Sunday, May 24, 2009

A question for all you child-rearing experts

Which, you know, basically means "any parent that reads this."

Or, it doesn't even have to be a parent. Anyone who has an opinion about kids should feel free to weigh in. A teacher, a counselor, a babysitter. Or even anyone who raises, say, hamsters. Because you never know. Maybe someone with hamsters has the same problem and has found a better way to handle it.

This is actually a problem we run into year-round, but I know from experience that will only get worse now that summer is officially here.

In a nutshell, I like to stay busy with my kids. And since we have so much more free time in the summer, I have a tendency to plan way more stuff. Water parks, museums, local swimming pools, movies, bowling, playdates .... you name it, we typically have *something* planned every day. Not necessarily something that costs money, I'm all about parks and riding bikes and those kinds of activities as well.

I always have these high expectations, and visions of how these things will pan out. In my vision, my children are laughing, happy, grateful little munchkins who are always on their best behavior and smile and say thank you and frequently help little old ladies cross the street.

In reality ........... well ............ you know how it goes.

Seems inevitably *someone* is tired or crabby or frustrated. And nothing ruins the mood faster than a whiny, ungrateful little brat.

I'm totally not above canceling plans mid-stream if I don't like the way the kids are behaving. Case in point: last Sunday, the kids wanted icees after church. Half way to 7-11 they were arguing and sniping with one another in the car, so I made it a point to drive right past 7-11 without stopping, then go on home, telling them exactly why they weren't getting a treat that day. Usually there is outraged protest, then complaining that it was so-and-so's fault, then wheedling and pleading, then grudging acceptance.

But sadly, the lesson never seems to stick, and before too much longer, I'm canceling plans again.

Quite frankly, it really pisses me off.

My dilemma, however, is how to handle these situations during the summer, when more often than not, other people are involved as well.

If I've let the kids each invite a friend to the movies, and one kid is being argumentative right off, do I call all three friends and cancel the entire day? Then five kids are being punished for the behavior of one.

Now that we live near family, I've considered dropping the offender off at Grandma's and going about our day with the kids who behaved ... but I hate for Grandma's house to be equated with "punishment", and truth be told, Grandma Betty has a life of her own and I'm not sure it would be feasible to assume she can provide last minute baby-sitting for whichever kid is acting ugly.

And then do I have to UN-invite the friend? Or do I honor the invitation we've extended, and take the friend without my child?

What if I've already rsvp'd for a birthday party, or had another mom invite my child out to do something, and THEN my kid acts up? Do I mess up someone else's plans by canceling?

If our family has planned to go to the lake for the weekend, and I've already bought all the groceries and told our hosts we will be there, I don't want to cancel. And I certainly can't leave one kid behind.

What if I've paid in advance for an event, or pre-purchased tickets, and they are acting so bad I don't want to go? Do I make the child pay me back? And then *I'm* mad because everyone's plans were ruined?

What if we're meeting another family for an activity? What if *I* instigated the event? Do I then call the other mom and say, "Sorry, I know this whole afternoon was my idea, but my kids are being brats and we're not coming" ??

I think that's exactly what I *should* do, but in truth, I have a hard time doing it. Not because I'm embarrassed to admit my kids are mis-behaving (anyone who KNOWS my kids knows it happens) but because I feel GUILT when other people are involved.

And I think my kids know it.

So they mis-behave, and I get angry, and they apologize, and we go on about our day. And normally, we have a very good time doing whatever it is we have planned to do.

But there's no incentive to stop them from arguing and whining and complaining again the next time.

Does anyone else experience this at all?

How do you punish one without punishing them all?

And what about when other families or kids are included?

Honestly, I think my kids GET so much, that sometimes they forget to be grateful for it, and forget to appreciate it. Threatening to take away a swim date isn't that big a deal, because we go swimming several times a week.

How do people manage this?

(No, really, that's not a rhetorical question ... I really would like to know.)

Probably part of the problem is me, overscheduling my children. Maybe if they sat at home more often, they'd appreciate getting to do the fun things. But I feel like I sat at home so long with Kendrie, when she was too sick to get out and do much. Now, I don't want to miss a single opportunity for fun.

But really, it's not much fun when they're fussing and fighting before we're even out the door. Sometimes I feel like I'm begging them to act nice, so *I* can have the pleasure of taking *them* to do something fun.

Anyone else? Anyone????


Anonymous said...

I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that maybe you plan too much and that you should keep the kids at home more so that they'll appreciate getting out just that much more. When our kids were younger and they misbehaved when there was an activity planned for more than just our family, we continued with that activity but the ornery child wasn't allowed to participate. One of us would stay at home with the cranky one and any friend that they'd invited had the optionof going along with us (which is usually what happened) or not participating if they felt creeped out going along with the group without their friend. When one parent staying at home wasn't an option then the event was cancelled. Believe me, the other parents would totally understand what was going on and why we were cancelling and after having this done once or twice and then having to bear the annoyance of whatever friend that got dumped, our kids shaped up.
One of my favorite consequences for bad behavior was making the offending child be my 'slave' for a day (or a week, depending on the offense). Believe me, once you make a kid your slave once, they'll never want to do it again.
I don't know if any of this helps.
Susan in MN

Pam D said...

Honestly? I can give you advice all day long that sounds great (heck, I had about three or four--TEEN paragraphs typed up in reply and sounded like a Dr. Phil clone..). But I do a truly sucky job at keeping my boy motiviated. Things, activites, and free time all come too easy around here, so gratitude grazes in the far pasture instead of staying in a stall here at home. Less IS more.. and free time and fun activities are far more precious when they're rare and earned. But that means that WE, the parents, have to sacrifice having all that fun and free time, and who wants to do THAT? ugh. I'm going to slink away and try to not obsess over what an awful job I'm doing.. and YOU can certainly feel better knowing you're doing much better than me!

Anonymous said...

