Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tools of the Trade

I need new tools for parenting the Reds. My arsenal is empty and obviously, hollering at the Reds all the time is not doing them - or the world - any favours.

Time-outs work most of the time, but today I forgot to call Matthew out of one until his pitiful request floated down the stairwell: "Mummy? Can I be done in Time-Out now? I have to poo!"

I need coping strategies for the Witching Hour, the first hour of every day when I'm trying to herd sleepy leprechauns into frozen boots and a cold car. I need patience tips for potty-training and fussy eating, too.

I need help reigning in my own ferocious temper and my need to control everyone, all the time.

I need advice about how to entertain them without wanting to stab out my own eyes and please, PLEASE can someone help me with the tattle-taling? I am going to hurl myself out the stinkin' window if ONE MORE little boy begins a sentence this way:

"Mummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmyyy....he hit/stepped on/took my/ate the/looked at me/called me/said/swore at me/broke my/breathed...."

Bring your best stuff, people.


And thank you.


  1. Well, shit. That's a tall order.

    Here's what I've got, since I've sunk back to working full-time for a bit:
    prep the night before (lay the kids clothes out, granola bars, fill the travel sippies in fridge, coats and backpacks by the door, what have you). Every little bit helps;

    simplify - can Luke go to daycare in warm-fuzzy PJs and pack his clothes; can you allow yourself easy-cook meals like frozen pizza, ravioli, and sandwiches on your work days; skip the brewing and allow your self Tim H's a couple times a week. You're welcome.

    lower the bar - and I mean this in the nicest way possible. I'm dreadfully sick with this pregnancy, so our bar is lower than I'd recommend at the moment. But think - where can I mentally relax my standards? Daily bath? Not necessary (unless is chills them the heck out. Then 2x day). Dusting and mopping - let it go. I dunno, you have to figure out what you can compromise on and still feel comfortable. But I find that slashing the mental to-do list makes the stress levels drop and constant bickering easier to deal with (read: ignore). Heh.

    There ya go. Nothing deep, but it's what I've got. I applaud you for setting such a great goal. Keep taking steps, but don't kick yourself for being human. And a pretty fantastic human, at that.

  2. It's been so long since Kenz was that age, I don't remember. Plus, there was only one. All I know is the big thing now is to pick my battles. We don't fight over what she wears (she hasn't yet got to the trashy and inappropriate stage) or how she does her hair. When I tell her to tidy her room, I let her do it to her standards, not mine, most of the time. I don't even fight with her so much over what she eats because really, it would take years of bad eating to bring on some of the effects of malnutrition and by then I'm quite sure she will have eaten at least one vegetable. But on the eating front, I also don't reward with dessert if the proper meal is barely touched. Again, I know it's different because she's nine (almost 10 - sob!) and can easily comprehend our conversations. Matthew is getting there, and having one you can negotiate with might make things a little easier.

    Other than that, I agree with all the things Rachel said. Your own preparedness and re-adjustment of priorities will greatly help you through this transition. Being a working mom gets easier. I promise.

  3. Stop trying to be super mom. Yell when you feel the need, even if in the day it's all day. It's not going to hurt them. Praise them when you don't have to yell. Stop beating yourself up when you do. It's called being a parent. We are not here to be friends with our kids, we are here to teach them, sometimes we have to teach them there are consequences to their actions and I'd rather be a yelling mom with a temper, then let society teach them another way.
    He'll go Potty, when he's ready to. They will get the routine down when they are ready and yelling is not a big issue in the grand scheme of things.
    You love your children, they know it. You’re trying to teach and protect your children. They know that too. They biologically have the attention span of nats, yelling is sometimes needed to have them focus and accomplish what is being requested of them. Stop measuring yourself against anything else other then the mirror. If you need to yell, Time out, count to five in a loud voice then do so.
    Worst case is your kids will grow up, knowing how to behave, what is expected of them and that bad behaviour will have repercussions. They will know that people can get angry, but that's ok because there is forgiveness and tomorrow is another day to try. Mistakes can be made and learned from. That emotion is part of life and everything is not calm and appropriate.
    All round just chill out, who cares if someone tattles, just say thank-you, deal with it if you must or ignore it. The tattle teller will stop if there are no results, just redirect and tell them to deal with it with their words. Look up Kelso’s choices.
    Walk away when you need to, drink wine when necessary and just know the yelling will slow down, then we get to get good at the guilt trips and disappointed looks.

