Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Yes, but

Recently, I was bemoaning to a friend the fact that one of our kids was suffering from an interminable case of bad attitude. In this instance, it was our eight-year-old (I swear I’m going to come up with pseudonyms on this blog one of these days!). But change the day and time, and it could have been any of the kids.

This is our middle child, who is quite gifted herself - but for whom all things are on one side of the pendulum - either incredibly-over-the-top awesome, or else no-good-very-bad-and-horrible. Being the third child after two quite capable siblings has its own set of issues, but being the older sister to two very cute preschoolers really does her in sometimes. And because I was a third child and tend to over-identify with her weaknesses, there are many times I’m quite convinced I’ve scarred her for life.

But I digress. Back to attitudes.

My friend listened, I’m sure with a glazed expression, but I didn’t notice because I was only beginning to warm up to the finer points of my tale of woe.

“So does she obey you?” she ventured.

Huh? We are talking about attitudes, here, not obedience.

“I mean, does she do what she is told? This just might be related to her attitude.”

“Of course she does,” I replied smugly. Don’t you remember that I lent you my own dog-eared and tear-stained copy of Dare to Discipline, for goodness sake, I thought.

But deep down I felt the pain that can only come from being jolted with a million volts of lightning-bolt truth. Yikes.

I know this friend well enough to know that her gentle “just might” really means, “I have twenty scriptures to back this up but I’m too nice to slap you in the face with them.”

When I got home I started noticing. It was really bad. How long had I been training my child to disobey by overlooking this very basic parenting principle?

Virtually every interaction with her had an issue. This time I wasn’t focusing on her attitude. I was noticing that when I asked her to do something, she answered with the following (just pick one):

“Just a minute.”
“Hang on.”
“Why isn’t ____ having to do this?”
“I just DID a chore.”

And my personal favorite:

“Yes, but.”

Sheesh. Here I am, an “experienced” mother. I know better. And I have dropped the ball. I am having to go back to square one with this child - requiring obedience first (novel thought!). She is not allowed to answer anything but “Yes, ma’am,” followed by immediate, cheerful obedience.

I am committed to requiring it.

Every time.

As Jennifer so beautifully expounded, here is yet another area in which I am the weak link.

Thankfully, kids at this age are incredibly forgiving of parental foibles. If I’ve learned anything about children over the years, it’s that a loving relationship tends to cover a multitude of mommying blunders. I hate to think how many times I’ve had to play that card!

Our daughter is responding well to our new old renewed austerity program, which is a fancy way of saying “parental consistency.” Her attitude, not surprisingly, is improving.


Not having predictable boundaries left too much room for her to negotiate her own agenda - a responsibility too heavy for an eight-year-old to handle.

That’s why God gave her parents.

And that’s why God gave her mom a good friend.

He who loves a pure heart and whose speech is gracious
will have the king for his friend.
Proverbs 22:11

Faithful are the wounds of a friend.
Proverbs 27:6


Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

Wow - excellent post. My seven-year-old tends to go through what I call his "monster weeks" when his attitude is just unbearable. While some of it is attributable to a melancholy personality, I also often find that those weeks are related to something I have let slide or some other area where I'm not being consistent. Thanks for the reminder...and the encouragement.

Lori said...

Sounds like you have been hanging out at my house. Great post. And thank you Jesus for sweet friends.

Unknown said...

Yes, as you read, there is a different between what I want and what I expect, too, and I don't know if I've written about it, but I have noticed my dear 7yo's attitude slipping when I let her get away with that "I really know better than you" attitude. Let's keep writing about the times we get hit over the head with our failures and maybe we'll finally get it. Friends like you mentioned (in life or even in blogworld) are a great thing to have.

Anonymous said...

What a treasure it is to have an 'outsider' bless us with a dose of wisdom for our own family.

Thank you for this post! I'm off to check on my own 7-yr-old.....

Laura said...

HI Katherine! I read your post this am and I've been trying to get back here all day to I truly agree with what you had to say today. I have a nine year old daughter and often when I see her bad attitude getting out of hand I just have to look at my attitude and sure enough my daughter's attitude is a reflection of mine. I try to maintain predictable boundaries but its the joyful attitude (or lack of) with which I do it that I have to be mindful of.

Anonymous said...

We have been going through a similar issue. Every request is reeted with some negative or argumentative response. We have had to refocus as well and have even instituted our own version of Joy in the Journey's husband blessing to help (calling it parent blessing. :)

Emily said...

Hey! Thank you so much for such a cool entry. Your humility and gratitude for your friend inspire me, not to meniton your desire to help your child grow!
I was just wondering, when you say that your 8 year old is no longe rpermitted to respond without cheerful obedience, how do you enforce that? (taking notes for future parenting!!)

Susanne said...

Wow Katherine. Your post totally rocked my world. I have/am going thru this whole thing except with an 11 year old and a 14 yr old. And have been so frustrated. But what rocked me with your post was that you, as a parent, took the responsibility that is was you who dropped the ball. Hello, light bulb moment! Here I've been allowing them to get away with those kinds of comments because the required effort seemed to be to great but instead I'm expending more effort mopping up the results.

Thanks yet again for being transparent with your own lessons of life!