Karina has learned the exasperating art of talking back. I don't need to teach her the concept of "opposites", she is already a pro at that. She has also learned the technique of threatening. Here are some examples:
(Mom observing Karina doing homework)
Mom: Karina, I don't think that is right. You've written it wrongly.
Karina: Noooo. It's correct. Who say it's wrong?
Mom: Look at how teacher writes it. That line must be longer mah.
Karina: Mom, just let me be (obviously a line she adopted from our reading of Green Eggs and Ham).
Mom: Karina look at this mess. Please clean it up.
Karina: Clean, clean, clean. Everyday must clean. Hoiyo! I have no time already.
Mom: No time for what? (scratching head).
What is a parent to do? Manners and compliance is what every parent strives for. It can really hit high-strung nerves when a child decides to use rebellious talk. Well, I contemplated on the matter and came up with a plan during last night's end-of-the-day evaluations with my husband (yes, I'm am actually doing what I said I would do in my Anger Management posting).
- Acknowledge our role in the development of this habit. Recognize the fact that we throw a lot of negativity her way e.g. "Karina don't", "no Karina," "Karina why you...."
So, the plan is to sing praises before belting out criticism. It's not healthy for them to live in a negative world; it does nothing for the child's self esteem. What it does is teaches them to be on the defensive and to put up a wall to counter the attacks. We have to put more effort in how we say things. Like what Mary Poppins say "A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, the medicine go down, the medicine go down...."
- Acknowledge her feelings. This is something we haven't been doing too well. We get too caught up in our own emotions and focus more on letting her know ANGRY we are. She obviously has learned to do the same thing. So the plan is to acknowledge her feelings and also pay more attention on how we express ourselves. Not just to lash out but use words to explain why we are angry. For example:
Don't say: "Stop fighting both of you. If not I will throw the both of you out of this house."
Say: "Stop fighting. It upsets me that you both can't get along. The noise is giving me a headache. Furthermore, you are going to hurt each other if you fight like that. I don't want you getting hurt. Karina, I know you are very angry now. Let's see how you can show your anger in a better way and then let's find a solution to this."
- Stop the labelling. Phrases like "you always" and "you never" seem to tumble out automatically. In our fits of anger we also tend to say things like "naughty boy," "lazy girl" and "cry baby." But I noticed that my children are uncomfortable with that kind of branding and that's why they fight back. Children have an innate desire to be good and they will act according to what you label them to be. The following was an experiment I did:
(Karina is throwing a fit)
Mom: Stop it please. Just look at youself jumping up and down. You are acting like a monster.
Karina: Don't say that. You say bad words (and carries on with her wailing and jumping).
Mom: Come on, you're my good girl right?
Karina: Nods her head.
Mom: Little princesses don't jump up and down. They speak properly. Can you do that?
Karina: (Stops throwing fits and calms down).
- End the day by highlighting all the things they did well. The family always gets together for storytime, scripture reading and family prayer before saying good nights. From today onwards one more thing shall be added... feel good time. As humans we naturally want to dwell on the negatives even though it doesn't do us any good. Take for example a typical conversation after a golf game (all golfers will identify with this). What do golfers talk about? Not about the 30 foot birdie putt they sank but rather the 3 foot putt they missed.
Well, I'm opting for the better choice. I'm going to celebrate the little victories with my children rather then dwell on their failures.
Ok, I pray I will have the strength and self discipline to carry out my plan. Let's see if it works. If anyone has any other ideas, please feel free to share.