  4. Gosh, I only have one and am some times overwhelmed with all I have to do to just get one out the door on time. Rachael has some good ideas. I know that when I do make Anthony's school lunch and lay out his school clothes the night before things run much smoother. But some times I am just so dog tired at the end of the day, the last thing I want to do after I put him in bed is start working on stuff for the next day. Maybe I will start prepping lunch while I'm making dinner instead... never thought of that before.

    As for the fussy eating I've only ever had one rule -Eat one bite of everything on the plate and if you don't want to finish it you don't have to. One bite. Some nights this means he takes a total of 4 bites from his plate and doesn't finish his meal, goes to bed and wakes up hungry and eats a lot of breakfast the next morning. He isn't dead yet. ;)

    Potty training. Man was that a frustrating phase. Patience tips: Just reassure him that it was just an accident and he'll do better next time. I think vocalizing that point actually does better to reassure you than him and helps you from blowing your top when you know he obviously just didn't want to stop playing long enough to use the toilet. Also, keep in mind that it is thankfully just a phase and he won't be going in his pants the rest of his life. He will find something else to be stubborn about -like practicing his handwriting. ;)

    As for the Witching Hour -what I have found to work really, really well is to send him on a mission while I am cooking. At this point he enjoys doing little activity books that have dot-to-dots, word searches, picture problems (ie: find the differences between 2 pictures) and will gladly sit in the living room doing the work book while listening to some Christmas music. :)

    Good luck!!

  5. I am generally not a person to offer parenting advice as I too often find my outside voice gets too much exercise where my 3 monkeys are concerned.

    Currently I am a stay at home mom but when I only had 2 monkeys I went back to work part time and I do remember the extra stress. I agree with the others that night before prep is a must! Short of caffine injections before rising there is no other hope for me. My advice may initially seem like extra work but it has worked for me in the past.

    Currently (and for the last 4 years) hubby travels for work. This often leaves me at home with my 3 monkeys (8,5 and 22mths). This may be why I yell but I am trying to take inspiration from you. That being said I am often in single parent mode a couple weeks a month at least. Creative parenting is the name of the game. It's the only way I stay sane.
    Look at Matthew as an untapped asset who is ready to take on more. He will love the idea of being the "big guy" (after a couple of weeks of training). During the arsnic hours ~ post school pre bed, have him lay out his clothes for the next day and help his brother do the same. Once he gets that down have him help pack the next days lunches by adding the drinks and snacks to their kits. Verbal praise is great but a couple of shiney quarters can go a long way. If they can manage to work together give little bro a quarter too for being a good helper to his brother (he could unpack the backpack or something. Cadence loves to empty the kids backpacks when they get home from school, although this was entirley her idea at first, she now does it daily (with reminders) and even puts the lunch pails in the kitchen ~ most of the time;)

    The tattletail deamon is my nemisis and although I would love to tell you that there is some way to defeat it I have yet to find a way. The tattletale monster is at large in my home as well. Many days I have wished for higher windows! I have found ways to cull it's rein and protect my sanity which I will share. Have a tattle jar - sounds silly but it works. The rules will need to be slackened for Luke but it still applies. Set your limit and stick to it. 3 warnings and all parties get time outs and a contribution to the jar. In my house it's nickles and quarters (except for Cadence) because the kids get the weekly allowance ($1,2) they value it's worth and think twice before tattling a fourth time. Yet my jar still grows! When it's full use the contents to buy yourself flowers or donate to charity...whatever.

    Remember music??? Remember singing along with enthuasium? Dancing to the beat? Listening to music can dramaticly alter your mood - and a set of earphones and an mp3 player can block out the cry of the tattlemonster so you don't even need to listen to it while you ignore. Which does work some of the time. Instant mute can see them but you can't hear them. I have noticed with amazement myself dancing around the kitchen or singing a tune more often then ever before. I also find that when I do take them off from my brief repreive I am calmer, happier and the yelling monster is at rest.