Long time luker here...finally decided to come out and comment. God knows I'm probably the last parent that should give advice (as mine are running around like wild Indians in the background) but here is my opinion. I think you are right, you probably do have too much planned. I also think guilt, whether it be from a past sick child or duel working parents, or whatever the reason may be is a parents worse enemy. My guilt button right now is with hubby being deployed, I always feel bad for being the mean one and disciplining all the time. Anyway, I think it is time to throw out the guilt machine and make the kids earn their summer activities and outings. Start up some sort of point system or something. Maybe if they have to earn the outing they will appriciate it more when they have it. And if the fighting continues during the outing they have earned, then I would continue with the outing, but make certain to let the offending child(ren) know that there will be a consequence for their actions when you get home. Just my two cents for what it is worth.
T.O. in TN

Anonymous said...

Well, I am of the mindset once you invite someone (or accept an invite), no fair cancelling. I do not have any problems with anyone else doing it, even if they do it to my kids. But I just can't.

How I would handle it is I would carry on with the planned activity, but any future ones would have to be earned, and would be farther into the future. They would have to wait awhile before getting another chance.

I used to go overboard feeling like I had to plan every minute to. But the truth is, my kids are happiest planning their own day and having alot of freetime. My 12 yr old son would rather spend hours with his friends playing in the woods/creek than to have me take him and friends Cosmic Bowling. My 9 and 7 yr olds would rather go play at their friends house than have a playdate at the park. The 15 yr old would rather ride bikes with friends. We still do alot of family things together, but I think as moms we get stuck in that younger childhood mindset of entertaining all the time and the truth is, kids our kids ages need their space. And alot of down time. Special activities should be just that, special.

It can get lonely letting go and letting them grow. I miss the days of feeling like Mother Goose with her flock. But they still need me for rides to places, lol. Once they get drivers Licences, it will *really* be lonely, lol.


Pam D said...

P.S. That "Chicken Soup for the Soul-Cancer Book" is incredible, inspiring, and tear-jerking. Becky's chapter just blows me away, but then again, just about everything she writes does that to me. Great book... I highly recommend it.

Natalie said...

First, let go of the guilt. Just let it go. After the time that has passed, I'm guessing no one is thinking, "We deserve to do this because we didn't get to do it when Kendrie was sick."

The best parenting advice I think I ever read was: let your kids get bored. I'm always amazed at the stuff you do with your kids. I hope your kids never tell my kids everything they get to do. There would be anarchy! Not only do we not have access to all the fun stuff you guys do, there's no way I could afford it even if we did! But even at that, I find that my kids definitely expect things, which we've been working on cutting down on.

Example: when several kids' movies come out at once, if we do have the budget to go to one, we go to ONE. The kids have to choose. Then we wait for the others on DVD. And we only go if they've saved up enough money in the "tax" jar to go (they earn money for chores. They keep 50 percent of what they earn. 25% goes in a college jar and 25% goes in a tax jar. When they want to do an activity, it comes out of the tax jar.).

Basically we're working on the expectation syndrome. In the summer, to keep them from arguing all the time, we follow a "schedule" that plans our day. It's divided up into play time with each other, outdoor time, chores, an activity (like a trip to the park, a scavenger hunt, a hike, etc.), free time, etc. We also have quiet time. Yep, they don't nap, but I still enforce about an hour of quiet time in the afternoon where they read or play games in their rooms so we all don't go stark raving mad.

I know it sounds like I'm a crazy schedule mother, but they actually like it and when we have a few days where we're out and about doing things, they are anxious to have days at home and get back on the routine. They've already asked about it for this summer.

So my suggestion is cut back. It will be difficult at first. You'll hear a lot of "Why aren't we. . ." You are so generous, Kristie! And if the kids do scrap or get into trouble, don't ruin the day for everyone. Cut an immediate privelege for the wrong-doer only and make their punishment personal to them. Example: Declan broke a rule recently and lost Wii for a week. It shaped him right up and didn't affect Finn at all. Now, that's just what happens to work for my kids.

Other ideas to curb the bickering: make sure they get tons of sleep--more than you think they need, even in the summer; and try cutting out the food additives. When Declan eats them, he goes completely bonkers--he's mean. Do an experiment without any of the preservatives, colors, etc. and see if it helps their behavior.

I hope this doesn't sound too preachy. It works in our house--not ALL of the time, but a majority of the time.

I think our generation of parents has somehow been programmed to feel like we have to be doing something for or with our kids all the time and now the kids have come to expect it. But my personal opinion is that we're doing them a huge disservice giving them so much and scheduling them 24/7. They need to learn how to hang out and be satisfied with what they've got!

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I think you should try fewer activities, maybe they are getting too used to them. My mom was home in the summers (a teacher) and we would do some "field trip" type actitvities, but most of the time we just hung out at home. When I think back to my childhood, I remember things like having breakfast on the balcony with mom, watching As The World Turns, things where we weren't really doing anything, but spending time together. When I started working in the schools 13 years ago, I had big dreams about taking my 6 and 11 year olds on cool day trips to the zoo, Fort Snelling, Science Museum. Um, never happened. It was just nice to be home, they could go play with friends and I would be waiting for them when they came home. We realized the overload factor on vacations when we would plan sightseeing things every day. We had to change that to a sightsee day, then a down day, to hang out at the campground or pool. Sure helped. Summer break to me means lots of down time to relax and enjoy summer-which I will be doing in 16 days! Good luck (and as our AP says on the morning announcements:Make it a good day. Or not. The choice is yours!)
Sheila Johnson-MN (facebook too)

Lauren said...

Wow, did you open the floodgates for us all or what? Regardless of what we say, I think the popularity of this topic comes from the fact that we all struggle with it.

I think you do schedule a lot of stuff, but that may not be wrong for your family. Maybe you do it out of guilt, and release after staying home with Kendrie for so long, but you also seem to like it yourself. I don't mean you do it for you, not them, but I mean you seem to love being social with family and friends, and doing fun things, so it seems natural that you'd schedule a lot of that stuff for your family. Before my kids started school, when we were homeschooling, we were out and about a lot too. I love movies, and after years of being restricted by having young kids and babysitter needs, I am delighted to go to almost every kids movie I can. Should I be spending that much money on movies? Probably not; like Natalie does, we could wait for DVD. But I so love being in the theater, and being with my kids there, that I indulge whenever I can.

