Yup, that’s me … the #MeanestMommyEver, at least according to my five-year-old.
Of course, I’m probably tied for this glorious title with many of my readers (it’s a parenthood rite of passage, right?)
This darling title was bestowed upon me in between the biggest hugs after she bit it big on the playground and needed some TLC … and the pride beaming on her face when she read a new book to me at bed-time.
Because it’s all about the in-betweens.
We remember the good and the bad, but it’s those in-between moments we’d rather forget that also define us — make us stronger women, better mothers.
Moments like when our kids called us the meanest mom ever simply because we did our job: like disciplined them for hitting a sibling, or wouldn’t let them do something unsafe like ride their scooter without a helmet, or wouldn’t let them have candy before dinner (mostly because they had just had fro-yo two hours ago!)
Imagine the horror! I must really be heinous.
No, this one stemmed from a silly argument where — in typical 5-year old form — Maya was being stubborn and not putting her pajamas back in the drawer. Instead, they were strewn all over her floor as she searched for her Elsa feetie jammies (because nothing else would do) and though there are bigger fish to fry, she leaves a pile on her floor every night lately — and it was driving me nuts.
I asked her to put them away in her drawe nicely the first three times, but by the fourth time of her blatantly ignoring me (five going on fifteen …) I lost.my.shit. I definitely yelled, definitely made threats, definitely put her in a time out, and definitely hated myself for letting a 5-year old get the best of me.
Her calling me the “Meanest Mommy Ever” was just the icing on the cake of a really craptastic week. It was one of those days where everything was going wrong. Luis was out of the country visiting his mom so I had been parenting solo for a few days already, I’d just shattered the screen on my brand new iPhone when it fell out of my jacket pocket as I got out of the car after work, the chicken I’d intended to make for dinner was still frozen (oops), and the kids were absolutely CRAZY at bath time — overtired, overstimulated, oversugared.
So this pre-bed incident did me in.
I’ve been trying to be cognizant of how much I yell at my kids — mostly because I hate it, but also because yelling doesn’t make them do what I want them to do, either. Yet it’s still my first defense after reasoning. And don’t they say, insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result?
Um, yes. But it’s so hard!
A friend recently shared this article that really resonated with me. While it’s a marriage/relationship article about why nagging doesn’t work (something I know I’m guilty of!), it got me thinking about why yelling doesn’t work with kids.
“The central lesson I learned from exotic animal trainers is that I should reward behavior I like and ignore behavior I don’t. After all, you don’t get a sea lion to balance a ball on the end of its nose by nagging. The same goes for the American husband.”
Kids–like husbands and sea lions — respond much significantly better to positive reinforcement for their behavior; hearing praise when they do something right/well.
We’re both all about positive reinforcement and try to instill that in our kids. If they do something really kind for someone else — or each other — we acknowledge it with praise and affection.
The challenge, for me, is ignoring behavior I don’t like. Looking at my own example, I got to thinking: is a pile of clean PJs on the floor worth bugging her over/losing my shit over, when she has fed the dog, rolled up matches of all her socks, diligently laid out her outfits for the week, and her bed is [somewhat] made — things I thank her for/express appreciation for?
The perfectionist, Type-A me who can’t stand clutter and gets irked by things strewn haphazardly on the floor still wants to fight her on the damn jammies. They belong in a drawer!
But the article made me think a lot … and in the end, I concluded there are certainly bigger reasons to be upset with my kids over. They’re only this little once, and I don’t want to spend my energy fighting with them when — in reality–they are good, sweet, lovable and loving kids who do try to please us. Not all the time, of course … but they do try. ❤
I’m going to be called the #MeanestMommyEver again for sure someday … and I guess what I’m saying is, I’d like it to be for something a little better than a fight over pajamas.