Kids · parenting · whine and cheese

It’s not about obedience… but it kind of is.

Several years ago, I was having a discussion with our aunt about discipline in childrearing, and pointed out that raising children isn’t all about obedience. I claimed that it was about raising a human being who can function well in the world and improve his or her community.

Now that we’re some major oppositional behaviour from K, I’m starting to think that a little obedience might be nice. I’m tired of everything being a struggle, of having to repeat myself many times, of giving consequences that will result in more opposition.

Example: K and I have discussed the danger inherent in pouring water onto the bathroom floor. She has even experienced the consequences of the slippery floor herself. And yet, she began pouring water from her bath onto the floor, using the tub toys.

I dealt a consequence: No tub toys for the next week of baths.

K acted to demonstrate her defiance by spitting water onto the floor from her bath. I informed her that clearly she can’t handle the responsibility of a bath right now, so she’ll take showers for a little while and then she can try baths again in a week.

When the time for the first shower comes, K cries, screams, and refuses to get in. At first, I patiently offer her sunglasses so that she won’t get water and soap in her eyes. She refuses and continues screaming. I’m at a loss. I ask nicely. I remind her that showers are quick and she’ll soon be done. I ask her to make eye contact with me and explain why she won’t shower. “Well…” she starts (and it sounds like “way-ull”) “… um, I don’t want to shower because, well… um…”

I point out to her that if she wastes her time arguing, she’ll still have to take a shower later and it will encroach on her time to play with daddy. I say, “I need to go make dinner. You let me know when you’re ready to shower. Take as long as you want, but remember that you may only play with daddy when you have showered.” I leave the room. She follows me, screeching like a banshee and then saying, “I’m trying to scare you!” I’m torn between her need to be taken seriously and my need to say, “keep trying.”

Eventually Mr. December comes home. He needs to shower and head out to a volunteer meeting. K finally agrees to hop into the shower with him, as long as she doesn’t have to wash her hair. “I’m afraid of getting water in my eyes,” she moaned pitifully. He turned to me and asked, “Do we have some goggles?” As if I hadn’t offered her goggles in the first five minutes of this whole debacle.

And so it goes. I see so many things wrong with this situation, but I’m really not sure how to fix it. I’m turning to you, my intrepid readers. What would you do? What problems to you see in this situation? Do you have a suggestion?



Facebook friends, please comment here so that your comments and suggestions are always tied to the original post. after a few weeks the facebook conversation is so many pages back, it’s as good as gone. Please comment on the blog if at all possible! Thanks.

9 thoughts on “It’s not about obedience… but it kind of is.

  1. no helpful suggestions sara. just blank fear as i look into my probable future with my own K. i wish you luck dear friend and will be closely observing the comments!!!!!

  2. You are doing great!
    It is also OK to refuse to talk about the something further if she keeps arguing.

    You can also say that if you have had to argue about everything all day you have no pateince left to do certain things she likes…

    In your parenting situation ( where one parent is doing most of the day-to-day care) this will happen again and again- it is OK to let Dad be the calm outsider sometimes when things have been tense. Embrace it and use it. Even call ahead to give him a heads up so he can come in non-chalantly and ask her to do just what you asked her to do as if he didn’t know..

    Also, depending on how OK you are with this, she could just have dirty hair for a week. (this will happen the first time she goes to overnight camp anayway). You can tell her that less pretty hair will be the consquence of not washing it- but really that is about it. (it won’t even smell too bad). Let her choose, wash or have dirty hair for a week.

    If you have not already read this book- which you probably have, read it . It is not a different approach to what you are already doing, but it is nice to have support and techniques. “How to talk so kids will listen & listen so kids will talk”

    But remember you are already going a great job!

  3. Ok, since you specifically asked for advice I will give. I don’t like to get in anyone’s way, so I am very wary of giving advice. K, here goes. I am going to be honest, and because my S needs to nurse it will be in point form.
    1. I think the consequence was too big. A week is too long a punishment.
    2. I think you need more of an immediate one
    For example, water goes on floor, you express displeasure and explain why not to do that, next if she does not heed, take away water device, with warning, if she spits water, bath is over and I would toss her in her room for a time out. When she comes out of time out I would give a hug and not bring up the incident. We are all guilty of harping on and on about a thing someone did and not letting it rest.

    3. As for treating her as an individual and not into making her behave, I hear this but, we all gotta follow the rules and as I mentioned earlier consequences more appropriate to her age level would save you the shower, screaming and endlessness of this.
    4. Consider (I don’t know if this is your thing) 123 magic. The idea is after you have warned the said child about the offence and your reasons why they can’t you count. Next time it happens you say 1. Not a long winded statement just 1. Then if it happens again, 2. I have never made it to three.
    5. Pick your battles; you can’t be a perfect parent every time. Destruction to the home, danger to siblings and outright defiance that pisses you off is a great time to become a dictator.
    6. If she listens less and less, say less. You may notice (as I do) that when I think parent instead of instinct parent I talk too much and give her too much info that overwhelms and shuts her down, in one ear and out the other. The shorter the conversation the better. My mom adapted this when we were older to scheduling a time that we could have it out with her over said issue. But when they are this young, I don’t think it is appropriate.
    7. I don’t set too many boundaries for my kid just the important ones, to give her room but those important ones (which need adjusting often as she grows) are rock solid. If they are not, then she walks all over me. K will do whatever she knows she can get away with. Kids need limits.
    8. Go easy on yourself, you just had a baby, all kid behaviour is going to be amplified, you will get them all in harmony soon.
    9. When it all is too much, you take a time out. Make sure all are safe and have one.
    10. You are a good mother who is readjusting how much energy you have per kid. This is normal, K is the oldest.

    1. Thank you. I needed this. Excellent points all. I especially love your choice of words in #5 – I often tell K that our home isn’t a democracy, it’s a benevolent dictatorship.

  4. Hh

    Hi Sara.

    I have to say, you really are doing an amazing job. When I read your posts, and think about the wonderful memories you are making, it reminds me of my wonderful moments with j and s. To this day, when a and I go for a walk, we remember how when I worked from home and they felt unwell, they mad a little bed behind my chair and rested near me.

    I cannot share personal experiences like yours. I do not know how or what we did, but it just never happened. I must have nipped it in the bud so it never grew or something. I can be pretty scary.

    I overheard a lady on her cell phone the other day. She said that her kids were amazing, supportive, etc. But really, she felt they would have come out that way even if a pack of wolves had raised them. Alex and I looked at each other, and he said “you know what, she is right”

    Having said that, I asked my newest shero, on FB, about a couple of books she had recommended in one of her videos. I have one of them, but will wait to hear about the second one and post them together.

    My shero’s name is Dr. Terry Wahls, and the first video I saw was her TED talk. I sent a copy to the Sammy akin him to forward it to the parties that may be interested. If you know them too, please pass it on as well.

    Well, not the answer you were looking for, just a long ramble.

    Check out this video on YouTube:


  5. Dr Wahls responded with one of the books, but I am still waiting for the second one. Below is the web site for the authors. The book is called “teaching your children values” by Richard and Linda Eyere – suggesting spending a few minutes each night talking about one specific value. They did it each night with the books they read to their kids.

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