On to your real question: I mostly don't discipline by the kind of punishment you're describing--canceling plans or ending fun outings. I don't for a couple of reasons--don't want to punish the other child, don't want to deprive myself of the activity, don't want to punish friends by canceling on them. But mostly I don't because I still vividly remember when I was punished that way as a child. I remember my tears and the disappointments and the fury, but not one bit of the lessons. I really think that, with kids, a dramatic loss of something that is really upsetting doesn't actually teach them anything--they just feel the pain but don't get the lesson. Hence the behaviors don't change.

I haven't solved this one myself, but here are some thoughts. We have worked out with Fergus that two things--hitting someone and angry namecalling--are both not tolerated in our family. His greatest privilege is the half hour (sometimes closer to an hour) he gets on the computer most days. When he hits or namecalls one of us, he loses that privilege for a day. If he is angry about that loss, and keeps it going, he loses another day. Norah doesn't pull that stuff yet, so we don't have a plan for her. Otherwise, I try to ignore (or just verbally address when I need to) cranky behavior. Intense whining--that's Norah's new skill--stops all action until the culprit can change the tone of voice and say what's necessary in a normal voice. But then we drive on, or continue on, to our plans. Really, I am glad no one can punish me for being cranky and irritable sometimes. With three kids and all the stuff you do, someone is most likely going to be cranky at some point. Maybe your expectations of perfect joy and gratitude need to be loosened up, for your sake and theirs? Plan the activities, but drop the fantasy part! :)

(continued--I'm getting cut off)

Lauren said...

I also agree with Natalie about the sleep part, but I don't seem able to control that very well. Fergus often has a hard time falling asleep, yet tends to wake early. If he doesn't get 10 hours consistently, and he often doesn't, his mood swings are crazy. He has far less control of himself and his feelings when tired. He is also pretty sensitive to sugar, and I have wondered about the very additives thing Natalie mentioned. Yet I'm not certain enough to try and eliminate them, nor do I feel like I'd be able to pull it off (I know, Natalie, I probably could manage it, but it seems overwhelming to me, so I'll just focus on the sleep part...!)

Good luck with all this Kristie, and I hope you find a balance for the summer that works for all of you. In all seriousness, I should add that since my kids go to this alternative little school where they have "council meetings," we have gained a tool for these situations. Anyone can call a meeting when they can't solve a problem with someone else; the meeting has a moderator, runs on Robert's Rules of Order (which my kids have taught me now), and gets to the heart of the issue quite nicely. Can be a bit of a pain when Fergus is cranky--he'll call meeting after meeting--but mostly it is a great way to see them work things out with each other and with us. But it probably works best because they learned it in school and brought it home to us; might not work as well going the other way? At home, when you aren't in the midst of a crisis, do you sit down and talk together about their behavior, how it makes you feel, how it makes you consider scheduling fewer activities? I imagine you do; what do the kids say? Maybe ask them what they think you should do if one of them is really spoiling it for everyone? Again, good luck, and if you find an answer, share it with all of us.


Anonymous said...

First of all, you're an amazing mom who knows your family best, so obviously this is just my OPINION based on my experience, and you have to do what works best for you.

That being said, with our kids we have them make a list at the beginning of the summer of things they want to do before the next school year starts. And believe me, it's not an extravagant list. But it's a list THEY come up with, and it generally includes going to the drive-in hot dog stand in the town I grew up in. Seriously... nothing extravagant. But they look forward to it. And they don't expect a lot. And they love it. And we check it off and go on to another thing on the list.

One thing we're really trying to squelch in our kids is the sense of entitlement that seems to prevalent in society. I don't just GET a paycheck. I have to work for it. And if I mouthed off to my boss and threw a pissy-fit, you can bet he wouldn't feel bad and give me a bonus.

On the other hand, being the mom of a formerly ill child, I truly get the need to do absolutely everything that you can do with your kids because there was a time when I didn't know if I'd ever take a walk holding my son's hand. So I cannot stand my kids being unhappy or lacking anything. On the other hand, now it's our job to teach them about the future that they're so blessed to have, and that includes teaching them about realistic expectations and responsibility and ditching the entitlement mentality. They're kids, and they ARE going to expect things. But when we don't bundle up everything that they ever wanted, they seem to appreciate what they get even more.

Our youngest son and I went on a date to a taco restaurant the other day, and he ordered what he wanted, which was simply a taco and a frozen drink. He seemed satisfied. When he was done I handed him some money and told him to go up and get another frozen drink and more food, and he said, "WHAT? Thanks!!!" Okay, that's kind of pathetic, right? But it was great to see him appreciate things and not complain and nag.

Okay....enough from me. Someone else's turn.

Claire in Indiana

Jeanette in GA said...

My 2 cents....

A: Let them get bored! Boredom is not that bad. Then they will be appreciative to do fun things.

B: Depends on the involvement of the other children as to whether to cancel. Or let them participate-say, go to the party- but then have them serve out their punishment when they get home. Your kids are old enough now that immediate punishment isn't necessary when they break a rule.

Or, sit down with your kids and make up family rules together, and have THEM suggest punishments for rule infractions... and agree as a family on the ones you all think are fair. That way, when a punishment is doled out, they can't scream "unfair" when it was their idea of punishment to begin with. :)

Anonymous said...

I think it's nice that you plan activities for your kids. Life is short, as is childhood. Enjoy every minute! I've made my kids pay for an event if they've behaved like nimrods. I've left kids home. I've dealt with them behaving like nimrods and when we got home, I made them clean the bathrooms. It's all part of the deal when you have more than one!

Anonymous said...

I agree.....scheduling too much only results in overwhelmed and stressed kids, destined to misbehave. Instead of threatening to take away the activity, why not use it as a teachable moment? Perhaps you'll be late in arriving for your event, but no one goes until the matter is analyzed and discussed. You'll feel better (less mad and more in control of their behavior) and they'll have to take responsibility for their actions. Sometimes that is enough to get your point across. I firmly believe that punishing everyone for the actions of one is unfair. Being late is better than not going at all. I've even pulled over to the side of the road and let the kids battle it out as to who's fault it was, and I would not start up again until the offender owned up to what they had done, and the others stopped moaning and moved on. It may take a long time at first, but once they catch on, peer pressure can be more of a "punishment" than grounding or cancelling plans. One essential tip here is that when the kids are fighting it out between themselves, I did my best to stay quiet and not get involved in THEIR squabble.......Even when they resounded with the unending chorus of: "MOM....MOM....MOOOMMMM......." Not answering asserted my power -- they didn't get my response or help until they stopped the fighting. Good luck!!!

