Friday, April 6, 2012

10 Parenting Principles I Wish I'd Known: Episode Four

4) Frustrations Transform to Teachable Moments

Remember back in the day when you were in high school and you would be heading for the water fountain, only to be cut off by some jerk who then took their time guzzling down water while you waited impatiently? Yeah, that was frustrating.

At least I *thought* that was frustrating. Until I actually had kids.

Now imagine that you were heading for the water fountain and some jerk cut you off, but while you are impatiently waiting you now have a baby crying and a child yelling "I WANT WATER NOW!!!" All while feeling the glare of the judging eyes of everyone around you because you cannot control your kids.

Yes. THAT is frustrating.

Kids make everyday frustrations magnify. And once you have kids, your frustrations will multiply like naughty little bunnies.

It's ok that I'm talking about rabbits multiplying because it is Easter and bunnies are everywhere right now.

Now, before I had kids, my frustrations were easy to deal with. I might let a nice audible sigh go, roll my eyes, or vent to the nearest person about how ridiculous whatever it was that was the source of my frustration.

Want to know what happens when you do that when you have kids?
Your toddler learns to roll their eyes, sigh, and say things like, "That is just stupid."
Yep, not something that is going to win me the Mother of the Year award.

But, just gritting your teeth until your kids are not around and you can let loose isn't really an option. Ask any mother. There is NO private time until the monsters, I mean angels, are in bed at night. You quickly learn that you cannot sit down and take a break, load the dishwasher, put away laundry, or even use the bathroom without being in your children's presence. Some people will tell you to go to the bathroom and lock the door to deter the kids. I will tell you that most children see this as a challenge to demonstrate that they can effective have a conversation without being face to face thanks to their loud voices that mommy brains are wired to not ignore. And if you do not answer, they will knock. REPEATEDLY.

I have always had a very sarcastic sense of humor. I often have snippy retorts pop into my mind and do my best to keep them from blurting out of my mouth at times. This became increasingly harder after I became a mother because I was sometimes the only adult that I had a meaningful conversation with all day. (Yes, I talk to myself. You know you do, too.) Then I had an epiphany.

I could use my sarcastic and snarky powers for good and transform my daily frustrations into teachable moments. Let me give you some examples of how I use my evil power for the greater good.

1) Shopping

Oh, how every mother loathes going shopping with her kids. You have to deal with the "gimme-gimmes." You have to haul all the age appropriate child crap into the store (diaper bag, lovey, etc). And then you have to deal with other shoppers. *shudder*

People blocking entire aisles with their shopping cart. People standing in the middle of the aisles oblivious to the line that is backing up. People that dart in front of other people's buggies or do not look when they walk out of an aisle.

ALL of these people frustrate me. But if I let their behavior wear on me without being able to unleash at least a little of the pent up frustration they cause, I might snap and start throwing produce at them. Which is generally frowned up and would not be a good example for my children. Instead, like I constantly reiterate to my kids, "Use Your Words."

But I do not speak TO these other shoppers. I speak to my children ABOUT these other shoppers.
Me- "Oh, Sassy. Do you see how this lady is blocking the ENTIRE aisle with her buggy while she has a conversation with that man? What would you call that?"
Sassy- "That's rude."
Me- "What should she do?"
Sassy- "Move over so that she is not blocking the aisle and making all the other people wait."
Me- "That's a great answer! What will you do when you are an adult and shopping in a store?"
Sassy- "I'll make sure to move and talk to people where I'm not blocking other people."
Me- "You're so SMART to see rude behavior and know how to fix it. Where did you learn that?"
Sassy- "From you. Do you think that her mom didn't teach her and that's why she doesn't know any better?"
*cue rude lady give me the evil eye as she moves her buggy over so that traffic can flow around her*
Now, in the course of the conversation I had with my child, I got my point across to the rude person causing my frustration without being mean or nasty. I reiterated rude behavior to my child and made sure that she understood the difference between what that lady was doing and what I expected out of her. And I felt SO GOOD that I got to unleash some of my frustration.

