Yesterday started out as a good day. Miss 17 months and I slept in until almost 7:30am. Miss 4 and Mr 2 played happily in Mr 2's room. We had a happy breakfast. We played outside for about 2 hours (and I hung two loads of washing in the sun). We read books on the lounge. We listened to our "J is for Jesus" CD and danced in the kitchen. I had dinner prepared and in the slow cooker by 11am...
Then, just before lunch, I saw this:
... and the day suddenly got much worse. I knew who the culprit was - the only child in our house who is both capable of drawing a face with these features, and who is allowed access to pens without close supervision. She admitted to doing the drawing "on purpose, because [she] likes drawing with pen".
I've alluded to the fact before that we have come to the point of using (mostly) "positive parenting" strategies with Miss 4 (and our other children, though less so, because of their ages). We found that, for us, traditional parenting strategies (punishment and reward) lead to a deteriorating relationship with our eldest child. "Positive parenting" includes:
* Teaching rather than punishing
* Acknowledging/ thanking rather than praising
* Putting ourselves in our children's shoes
* Demonstrating unconditional love (not just feeling it, but making sure they feel it too)
* Making sure their love tanks are full
* Reflecting our children's feelings (e.g. "It is frustrating when...", "You must feel angry when...") rather than squashing their feelings (particularly the negative ones)
Today, I completely failed at positive parenting. Today I was a "negative parent". Actually, I was probably the most negative parent. After discovering the lounge, I screamed and shouted and sent Miss 4 to her room. I slammed her door behind her. I left her in there for a long time and I was reeling. My heart was beating 100 mph, and I was literally shaking with anger.
Finally, when I had calmed down enough to pray (something like, "God, give me a wise and loving response in this situation" - I seem to pray that a lot these days!), I started reflecting on exactly why I was so angry.
I was not angry about the lounge (it is not an expensive lounge, and we bought a floor display model on purpose, knowing that we would do more damage to the lounge within a short space of time than was done to it in a year of being on display) I would not have been angry if Miss 17 months had drawn on the lounge (well, actually, I probably would have been a bit angry with myself!)
After some reflection, I realised I was so angry because I was actually hurt. I was hurt that I couldn't trust Miss 4 to follow our rules (we only draw on paper - a rule she has heard many, many times - and said to her younger brother and sister many, many times). I was hurt that Miss 4 had not shown kindness to me. I was hurt that Miss 4 had not respected our property. I was hurt that I couldn't get the stain off, and that we would all have to keep reliving the moment when visitors asked about the lounge chair artwork. I was hurting for Miss 4, for the judgements I had about made about her actions in that moment, "naughty", "making me so angry", "unkind", "careless", and for the judgements that others might make when they heard the story. I was hurting for the fact that I expect so much from Miss 4, because of her younger siblings. I was hurting that Mr 2 is always judged so positively (as kind, and gentle, and mature, and easygoing), and that Miss 4 rarely has these things articulated to her (by others, and even by me).
That was how my prayer for wisdom was answered. I won't say that the situation was turned around completely. I won't say I'm still not perplexed by Miss 4's actions. But, I went and explained all this (well, most of it) to Miss 4 - that I felt hurt that she had not respected our property, that I was sorry I had yelled at her, that I was surprised at her actions and sad about what others would say about the lounge.
And, I was reminded again how well this parenting style suits Miss 4 and us. All my anger, and yelling and door-slamming and time-outing just alienated me from Miss 4. It made me feel bad, it made her feel bad. She returned anger to me, not respect, not sorrow. She learnt nothing. But when I honestly and calmly reflected how I felt (and on this occasion, I could not do that straight away!), and what her actions said to me (e.g. lack of respect for Matt and I and our property), Miss 4 responded with sorrow, repentance, respect, and even agreed on an appropriate course of action (no access to pens for a while).
Do you find it hard to manage your anger with your kids? What helps you? (And, what property have your kids destroyed?!)