Anonymous said...

We are always on the go. I love to be busy having fun with my kids. They are little just once. In addition to planning lots of fun activities for my kids, I make sure we regularly serve meals at a local shelter. It certainly makes them appreciate all that we have.

Erin said...

My mom raised three kids who fought constantly. If it makes you feel any better, all three of us are great friends now as adults and don't fight at all any more. We also behave quite well in public as adults and have great memories of all of our family outings even if they did invole a little drama along the way.

That being said, when my mom was frustrated with us, she was always very clear about how angry she felt or how disappointed she was in us. Not in a lecture, but more in an "I am stopping the car, getting out a breathing because I am so angry" kind of way. It always freaked us out to see our mother trying to control her emotions when we really pissed her off. She never yelled, just made it clear how hard she was working not to smack our heads together.

When I was 16, I did something really stupid before a family trip to New Hampshire to ski for a week. I remember that even though I got to go, I basically missed out on all of the fun because I was given every crappy job on the trip (cleaning our rooms, folding clothes, etc.) and was forced to sit out on some of the activities that would have been really fun. I have never forgotten the result of my behaviour. I suggest taking your misbehaving kid on the outing but sitting them on the side for a while for them to reflect on the result of their behaviour. But if all three are being brats, I would bite the bullet and stay home regardless of the consequences. Chores are great for those days.

Now that I have kids I know how hard my mom worked with the three of us and I try everyday to live up to her example.

debbie said...

I have 4 stepsons, all very close in age. This may not be popular, but this is what worked with us: If one kid really acted up, everyone was affected. We would have to leave en masse. My justification was that very seldom did bad behavior start in a vacuum. It didn't take too long before all the chaos ended, and if one kid started acting up, his brothers would quickly try to correct the problem so everyone wouldn't be in trouble. (although to this day they still talk about being "banned" from Burger King during a road trip to the kid acted up, we left mid-meal and never went to BK again) Yes, it was unfair to the behaving kids to leave a fun event b/c of a misbehaving sibling, but in the end it created a calm home life.
Debbie E.
Peachtree City, GA

Karen said...

You offered up a lot of different situations that could very well have varying answers. But, in general, I don't think you should cancel if other children are involved. That's just not fair. (I know, life's not fair) I would try to leave the offender out of the next trip and make it something that they really wanted to do. Have hope, my children at ages 21, 23, and 25 are best friends now and you never would have thought it when they were young.

Anonymous said...

My 2 cents, which isn't worth alot is to suggest that they choose what they want to do. Could it be a possibility that they don't want to go wherever they're going and that's why they start to fight? Let them each take a day of the week to plan something, and then you can fill in the other ones or they can be quiet, stay in days. If the children misbehave on each other's outings then they lose the right to choose their next one.

Just my thoughts based on what I've been learning this year.


Autumn said...

I try to make the punishment effect only the offending child. Not always easy and I'm not always successful. I would let them go to the b-day parties after RSVPing. If they invited a friend to the movies I would go through with it however AFTER the fact they should know that consequences are coming. I heard of one mother saying she made the offending child clean the van when they got home from somewhere, for 6 wks. It didn't matter what was in that van everyone but THAT child walked away and he did the carrying in and cleaning out. Maybe they will have to go to their room on movie night, or do supper clean-up, alone. Something that effects only them.

I have struggled with this, I have 4 boys who all came to us in less than 5 yrs. They are all teenagers now and I still don't have it all figured out but have learned a few things along the way.

Now I will go read the rest of the comments and see what else I can learn. :)

Stephanie D. said...

OK Kristie, you know I read you daily and think the world of you and your family.... so remember this is said with love & affection:

I got 2 words for you......DEFERRED GRATIFICATION!

Oh yeah, introduce the concept of deferred gratification to your children. My boys are 16 and 19 and they can tell you the exact meaning of those words. "You don't get what you want at the exact moment you want it... sometimes you have to wait for your reward and sometimes you have to EARN your reward." But... the reward is sweeter!!

That being said, I agree that perhaps you plan too much and the kids get to expect too much and it becomes their due that you are going to give them ALL their hearts desires... no matter how they behave. LOL! Kids, you gotta love them and always expect them to try to get away with as much as they can. Shoot, mine always did. I always gave them "points" for trying... and then smacked them down for "trying". *snort*

Enjoy your summer... they are only young once (sniff, sniff) and will grow up very fast! Just make sure that you enjoy the summer too. Keep a tight rein on the grumpies and I'm sure all will go well. Kristie, you really do rock at this motherhood thing.


P.S. Hope Blaine is feeing good these days!

Natalie said...

Wow! I'm just coming back on here to say that people have some really good ideas which I'm going to try and incorporate as well.

Anonymous said...


Longtime lurker here.... I'm always amazed at the number of activities you do with your kids. Perhaps a little more time at home would make them appreciate their activities more. In reality, when they are older, there will not be a fun day activity every day of the summer. It just isn't practacle (sp?). A little boredom and becoming creative is what summer is all about. As to punishments when they act up as you are running out the door, I would suggest what punishment it is is VERY severe early in the summer, and specific to the likes of that child. I would let them know early in the summer that past behavior will not be tolerated this year, and they can expect this behavior to be met with extreme punishment on the first offense. Hopefully, that will make the child think in the future. Just my 2 cents. Good luck.
Pam in WV.

Danielle said...

I think it is good you are acknowledging what you are doing now isn't quite working for you. I sometimes find it hard to pin down what motivates each child enough to change their behavior. When my kids act out they are usually telling me something more but I have to crack the code.
Reducing the number of activities a bit is worth a try. Might eliminate some of the taken for granted feelings. I do think earning fun things and activities is a much better way to go (the whole positive vs negative reinforcement thing). We have certainly learned in our travels we all need some do nothing down time.

