses explanations, talking, etc., as the primary means of trying to get a child to change his/her behavior.


“You’re not the boss of me” — Tales from the trenches August 11, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — lotsofopinions @ 4:29 pm
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Lately, my 4yo son Adam seems determined to show his dad and me, once and for all, that we cannot tell him when and whether to eat or go potty.

(He is right, of course.)

He has developed a pattern where he will complain and complain about being hungry, then when food is served, he eats very little or nothing at all (without much regard for whether it is a favorite food of his or not).

Dealing with this one is fairly straightforward. We have set times, generally, for breakfast, snacks, and dinner. He is welcome to eat or not to eat what is served to him. No snacks until the next snack- or meal-time. We try to keep our response to his choices very low-key or even matter-of-factly cheerful. We also use a timer sometimes to limit the amount of time he can spend dilly-dallying at the table. This is a great strategy because it eliminates the tendency for us to do the following: remind, cajole, bargain, plead, etc. In other words, if we are not invested in the outcome (whether or not he eats), we remove as much drama from the situation as possible.

The potty issue is a bit more complex. Over the last few months, Adam increasingly did the “potty dance” instead of just going potty when he had to go. We dealt with this a few different ways, but finally decided to ignore the potty dance completely. During that time period, one time he completely wet himself while we were in our basement (the potty was on the next floor, but the main problem was that he had waited so incredibly long that once it started flowing, he couldn’t stop it).

Over the last few days, this is the situation we find ourself in: Adam does the potty dance more and more intensely, all the while his dad and I completely ignore the entire issue. After all, as long as a toilet is available to him, and he knows perfectly well how to use it, why should we comment on potty matters at all? If he does get his underpants wet (more than a trivial amount), then into his room he goes for the rest of the day, with only books to keep him company. [If we need to go on errands or take his younger brother for an outing, then Adam can participate only marginally. For example, if his brother is playing in the kiddie pool, Adam is allowed to sit and watch but not play.]

It is so difficult to see him land in his room for the rest of the day. However, he is choosing this “withholding” behavior and no one can decide for him to make different choices. He seems determined to show us that “You’re not the boss of me,” and, well, he is right! He can pee in his underwear every day for the next month if he chooses to. Our job is to show him that his choices have consequences.

This is certainly not the first time that he has used urination as a means of control. He seems rather hung up on “control” in other areas as well. It seems to me that he is apt to take a simple activity like playing catch, and hijack it so that he is doing something completely different from playing by the “rules” of catch. I see how easygoing other kids his age are, and I realize that our Adam just does not want to fit into any mold that someone else has created.

Circle time with songs and activities? Forget it. Craft projects where other kids are having a blast? Forget it. I have this vision of him in kindergarten, and while the other kids are practicing writing the letter of the day, Adam is sitting there scowling and saying “I just don’t want to.”

“I just don’t want to” and “You’re not the boss of me” are his thing right now. Here’s hoping he will move past them at some point in the near future.


Lots of silver linings to be found in conflict with MIL July 14, 2009

About a month ago, I had a major blow-out with my MIL. At that point, DH and I decided to discontinue the longstanding babysitting schedule (2 afternoons/week plus 1 overnight/week) until/unless the underlying issues could be resolved.

We have discovered since then that there are many upsides to this otherwise ugly situation.

  1. I don’t need to schedule around the babysitting schedule, therefore, I have a lot more freedom when it comes to scheduling activities, appointments, and so on.
  2. I don’t have to see MIL 3 times per week , which has ratcheted down my stress level several notches. More often than not, after she would stop by to pick up Kid_1, I would feel aggravated or stressed from something she had said or done.
  3. Related to the above point — we don’t need to explain or justify our parenting decisions to her on a regular basis. Case in point — Last week I decided to become very regimented with Kid_1’s nap schedule (inspired by a recent column from John Rosemond), AND I didn’t need to go through the hassle and stress of explaining it to her, AND Kid_1 has been napping very well lately, partly due to him being home every afternoon to nap.
  4. Related to Point 2 – Certain discipline strategies (such as John Rosemond’s ticket system) are more effective when we don’t need to take into account the “Oh yeah, Adam is going to Grandma’s this afternoon, now what?” factor.
  5. We have more time together as a family, because DH doesn’t have to pick up Kid_2 after work from MIL’s place 2 times per week. Any mom or dad knows that getting home at, say, 4:30 is a lot different from getting home at 5:00 or later.
  6. I don’t have to deal with Kid_1’s “re-entry phase” after he gets home from Grandma’s house 3 times per week.
  7. Since MIL lives in town, we have done a lot of holidays and activities together in the past (which has had its pluses, to be sure). But now that we don’t have the option to pick up the phone and invite her over for things like the 4th of July, our family time feels more like family time. We are more relaxed, more spontaneous, and don’t need to worry about what “someone else” will think of our decisions.

