Yesterday we took a little day trip to Longwood Gardens with another homeschool mom and her two kids. It was a great start to the day as we piled in our van with lunches and drinks in tow without any drama. Oh, I spoke too soon…. here comes drama….
We arrived at the Gardens and walked directly to the restrooms before proceeding the full day trek around the campus. My little man (3) refused to use any potty except the one his 9 year old sister was using. So he banged on the door until she was done her business. Mind you- there were 15 other stalls, empty, and totally available for him to use.
You might say, “why didn’t you stop him from banging?” Great question- I was using the bathroom myself and we’re still working on obedience… sigh
When I exited the stall I was able to redirect him and he waited patiently for big sister to finish. But somehow between my hand washing and talking to my other children (I’ve been blessed with 4) I stumbled upon my friend getting my attention with…
“Umm, she was trying to hit him????” (Big questioning stare. Giant eyes of wonder)
ah ha. yes. We treat others how we want to be treated. It’s our family motto. My quick detective brain deduced that my little man hand indeed hit his big sister and she was showing him our family motto…. and trying to hit him back.
I can see my friend’s face displaying serious confusion as I don’t reprimand my 9 year old for attempting to hit my 3 year old. She looks on as I sit my two monkeys down for a talk. She listens to every word. I’m totally on discipline display here and my mind is thinking 10,000 things on how this will shake down.
1. Our son is a hitter. I don’t believe in hitting him back/spanking him as a consequence (for many reasons) in large part to the fact that it just doesn’t make sense for me to hit him because he hit his sibling.
2. We tried “boys don’t hit girls EVER” and it didn’t work. He hit. He bit. all the time.
3. So we switched to We Treat Others How We Want to Be Treated. When he hits (or steals a toy or whatever) the older girls say “We treat others how we want to be treated. Would you like it if I hit you/took your toy/etc.?” He says “no”. The girls decide their own course of action. Sometimes they say “then don’t hit me/steal my toy.” Other times they say “this is how it feels” and gently tap him on the arm or leg (or steal his toy). The physicality of receiving even the gentlest tap (or toy removal) is enough to send our little man into tears. big crocodile tears. *** and for the most part- the girls rarely tap him.
4. Now we are in public and it’s an unusual sight to see. If I tell my daughter we should not follow the motto in public then I’m sending her a message that elicits confusion. But if I let her hit him then I get the stink eye from onlookers.
So I sat them down (with my friend observing every detail) and asked my son if he hit. At that moment, my daughter found the opportunity to gently tap him (for the hit back). Ah, kids. I continued through the conversation between both 9 year old and 3 year old; working through our motto; asking my son to apologize. Getting everything straightened out. Even my 9 year old apologized.
It wasn’t my best parenting moment but it was definitely a teachable moment for me. I had to ask myself if our motto isn’t good for public viewing then is it good at all? I had to explain every detail to my friend, including what didn’t work and how we came to this course of action in training our son.
I came to the conclusion that our thinking is still good. We do treat others how we want to be treated. Each and every day, every person is communicating that very concept to their peers, friends, family, and strangers. It’s a good line of thinking. It’s actually reduced the amount of hitting in our home by 75% (guessing, I didn’t do an actual statistical analysis here).
Have you ever had a moment like this? One where you’ve had to question your parenting decisions? I’m glad to have had this one because a little self reflection is always good.