I also do not think canceling when others are involved feels like the right thing to do even if the other people would understand. Perhaps the kids need some more reminding of what you expect from them specifically and what the consequences will be? I do hope you find a way to make your summer more pleasant. Parenting is hard.

Bree said...

Raising 4 kids, I feel your pain lol! I have a lot of the same issues that you do. The acting up, the guilt, etc etc. Normally I try different things for dealing with situations, for us some things work for awhile but later gets lost in the wash. So it's on to something new. Most of my suggestions were already mentioned by most of the commenters. I even learned a few new things I'll have to try :o) YAY a learning experience for all! I think the most important thing is that we aren't alone in our frustrations with parenting. & it's great to get others ideas on what helps them. Good Luck this summer! We aren't out of school just yet but I'm dreading the arguing already lol!

Anonymous said...

My kids do the same thing so I really have no suggestions...I kind of "fly by the seat of my pants" depending on how angry I am. I am sure it is not the approved method of discipline. So, I will be watching the responses to get some tips.
One of the most difficult tasks we have as parents is teaching our children graditude when they have so much.(Even when we are all struggling in tough economic times) It is hard for them to comprehend the majority of the world does not have the "luxuries" or even the basic necessities that they feel (or we feel, for that matter) they can't live without.
Milford, CT

Rachelle said...

Hi! LOOONNNNGGGGGG time lurker here as well! I admire all you do with your children. As a teacher, I feel "life" experiences for kids are the most valuable part of their education... whether with a friend learning how to give and take in a relationhip or a trip to the museum learning how DDP is made! :) You can't take those experiences and trade them for anything. SO many kiddos don't get that opportunity!
Honestly, I am in the same boat as far as arguing kids. What I have decided to do is take the offender with us... but not give them any of the extras that go along with the experience... ie... going to the pool but only being able to sit on the side and put their feet in, or going to the movie, but getting no treats/drinks to munch on, or going to dinner but YOU get to order their meal! I usually find the most healthy thing on the menu they like. :)

Thanks for the awesome job blogging!


Anonymous said...

I have no advice, because I have my own pack of ungreatful brats here.

I will how the HECK do you find the time to do all those activities, escort kids on travel teams, paint and redecorate rooms, make all those freaking costumes, have a house clean enough to host other people, and oh yea, blog???

Are you on the same calander as the rest of us? Because I only get 24 hours a day and I like to sleep for at least 6 of those.

I want whatever drugs Kristie is on!

Anonymous said...

I have a 9 year old with the same problem, and I have had to call her little friend's mom before and tell her that my daughter can't come over because she's now on restriction. However, when we have made plans with other people involved, and they aren't easily canceled, I generally let my daughter go through with her plans with the understanding that she must take her punishment in another form. For example, if we've agreed for her friend to spend the night, and we know her friend's parents have planned a date night, I'm not going to cancel at the last minute. Her friend will still come over. However, my daughter must first clean the bathroom, wipe the baseboards, fold laundry, or some such else, while her friend waits on her, before they can "have fun." Or, if we have planned an activity for them, such as bowling or the movies, or such, I explain to her friend that we had to cancel those plans because my daughter acted up. I understand where you're coming from, though. Regardless of what I do, the lessons seem to be short lived.


The other me said...

I have 6 kids...this has been the bane of my mothering existance for 25 years ( have 2 litters..23, 21, 20 and then 8, 7 and 5) only this year have I found something that works!
The week starts with stay close to home activities that cost next to nothing, we choose a doozy of a treat, zoo, water park, theme park etc for thursday / friday and they have to earn that, they get points for good behaviour and for doing chores etc, if they earn enough points by thursday they get to do they big day out, of they don't, oh well, park down the road it is.
I have learned that the more planned, more grand days out they have the more bratty and ungrateful they seem. One good day out a week works for us, the rest are all close to home picnics, scooter rides etc.
Also if they have to clean their room, put toys away, clean up etc before they go and we leave the house around 11am, the day flies by and we seem to get through without bloodhsed, if we leave early....sweet hell it's a long and miserable day!

Marie said...

I am so glad you raised this question because I have got TONS of great ideas from all the comments. I think you are an amazing Mom and you work so hard to give your kids wonderful childhoods. But my thinking is that it shouldn't be so much work. I also think I am inherently lazy but that's beside the point. ;) At the end of the school year I have each of my kids (they are still little 8, 6 and 3) make a list of things they would like to do over the summer. Very few of their "must do's" are complicated or even cost money. and many are things we can do over and over, like swimming at the pond or beach. I write up a master list and we try to hit as many of them as we can. I also add in some things I think would be fun too. I try not to schedule too much, there's that lazy thing again, but it's just too stressful. For me and for them. I like the phrase "the LAZY days of summer". My sister is the exact opposite of me and is on the go constantly. what works for me would not work for her and what works for her would probably be the death of me. Maybe you could try to find a balance between doing planned activities and just hanging out in the yard. I also think that it'd be hard to cancel if other people are involved. That being said, the offender should not get off scott free. There should be consequences. I lvoe the slave for a day idea one of your readers suggested. :)

Anonymous said...

I do not have children, but agree that maybe they have too much scheduled so they learn to epxect their schedules to be packed full and if one event gets cancelled, they will still get a summer of fun. I suggest scaling back on activities. Have them entertain themselves in the yard, with a book, indoor activities, whatever, with just each other. Friend acitivites should be limited so they can learn to enjoy and not expect them.
You seem to be an awesome mom!
Glad I just have kitties and a dog!

Anonymous said...

Me again. I had to put my words into to practice today. We were at the store. One son had a treat in the cart and the other had a treat in hand. Child A was saying, "Screw you!" (nice, very nice) while Child B was kicking him in the shin. The "rest of the story" was that it was because Child A did this because Child B did that because Child A did something else earlier in the day and at some point in the conversation all of their life's sins were spelled out by the other.

Bottom line....all purchases chosen by the kids immediately went back on the shelf and they thought the world had come to an end. I told them there were no warnings because I told them when they were five what the rules were and at 12 and 14 they should be very good at following them by now.