Of course, there have been plenty of downsides to this conflict with my MIL, and we certainly don’t want her out of our lives completely. To that end, DH has met with a family therapist to see if we can resolve the ongoing issues that are between us (this process is still in its early stages).

MIL still sees Kid_1 and Kid_2 about once per week, because it is not our intent to “keep her” from seeing the boys. But we are very pleased with our deicision to pull the plug on the former babysitting schedule, not because we want to be mean to her or get back at her. We just have to do what’s best for our family, no matter how angry she becomes as a result.


4yo is a real piece of work lately July 13, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — lotsofopinions @ 2:14 pm
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Wow. I don’t know what has gotten into Kid_1 (almost 4 yrs old) over the last few days. Over the weekend we did some fun activities together as a family — a nice change of pace from the usual weekends where DH works on the house and yard while I care for the kids. During these family activites, and during other times as well, Kid_1 showed himself to be sour, whiney, argumentative, and uncooperative.

In a way I am glad that this occurred over the weekend, because DH had the opportunity to get the full picture about Kid_1’s behavior and attitude. The more DH and I are on the same page about things, the easier it is to make decisions together and to support each other.

This morning, Kid_1 has been a real piece of work, pushing buttons all through breakfast. He has four tickets for the whole day, and has lost two tickets already (if he loses all tickets, he is grounded to his room for the rest of the day). I am making an effort to be consistent about the rule that whining, arguing, and sassing are NOT ALLOWED; that is, if I give too many warnings, that just means that I’m allowing the behavior.

I find it is trickier to be consistent about matters of the attitude and tongue than it is to be consistent about things like “You must ask permission before going outside.” When I really think aobut it, I probably am too lenient with matters of the tongue and attitude. Well…. I will need to do some serious thinking about that!


Dealing with a 4yo’s endless questions July 1, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — lotsofopinions @ 1:31 pm
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Adam, who is almost 4 years old, asks lots and lots of questions. Sometimes he seems genuinely curious to know how something works or why something happened. Other times, he seems to want to just hear himself talk (and engage his dad or me in the process). Listening to and answering the genuine questions can be tiring, as all parents know; dealing with the other type of questions can be downright exhausting and aggravating.

Adam asks more of the “aggravating” questions when he is low on sleep. I theorize that because he doesn’t feel too great, physically and emotionally, he wants to constantly engage Mom or Dad into his world to make things more bearable for himself. Another factor is often his desire to exert control. If he can engage Mom or Dad with him, and perhaps aggravate Mom or Dad in the process, then he has some control over his world.

As the parent, I have to decide how to deal with the constant stream of questions. My goals are to

  • show respect for his curiosity
  • provide information in response to his inquiries (“Where does snow come from?”)
  • teach him that Mom and Dad are not always, 100% of the time, available to him for his wants (as opposed to his needs). That is, just because he WANTS Mom’s attention at a given moment doesn’t mean that he’s going to get it.
  • and further, that there is a difference between a genuine question and other questions, and that he will get a more positive response to genuine questions. (If he asks, “Did you put honey in it?” the moment after he observes me putting honey in his oatmeal, this is different from asking “Where does honey come from?”)

John Rosemond has a technique for dealing with endless questions, which I have instituted this morning, in an effort to conserve my sanity so it lasts past 11:00 a.m. I taped five strips of paper to a kitchen cabinet. Each strip is a “question ticket” which Adam can use to get an answer to a question. I told Adam that these tickets are what he has available to him from now until lunchtime, and that when he runs out of tickets, I won’t answer any more questions unless I deem it necessary. (Note, I don’t charge a ticket for questions such as “Can I go outside to play?”)

Here is how it works:

     Adam: blah blah blah blah blah, then what would we do?

     Mom: Question ticket?

    Adam: No. {Exchange ends here.}

So far, so good. Adam caught on immediately that he wasn’t going to get much of a payoff for his endless inquiries, aside from my rather blah response of “Question ticket?”

I am aware of how politically incorrect it is to treat every one of a child’s questions with anything other than awe and respect. But I believe that there is a lot going on here besides a child’s natural curiosity, and for that reason, a more complex response is called for.

The bottom line is that as a parent, I have a responsibility to teach my child about boundaries (Mom and Dad aren’t at his beck and call) and about the need for him to exert self-control (in other words, for him to not blurt out every single thing that comes to his mind). In the process, I also have a responsiblity to show my child the curiosity is a good thing, and that he can learn about the world around him by asking questions.