Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The one with the ice cream

Dear Dad,
I need some advice, especially since I don't want to end up in an insane asylum. I have 2 daughters, age 13 and six, and of course they do not get along. My husband just started a job that leaves me alone with them in the evening. I'm very pregnant and have no energy to deal with their bickering. I don't want to complain to my husband, because it just stresses him out more while he's at work. I just spent the past 10 minutes screaming at them to stop fighting and now I have a headache, which makes me even crankier. The kids don't dare act out to this extent when my husband is home. I wouldn't say I'm a pushover, but they seem to think I am. Honestly, I rarely give in. Part of it is because my oldest had behavior issues and was always the one getting in trouble. My youngest grew up seeing this and eventually learned how to keep getting her in trouble. Even though this is no longer the case, the youngest keeps trying her hardest to get the oldest in trouble, but it just gets her in trouble. I don't want to dread him going to work. I need this to change NOW, before the new baby comes in July.
Dear 'Very Pregnant',
The good news is by the time your new addition is six and temperamental, your oldest will be 19. Silver linings are always a good thing. 
My wife and I were just discussing our children's meltdowns, and how they seem to all take turns being out of control, and how our "middle child" (by 2 minutes) has mastered the art of getting her sisters in trouble. She also has a tendency of trying to get everyone to do everything for her (her new thing is getting her sisters to put on her socks). We get frustrated and I can certainly relate to your headache. Parenting can be an extremely tough job at times.
My advice is to have a discussion with your husband and advise him of what is going on while he is away at work. I believe it is important for the two of you to be on the same page and for him to be aware of what is going on. I wouldn't turn to him asking him to fix it, but have him read this post so he can be part of the solution. I think you should sit down as a united front and have a family meeting where you advise your children that this behavior will not be tolerated and that good behavior must be consistent whether dad is around or not. I think you may need to physically separate the children when they act up. I would give them books to read and disallow any other activities (no playing, no television, no computer, etc.). This is the latest method of discipline we have come to, and it seems to be working.
In our family, we have a "R-E-S-P-E-C-T system" in place (that I'm proud to say our oldest daughter developed from our old 'point system'). Each day, the girls have to earn a letter via good behavior and they have "three strikes" before they lose that day's letter. Sunday they earn the 'R' the following Saturday they earn the 'T', etc. If they earn at least five letters of the word 'respect' during the week, they are rewarded with ice cream for dessert the following Sunday. If they earn the entire word 'respect', they get to put toppings on the sundae and receive a double scoop. This not only serves as positive reinforcement for the girls, but also helps us curb their asking for dessert every night. If they do something like hit each other, or perform a blatant act of disrespect, it is automatic "three strikes you are out," and they are sent to their rooms with only a book, no letter for the day (please note: reading is certainly not punishment, but this is a great way to help your child redirect, regroup and calm down).
Give it a whirl for a month and see if you can get your girls to change/improve their behavior. I would also ask them if something is going on at school or with their friends. Sometimes kids act out as a way of communicating to us that all is not well in their often stressful and hectic worlds (and we often forget as parents how stressful and hectic childhood can actually be). Good luck and keep us updated!
Every family has a different means of discipline as their go-to for dealing with children when they are defiant. What method of discipline works for your family? 

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