And the rest of the day has been lovely (so far).

It's sooooo hard to be consistent, but I trust that it'll pay off in the long run.

Claire in Indiana

Random said...

Erin and Rachelle have the key. The two things I remember most - even now - about my mother's discipline were:
1) Getting the outing without the fun. That is, not being allowed to go into the pool, not getting to play the party games, not getting to go on rides... whatever the outing was, I went along (so as not to spoil it for everyone), but didn't have the fun.
2) Having my friends be told what I had done to earn my punishment. No child wants their friends to know the tactics they resort to at home to get their way. They very quickly learn not to behave in a way they wouldn't want made public - or at least, I certainly did.

Cathy said...

Good Post and Good Comments. As parents sometimes we have to say NO and it breaks out hearts to restrict our kids when they are missing out on something fun or something good for them. But, they have to learn somehow. We all struggle as parents and we all do the best we can! You are doing a great job.

Bob said...

What's wrong with playing at home. You have a lake park close to home don't you. What's wrong in riding with friends in the neighborhood rather than Mom? Working on their own schedule won't hurt them. I believe kids should be kids sometime not have Mom make all the plans.

Anonymous said...

You are doing too much with your kids. You are not their friend but their mother. If you act like their friend they will treat you like they treat their friends.

Your kids are old enough where they should be doing things on their own, bike rides, hanging out with friends, pick up ball games, etc. They do not need an adult involved/directed activity with friends every day.

Kelley said...

My first instinct regarding this post has to do with the very first sentences. You are providing them with too much fun. Sorry. I know that that sounds strange but what's wrong with some "down time". Kids come to expect being entertained all day every day and it seems as if you'd always need to "one up" the day before. They are expecting a lot because they've become accustomed to a lot. My husband and I learned this in a similar (but different) way when we took our kids to Disney World for the THIRD time in a two-year period (total fluke). They were complete brats and didn't appreciate the experience at all...only moaned and groaned, complained about EVERY.SINGLE.THING. I later realized....that that was OUR fault, not theirs; no kids should be treated to Disney World that many times in two years...of course they were taking it for granted.

You do have a dilemma as it regards what to do in the moment; I so agree with your driving by the 7-11 but understand that that's not always feasible (when it involves spoiling it for other kids/families). As for my own, I don't mind having one ruin it for the other but, when outsiders are involved, that's a different story.

Lastly, this Summer, we have decided that each kid will get to choose an activity one day during the week. They are each providing me with a list and then I will fit those things into our schedule as time allows. We will have one day each week where they will help me around the house, we will have one "down" day with no plans and then one day will be flexible and either I will decide or we will decide together.

Good luck !!!

Estrelleta said...

If this happens, call off something else. Say something like "You know, I'd really like to cancel today's plans because ..., but it's not such-and-so's fault so instead .... . That way, the punishment can be for the person who deserves it and no one else. However, making them cancel plans involving other people (especially if you make the child call him/herself and explain that they misbehaved so the activity has to be canceled!) will certainly make them think twice about misbehaving.
Believe me, I know this from experience. I remember once, I made plans for a sleepover with a friend but I didn't ask my parents for permission. My parents made me call back and explained that I wasn't going to go. I never did that again.
Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Well, this is def. a hard one and one that I know a lot of us struggle with. I REALLY "get" that you want to do as much as you can now that you have the is embracing life, as I see it and being grateful for the normal time you have been given. Your head is in the right place there.

I have come to accept that my kids are never going to get the message on the first, second, third, etc time they are punished for something...I think that is why we have them for so many takes that dadgum long to teach them what we need to teach them...haha!

I don't think you need to cancel immediate plans. You are right, it interferes too much with everyone's day. My husband always wanted to leave a restaurant when my first born was acting up. I was all WHATEVER...he is ruining my fun now too. There is always a different way of handling situations and I know you will get much advice, but this is what I would try...sit them down and explain this so seriously what you intend on will not cancel the activity if it includes other people, oh, yes, they will get to go, but they will suffer AFTER the event. Now your job is to find their currency, so to speak...and enforce that punishment after the event. It has to be something that will really hurt (a fav. activity, food, sleepover, etc) that won't interfere with impending plans.

I feel your pain, girl and for goodness sake, share with us all if you find something that works.

Rachael J.

p.s. I just read some of the other comments. Like Natalie, I am a BIG supporter of quiet hour in their room a day can do wonders for EVERYONE!!! They will come to enjoy it I bet. Also, boredom fosters as adults includes tons of boredom that we have to know how to cope with. I am SOOOOO not a perfect parent...but I have founds some shocking things out in my almost 2 years in Africa. One, my baby who is now 5 can spend a CRAZY amount of time with the most miniscule toys or items because it is ALL THAT IS kids took a bunch of old game tix (like from Chucky Cheeses and made their own raffle for fun.) They are learning to make their own fun from virtually is great to watch...but it didn't come without all of the initial protesting. They just got bored!!!

René S said...

Boy were you brave to invite comments on this! I think the bottom line is you have to know your child's CURRENT "currency." What is most important to them and will motivate them to change behavior? At times, taking away the TV, computer, x-box have affected my son the most. Taking away play time with our neighbor has lost its effectiveness, but not allowing him to play with a friend who lives a little farther away is BIG right now. Taking away a stuffed animal is a big deal for my daughter. (BTW, I don't get this because she has too many. I don't understand why losing one is a big deal, but she will usually work really hard to earn these back. Go figure!) I am not above cancelling an event even if another family is involved. I have a harder time with missing baseball games. His team depends on him, so I don't usually use this. However, we don't let him stay to watch the next game or catch up with his friends and who won/lost. I think the most important thing is following through on what you say. (Oh if I could only follow that advice!)

I have been told that it is very important to allow discipline to be private. Don't fuss a child out in front of their peers. When one of my children is "restricted" and a neighbor comes to see if they can play, I might say they cannot play. We have a really nosy, annoying neighbor who often pushes it. I'll tell him that my child can't play until ___, but when he asks why, I tell him that is private information. Most kids don't push as much as this one does! Anyway, consider the confidentiality of your children in any consequences.

