Monday, December 8, 2008

Lately I've been feeling like I don't know what the hell I'm doing with Sula. I thought it was pretty easy: you put the kid in her room when she's misbehaving, maybe throw in a spanking or two, and ta da! Problem solved!

Well, guess what--it ain't workin' that way. For one thing, the spankings feel all wrong. I don't like giving spankings. It makes me feel like I'm losing control, like I am not, in fact, in charge.

I read that successful discipline needs to entail anticipation--you have anticipate that the kid will chew with her mouth open 6 times in row, despite your having told her to close her mouth while chewing, and then be all ready to calmly explain that, since she's disobeyed, you're taking away her cars.

The kid is now in her room and you're collecting little cars off her rug, from between the books on the book shelf, and out of the toy box, feeling like you're on a weird Easter Egg hunt. You're feeling weird altogether, because is this going to work? The cars are all in a basket now and you show them to her, then lift the basket to the top shelf of her closet. You close the closet. You leave her room, shutting the door behind you.

She cries, she yells, she kicks her feet. She is being awful. You think there's something wrong with her. You think there's something wrong with you. You wish you hadn't promised, last night, during the wonderful conversation you had with your husband about installing a Parenting Plan, to stop giving spankings. A spanking would work great right now. It would shock her, it would scare her. She'd know you meant what you said. But afterwards, you know, you'd feel like a jerk. Most of all, you'd feel like you can't control yourself around a 4-year-old. It would scare YOU a little.

Eventually she comes out of her room. She's still being bratty, but you can tell she's exhausted. She's also hungry. She doesn't mention the cars but she's got one clutched in her hand; you consider demanding it and putting it with the others, but decide not to.

She finishes eating. You give her a bath, no playing. You put her in bed, no book. You tell her she's been a bad girl and you're not happy with her. She's crying when you leave the room.

You sit back down at the kitchen table and think of her hand holding onto the little car. After a while you go back into her room and kneel beside her bed, rubbing her forehead. You tell her you love her.

Sitting there, you wonder at the fact that you feel so lost.

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