I would call this a win-win. Although I'm sure the rude lady blocking the aisle would call me a bitch.
To-may-to, To-mah-to.

2) Public Outings

The same thing applies to public outings. I typically speak to my children about the thing that is frustrating me instead of addressing the person directly. The person then typically has no recourse because a CHILD is pointing out their inappropriate behavior. Even most people that are total a-holes will not get nasty with a child that is having a conversation with their mother. So I do this at school functions, parades, birthday parties, etc. Anywhere that some person might be acting idiotic. Which is generally everywhere that another person might be.

Here's an example from a local carnival about 2 years ago. One of the "rides" was one of the giant slides where the kids climb up a long flight of steps with burlap mats and then sit on the mats to go down the slide. The slide is 3 wide and Sassy and Diva were there with another friend. So we let all 3 girls run and get in line.

The girls grab the burlap mats off the railing when it is their turn, climb the Mt. Everest of steps, and get to come down the slide together. They did this about 5 times in a row because there was no line, but then more kids started coming over and a line formed. At the time, Diva was 4 and we all know that 4 year olds are easily excitable. She was so excited about going down the slide again that she ran out of the fencing and to the end of the line, still clinging to the burlap mat.

I was standing right there and reminded her that the other children needed the mat for their turns, so she needed to return it to the railing at the front of the line. I walked up with her. As she neared the front, the older lady working the ride yelled at her, "HEY! You get to the back of the line! You have to wait your turn just like all the other little brats and you're old enough to know better. Stop trying to cut in line and sneak past me"

It was SO HARD not to lay into that woman right there. This was a woman that had already been talking on her cell phone instead of properly supervising the kids, smoking her entire shift, and making rude comments to several of the kids. Poor Diva turned around, crestfallen, and walked slowly over to me. I was only standing about 5 feet away. But instead of yelling at the worker and causing a scene, I somehow kept my composure. I crouched down to be eye level with Diva and said loudly,
"Diva, did you hear what the lady said to you? She said you were cutting in line. This is because she is not intelligent enough to see that you had mistakenly brought the mat with you to the end of the line and were correcting your mistake by bringing the mat back. Silly people like this are why Mommy says it is so important to pay attention so that you fully understand what is going on around you. Because no one likes an ignorant, opinionated, nasty person, so Mommy would  be very sad if you grew up to be one like this poor lady."
The ride worker gasped and Diva said, "Ok, Mommy" as she gave me a hug. We walked back to the end of the line and waited our turn. But the worker was pretty quiet for the rest of the time that we were there. I believe I got my point across to her while also pointing out the importance of paying attention to our surroundings to Diva so that she can see the "big picture" and not just what she might think is the worst case scenario.


I could go on and on, giving you examples. Telling you about the time that I told Sassy that she should feel sorry for the little boy teasing her for her short pixie hair cut because he was not taught that a person's hair does not make them what they are and it was his poor luck that his parents did not teach him that because it kept him from seeing that she is a beautiful girl. In full view of his mother who stood about 20 feet away and heard every word.

Or the time that I told Diva that I thought it was sweet that one family member had so many opinions on why my parenting choices were wrong when they had not done any research into my choices, explaining that it is like when she says, "I don't like quinoa" when she has never tried it before or even knew of it's existence before I mentioned that I might fix some in a meal.

All of the frustrating moments of my life, be it rude strangers in public, ill-behaved children, or even family, can be dealt with so that it teaches or reiterates a lesson to my children while also pointing out to the source of my frustration that they are being rude, ignorant, etc.

This approach is MUCH better than letting the frustrations build up so that I unexpectedly blow up over some seemingly little  infraction later. And hopefully it teaches the source of my frustration to stop being so damn frustrating.

So that's me. Transforming frustrations into teachable moments for the sake of my children. Hopefully they will not be quite as frustrating when they grow up and will think back fondly on all the times I pointed out "what not to do."

And that just might get me that Mother of the Year award.

A girl can dream, right?!

1 comment:

  1. I love your post and even if its really hard to contain myself im going to really try to teach my kids something everytime someone is being rude or annoying. Thanks for the tips