Sometimes I think we don't cancel social opportunities because we know we are punishing ourselves, but if that is what works, I think we have to do it. It is tricky to not embarass the child in the process, but sometimes we have to do it.

Having said all of that, I agree that sleep is essential. I also realize that some degree of sibling rivalry is normal. It feels like torment, but at least it is normal. Good luck. Know you won't be alone fighting the fight this summer!

Anonymous said...

already lots of suggestions and i didn't read them all but two thoughts: sometimes i ask the offending child to tell me what they think would be fair punishment (and I'm often surprised that they inflict something harsher than I would have). Second, I have at times cancelled something in the future - for instance, "that behaviour is unacceptable, I was planning on taking all of you bowling tomorrow and now we won't be going" - I agree that it's not fair to the other two so I don't do it often but it does get the message across because usually my problems involve at least two children, if not all three.

Good luck!

judi mitchell
franklin, ma

Anonymous said...

Simply cut back on activities. If every day is "special", then special doesn't mean special anymore, it means ordinary. KWIM?

Most families I know plan a "special" activity every other week or so. Sometimes a smaller one in the off weeks.

Learning to appreciate things and not take everything for granted is a great gift to give kids.


Toni R. said...

I don't have kids and I don't really have any advice because the advice given has been I think excellent. I do have a story though. I grew up on a farm and as such my parents were busy and really didn't have time to haul us around all summer. Most summers my brother and I went to one week long day camp of our choosing his was usually sports related and mine was a local girl scout day camp. We never went to the local pool because it was too far away, we did go swimming in the river near our house maybe two times during the summer. During the summer we hardly saw our friends, some summers I didn't see my friends until I went back to school in the fall. It was a big deal to go to the library once a week, or the grocery store. A very, very rare treat was to go to the Dairy Queen for ice cream. We entertained ourselves, I don't look back at my childhood summers feeling like I missed out on something fun it was just how it was. Naturally, once we were able to drive both my brother and I were more social and once we got a VCR a trip to the video store went along with the trip to the library. Both my brother and I were grateful for every trip away from home during the summer. I'm sure there were some outings where we behaved horribly but I can't remember them. I'm in awe of how much you are willing to do for your kids and I'm sorry that they don't appreciate what you are willing to do to make sure they have a fun summer. Good luck this summer.

Ginger said...

We have 4 kids aged 19, 15, and 11 year old twins. They typically have to "earn" things, or sometimes I plan them, but don't tell the kids they're planned. The earning thing definitely makes them more focused on helping around the house when we ask them to do something. When I've planned something, but they don't know about it, if I have to cancel, it sometimes has a bigger effect...."Well, I *did* have tickets to the movies this afternoon, but we'll have to exchange them for another day since you can't act like you deserve to go today." I've also been known to turn the car around (once), off a guest child the choice of going to our house to play with the other kids or going home, and canceled the whole thing. They just have to know I mean it. Teenagers who can call your bluff are dangerous.... Good luck!! :o)

Kate said...

I started giving my kids' cleaning-around-the-house jobs as consequences for behavior that makes others miserable. If they bicker, they have to do the cleaning job together. My point to them is that they need to make a positive impact in my life and in the life of anyone else they make miserable through whining and complaining. It's worked wonders.

Anonymous said...

There are two books that I recommend. One is How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and How to Listen so Kids Will Talk and another Siblings Without Rivaly. Both are written by Faber and Mazlish and are available at major book stores and on-line. I have used these books for 23 years with parents and the results are consistent (provided the parents are consistent) :-) These suggestions are great with kids, spouses, coworkers, everyone you come into contact with.

Anonymous said...

Could you plan your movies outings etc.. say 2 weeks in advance then they earn these things before they invite a friend and I mean then they earn it before it happens for good behavior and there fore can not be taken away for that week. I hope i'm making sense have 9 kids I totally do not make sense sometimes. case in point your behavior 2 weeks back is what you get your reward for 2 weeks later.Hope it helps

Sue said...

Well, after yesterday, I am totally unqualified to give advice on this. We took our kids to a museum that my older daughter had won tickets to. We got to the chick hatchery, and, unfortunately, a chick was hatching. According to the sign on the wall, it takes up to 10 HOURS for those chickies to break out. OK, we watched for a half hour. Hubby took older daughter on to another nearby exhibit, while I watched my 10-year-old plaster her nose against the glass chick case. 3 of us had had enough of this exhibit, and it was time to move on. I pulled younger daughter away, telling her it was time to move on. She pinched me, hard, on the stomach! I was so angry! I grabbed her by the arm and informed her that doing that again would guarantee her an immediate trip home. I felt stuck; here we were at a museum that we couldn't afford to go to without the free tickets, and it should have been a special event for all of us. Her behavior was much better for the rest of the trip, but I kept feeling like I should have done more, either a time out for her on a bench or something.

Anonymous said...

1. You plan too many activities for the children. They are probably overwhelmed with being constantly on the go. Three activities per week in the summer is more than enough.
2. If one acts up before the activity, they will have extra chores to do when they get home. And, before they get to go on to the next activity, they will need to earn it with their behavior.
3. On the days they stay home, let them squirt each other with the hose, make popsicles, bathe the dogs, ride their bikes, jump rope, invite a friend over to play, put on a neighborhood play with other kids, look through their baby pictures, write stories about a subject you give them, read out loud to each other, do craft projects, etc.

Anonymous said...

I don't even consider planning something for every day with my kids. I tried it one summer and my oldest (who was 11 at the time) came to me and said "You know, I used to love to do stuff, but now I just want to stay home once in awhile" -it kind of takes the fun and excitement out of doing stuff when you do it every single day. My kids do neighborhood stuff daily like ride their bikes, jump on the trampoline, run through the sprinkler, but we only "go" and do stuff a couple of times a week and when we do they are truly excited and well-behaved because they know it will be a few days before we go and do anything else and by that time they are ready to go and have a good time. Yes, I believe it is possible to do too much with kids - sometimes they just need to be kids and chill. Just because we are home doesn't mean I let them sit in front of the tv or computer. We do art projects, take adventure walks, read books, bake cookies - yes they do watch some tv and have some computer time, but it's summer so I'm ok with that. They both love Wii which gets them up and moving even as they are having fun - they invite friends over just to hang out. I think your kids would enjoy going out a whole lot more if you made it a special treat instead of a daily routine.

