Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Quality Parenting.

Don't engage in power struggles with your kids. Riiiiiiiiiiiiight.

Owen was flopped on the floor. It's naptime. He was resting on Green Pillow and clutching Big Teddy. Joel was crying in the other room, the normal bitter, bitter tears of early naptime. (I never fail to betray that boy.)

I said to Owen, "Please get in bed."

"No, I'm just going to---"

Oh, snap.

There will be no explaining. I taught middle school too long to hear yet another explanation for bad behavior. It never failed when I told certain youngsters to spit out their gum or return to their seats. Instead of compliance, I was in for a lengthy discourse about why they were chewing gum or the reason they were out of their seats.

Somewhere along the way, these children were taught that a request from an adult is negotiable, and that a good explanation, always, always begins with, "But I was just---" The magic phrase, apparently, makes all pesky adult requests go away.

Now, I understand that blind obedience is not a good thing, and that some adults and authority figures may not have a child's best interests in mind. This is an unfortunate thing. However, most of the time, adults request things of children for a reason, and do not need the extended remix about why the behavior occurred in the first place. It's just not necessary.

(Good grief, I'm becoming a crank. Yesterday, I railed against hippies, and now I'm writing something worthy of a teacher's lounge gripe session. It must be because my cholesterol is elevated. Soon, I'll be buying a cane, just for shaking at the whippersnappers.)

So, Owen started to explain what he was just doing, and I said. "Uh-uh. Go to bed."

He flailed his arms, "But I was just needing the gate so that I can--"

"Uh-Uh. Go to bed now." I know that Owen wanted to tell me that he could not go to bed until he had the gate (for the stairway) in bed with him so he could play with it instead of napping. This, friends, is the hill he's prepared to die upon.

"But I was just--"

"Get in bed now or no stories!"

Owen looked at me. "But I was--"

"GET IN BED NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWW!" And that, loyal readers, is what I like to call Quality Parenting.

Owen answered, completely unfazed, "No! I'm going downstairs, and I'm going to get some milk, and sit at the table, and you can't make me take naps."

Don't smile, don't smile, don't smile. Shit! I smiled. Owen laughed. I reset my face into a stern expression and said:

"Please get in bed."

Owen got in bed, laid with his feet on the pillow and laughed hysterically at his brilliance.

"Okay, goodnight," I said, walking towards the door.

Owen took this moment to go apeshit. "Mooooooomy! Stories! Stories!" This, apparently, is tired toddler for, "Mother, dear, please read me a short story. I would appreciate it ever-so-much."

I hesitated by the doorknob. Owen was making quite a racket. Enough to wake up Joel, who was across the hallway and easily roused. I made an executive decision to go back in the room.

I stomped to the bed and hissed, "If you wake up your brother you will be in soo much trouble. Goodnight."

If I was a liar, I would say that he then fell asleep without further argument. The reality is that I rewarded his rude behavior and stalling techniques with not one, but yes, two stories.

Again, Quality Parenting.

Sometimes, it's survival. Owen's a good kid, and smart too. This is why he plays me so well. In this case, the needs of the many (Joel's sleep, and my sanity) outweighed the needs of the one (Owen's reality check).

This fight will be fought another day.

But for now, two quick stories is a small price to pay for having two hours of blessed, necessary quiet.

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