    Most importantly remember that you will find your groove. One day in the not so distant future you will think....thank God thats over!!!!

    (taken from
    "I did read a suggestion about a teacher who had a "Tattle Turtle". She had gone to Build-A-Bear and made a stuffed turtle. Then she made a shirt for it that read "Tattle Turtle". She told the kids if they needed to tattle they could tell the turtle & not her. Of course, she would listen to legitamate complaints. She said the Tattle Turtle really worked and it cut down on the tattle-telling drastically."

    "I have even heard of people putting a "phone" in their room for the kids to pick up and call someone to tattle."

    "In my class I actually just have a tattle can . i have the words listening can and picture of an ear.(it one of those metal coffee cans with a lid) It sits on a shelf where the child can reach, the tell their tattles in the can( use metal because it gives an echo and they hear their voice) after they tell their tattles they close the lid . At outside time, which is at the end of the day for both my morning and afternoon kids I or the assisstant take the can outside open lid and let tattles fly away. The kids really don't tattle to me any more but I can hear them if they have an issue I need to address."

    "I am trying to work on their problem solving and communication skills in this area. If they come to me with a tattle where no one is sick or in danger, I will send them back to talk to the offender (Did you tell them that it makes you sad when they yell at you?) It takes up more of my time, but I feel like I'm actually training [I think she meant to say Teaching] them, instead of just making my life easier."


    A wise nurse shared this info with me:

    The Parent decides what is being served, and When it will be served. The Child chooses whether or not they want to eat, and What on their plate they will eat.

    I added another element of my own to this: I decide how much of each food group goes onto the initial serving of the meal. All that was given needs to be consumed before requests for "just noodles mummy" will be entertained.

    THAT'S IT. No "eat this first, then you can have that" negotiations, no struggles period.

    SERIOUS FUSSY EATERS - like from day one of solids being given:

    I believe that the serious fussies have not been given ample opportunity to play with food at an early age (like 4- 6 months onwards). Without getting long-winded as to why this is important, let's just go with the assumption that it is.

    To address the fussiness towards certain foods that you believe they need to have as part of their diet, try the following:
    Set aside a play time for the child to re-discover the food they can't go near. Let them touch it, smell it, squash it, squish it. Do whatever they want to do with it with their hands. Once in the swing of this playful moment, move towards experimenting with it in the mouth - but not for the purpose of eating. When doing mouth fun, the nose automatically gets involved. Unless the child in question is very sensitive to certain textures that make him shudder with revulsion, this whole exercise should work.

    BTW - this is all theory. My kids have yet to demonstrate any pickyness of a serious degree.

    I am also serious about feeding my kids a meal supplement in the morning that I add to a Strawberry smoothie. This is what I use:
    I add it to frozen berries, plain yogurt, honey & milk. I love it and so do my kids. As long as they've had this for breakfast, I am way more relaxed about their eating habits during the day. Less stress for all!


    Make sure you have snacks available for witching hours. And diluted juice.
    That seems to be my biggest problem. They are always freaking hungry, and get all whiny on my ass. Snacks, beverages, and tv/movies.

    If its nice out - send them out back and lock the door till you are ready to deal. My mom said that's ok to do.


  9. reigning in my own ferocious temper and my need to control everyone, all the time:

    Learn to let go. Pick your battles. Would you rather have an angry tense moment, or a slightly amused one?

    We are what we think. Your perspective determines how everything is going to pan out that day.

    “I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather.

    I possess tremendous power to make a life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate, hurt or heal.

    In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a person humanized or dehumanized.

    If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of being.”

    -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    Also, give yourself time to calm down. COUNT TO TEN or MORE if you need it. This is scientifically guaranteed to help.

    When you think your child needs a time out - check and make sure that it really is the child and not YOU who needs the time out. If your tone of voice is getting strained or stressed in any way - you probably need a time out. This can be a moment to laugh, or even a moment in seclusion.