Toronto Wedding Photographers said...

I sit them out... (sorry if this has been said I have not read the replys)...

I have two kids... same ages (basically) as yours... a girl and a boy... they fight like mad and drive me insane on a daily basis...

I find a little embarrasment goes a long way... if we are at the lake with friends and they are behaving poorly... I pull them out of the situation and sit them on a chair and they get a time out (visible to their friends) for a period of time!

That way they can see the fun everyone else is having but can't participate unless the attitude changes!

Hope that helps can be done during any situation from playing at the park to amusment parks, birthday parties, etc...

EBeth said...

My mom had a point reward system for good behavior. If we didn't fight etc... we got all our points for the day (say 100). we could use points for more fun activities (movies, water parks, special time with her, special dinner, etc..)

She would count (1-2-3) when our behavior was unacceptable and at 3 our points would be docked. hitting was an automatic 3.

My mom, sister and I all agree that this worked well for us.

me said...

maybe let them be the ones planning the days activity? Each child plans a day, with or without a friend. If they misbehave on a siblings day, they lose theirs.And wouldn't it be mean to leave a stinker behind on a day they had planned? hehe I am that mean.

Rachel said...

I think I'm a little late to the party on this one but I had to comment. I've been the kid on the receiving end of the cancelled plans and IT SUCKS. My mom was paying for me and my best friend to go to Disneyland for my birthday but she got in trouble and her mom said she couldn't go. So my birthday was ruined. LAME. I know her mom wanted to punish her but she punished me on my birthday for something I was not involved in. I'm still pissed thinking of it now.

I think if you make plans with someone you have to follow through. If your kid is acting up tell them we are doing ABC because we promised the ____ family we would go, but we won't be doing XYZ until you can behave.


Any of all of the above at any given time... real helpful right? LOL

Seriously if another child is involved I have either cancelled, sucked it up begrudgingly and then lectured endlessly after the event, and only once took the friend by myself meeting a larger group . (don't recommend that one, the one time that happened it was to a movie with friends of mine and their kids and friends and quite frankly I still feel guilty that my daughter didn't go years later)

Just glad my days of dealing with that are now over and my children are now "adults". At least their age says they are. ;)

Anonymous said...

I think I'm late weighing in here and what I want to say was already pointed out, albeit a little harshly, by Bob and the anonymous poster after him. I'm trying to be kind, but I think your problem is that your kids are outgrowing you.

I agree that maybe you plan too many activities for them, but there comes a point where kids don't want to see the new kids movie that's coming out. At least, not with their Mom. They start to see the activity as a chore instead of a privledge. Worse yet, is when the other kids start teasing them for being a Momma's boy or girl.

It hurts, I know, but it's inevitable. Brayden is at that age where they just want to hangout with friends. Since your kids are so close in age, the others will pick up the same attitude. They crave freedom and you have to start granting it to them a little at a time.

It's hard at first for a mother that centers her life on time with the kids. Trust me, I've been there. It's going to be harder for you, I think, because your kids are so close in age, they will be growing up in rapid succession. My kids are 5 years apart, so it didn't happen as fast. (Although the younger one hit this turning point at an earlier age than his older brother.)

What I want to get through to you is that it's not all bad. As they gain freedom, so do you. Leave them at home (with Brayden in charge) and go see a grown-up movie, or meet friends for lunch. You can't fight it, so you may as well learn to deal with it.

I sure hope this doesn't upset you. That isn't my intention.

Deb in Largo

Anonymous said...

I do agree with Deb. My 2nd child is a boy only 1 yr older than Kellen and he has alot of freedom, within limits. Him and his friends are frequently in the woods/at the creek, building derby cars, playing basketball, riding bikes, etc. I can't imagine telling him he could only ride his bike with me (not saying you do that, but believe it or not, I have met a couple of parents that do). A kid can't gain independance if they are always with mom.

It does make me sad. But it is wrong to keep him under my thumb for that reason. He is not a little boy any more and he needs room to grow.


Alisa said...

Ok- Aren't you supposed to ask this to someone who does not have kids? They are the ones with all the answers you know.
Well I say that, but it sure sounds like so many here have it all figured out.
I can't really think of much to tell you. Things change so much for me and my family. What works one week, does not necessarily work the next.
I plan things for us to go do so we will spend time together. So we will learn to work together. We have a lot of time at home, but I plan for us to go do stuff. I think that is what you do too. It does not sound like you overplan. Or do too much. Our time with our kids is short. And to those that said they are outgrowing you ... pfshhhh- I do not agree with that one bit. Only if you subscribe to that philosophy. You still have time before that happens. You are building bonds with them that carry over into their teenage, and adult life. Make the most of it- go do all the things that you want to do.
As far as the discipline goes, let me know what works. In our family each child is so very different when it comes to consequences. Really. What works for one, does not work for another. We are starting to take time away from them ... if we are going somewhere and one is bothersome (tI was trying to come up with a nice word) then we still go, but that person has to sit out. Or something like that. Really, I have no clue what I am talking about. Again, when you figure out what works, lets go have a cupcake and you can tell me all about it!

Bunny Bryant, Topeka, KS said...

A few comments and I really, really apologize if this goes against your grain...

1. I am surprised that your children are so ill behaved. I find it odd, in fact. I do not know if you are exaggerating or what, but are they that bad? At their ages, I would expect different.

2. Declare Wednesday a Fun Day for an outing, and don't do anything special the other 6 days.

3. At their ages, especially the older two, they should be able to amuse themselves, have friends over, and such. Can they walk to the library or the pool?

4. If you must plan, look for summer classes or programs; Parks and Recs might have some fun stuff.

5. I never had behavior problems with my children in the summer. They were happy to go to the local pool where they played for hours, everyday. They slept well and got lots of exercise. Again, I wonder if you are exaggerating about their behavior.

6. Brayden should be old enough to get some babysitting jobs.

7. Buy everyone a Math workbook and when all three finish theirs, take them out for pizza.