Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Toughing it Out

I figure I'm going to get a rise out of some of you but, enh, who cares? Tough love is something I have to employ with my eleven year old all the time. She's a challenge. J is a first born. She's alpha and she's stubborn. J can be willful, obstinate, argumentative, and moody. She's also has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and my metabolism rate which you wouldn't think could go hand in hand.

J is incredibly intelligent too. J was walking at ten months and speaking in full sentences before her first birthday. At one and a half I watched her use the microwave to heat a sippie cup of milk, then shake it before she took a sip. She knew how to work the television and the VCR and she knew exactly how to use her big blue eyes and pixie grin to get what she wanted. She's funny and her sense of humor has always exceeded her age group often surprising nearby adults with her insight. J can out debate you if given a chance. Often her ideas make a lot of sense and may actually better than yours.

For example, "J, time for bed. Please go brush your teeth and come get hugs for bed." "If I brush my teeth and clean up first, will you read me a bedtime story?" (mom thinks. Hmm. No, it's late and she's been pushing for extras all day. I do want her room clean but...) "No, brush your teeth and come for hugs." "If I brush my teeth, clean up and help P clean her room, will you read me a bedtime story?" (mom thinks. P is having trouble cleaning her room. J does a great job cleaning. It could be useful. I don't really mind reading her a story. Wait, no, J needs to go to bed.) "No, J. I said brush your teeth. It's very late. Go." "Mom if I---" "Stop right there." This is a frequent occurrence, by the way.

J is my challenge kid. She is also a delight and because her mom (that would be me) won't tolerate disobedience or rudeness, she is a very good kid. She might not be thrilled if told to do something she doesn't want to, but she will do it because I said it. Having said that, once she decides she doesn't like something, it is a dickens to get her to do it. Dogs make her freak out no matter the size. Bugs have her squealing. Different foods make her pout and push it around her plate with attitude worthy of an Emmy. New experiences have her stomping her feet. She doesn't jump into new groups easily or make friends with kids her age. J is a drama queen who could out drama most queens. Including clutching her chest as she runs across the field or throwing the back of her hand across her brow. (I think she does it to annoy me.)

It is this stubbornness and metabolism and difficulty making friends, are the reason I instituted a new rule in our house. J MUST take on a sport each season before she can say she doesn't like it. She has to go out for it, go to all the practices and games, COMMIT to giving it her all. If after that sport she doesn't want it again, fine. I posted this on my own blog and got all kinds of negative reactions. This is my kid. I'm not mean. I just know what she needs to get over herself.

The sport mandate is one she hates. Little sister P is thrilled to death (of course little P is also the kid that asks for fruits and veggies while turning down anything sugary. Not surprisingly, P is J's opposite at making friends and cheerfulness). Anyway, the sport mandate changed minutely. Why? Because as I suspected, once trying Basketball and Soccer, J loved it. I knew she would cause her brain works that way. At any rate, the new law of the land is, she may pick any sport she wishes to so long as she is doing a sport every season it is offered. This thrills her. Mostly because she was dreading track and field. I don't blame her.

J's grades have improved. Her peer group has expanded and she has new friends who don't treat her like crap. She is proud of herself. Both Scott and I attend all her games and most practices with her little sister in tow. And we always make her favorite dinner after games. But it is tough love.

I adore J. She's my first born and while of course I have equal feelings for P, my relationship with J is very, very different. She's my daughter and my friend. She's tough, not showing her inward feelings unless they spill over. She's stronger at 11 than I was as a teen and I have always, often unfairly, expected more from her than from P. She soothes her little sister. She cares for her and looks after me. It is odd to house both the panicked freak and the staid calm in a single person. But it happens.

As I mentioned yesterday, there are even occasions where spanking is in order. We have rules around that too. 10 swats if I have to find out about it, 5 if they tell me themselves. The bonus result her is that my kids tell on themselves ALL THE TIME, so I usually don't wind up spanking because of their honesty. Spanking only ever occurs when they lied or were in danger. I never spank angry and the above swat ranking applies. By the way, my kids are fully aware that I love them, it's the act I didn't like and they never fail to hug me after administering punishment. We hug, they apologize. I tell them I love them and not to repeat the act. They agree and don't repeat the behavior. As a result, I have spanked J once in the last year and a half. P, not at all. I'd call that a successful measure.

Okay, bring it on. Let's hear from all you people who think I'm wrong. I know you're out there.



  1. Not me. I wish I had had the energy and foresight to do what you're doing.

  2. LOL.

    Just for the record, I showed J what I wrote (it's only fair as it's about her) and she said, "Tell them this is a direct quote: I LOVE those sports."

    Guess it worked. ;)

  3. LOL:) Your J is a lot like my K and W! K is 16 and was ready for law school at age 8. He still tries to wheedle and rationalize every objection, but for the most part is a good kid, an honor student, and is fantastic with his younger brother, who not only looks just like him, but is just as smart. And I cracked up about J using the microwave and VCR...K knew how to work the VCR and W knows somewhat about the microwave!

    Daughter S, on the other hand, is more introverted, but just as smart as her brothers. I've been blessed with 2 great teens and a 4-yr old who is showing signs of being allowed to reach his next birthday:)

  4. I wish I could find a point to argue with you, but it sounds like you're doing a bang up job. :D

  5. Spankings occured on rare occasions in my house too--but again, only for MAJOR infractions to get the point across immediately on issues like "You will never climb out your window onto the roof again..." And yes, very familiar with the slow metabolism/ADD combo...ooh, look, a chicken...

  6. Hmmm, yep, I can't say that I disagree with spankings when they're called for. I grew up in a two parent household. My dad, never spanked us, but we were scared to death of him. My mom, oh, she probably spanked us at least once a week. But mom is always the one we ran to if we needed a hug. I don't think we ever thought she was mean or cruel, she was just mom. We knew when we did something bad, and 9 times out of 10, we knew we'd be spanked for it. Knowing the boundaries and making a choice to cross them was our responsibility. I think that's why we never blamed her. I also think it helped to develop the kind of adults we've become. Taking responsibility for your actions is the best life lesson to teach your children. I'm glad Mom taught me, even if it was with that god-awful pink Avon hairbrush. LOL

    -Carol Lynne

  7. Oh no! Not a pink Avon hair brush. LOL!!

    My dad used a belt on us, hand if one wasn't available. I can't spank with my hand for a couple reasons. One I use those hands for hugging and I don't want to mistake the message. Two it becomes a personal hit for me and I have a harder time keeping my temper in check. We use a paddle and yes, I tested it out on myself to make sure I wasn't striking too hard. I periodically do this to remind myself of the small strength needed to make a point. Also we only ever strike the butt. Padding and all. I refuse to mark my child.

    I think the guidelines are more for me so I don't hurt them, just create the sting which will prompt change. And they do. I love them dearly and they are very well behaved kids.

  8. I remember reading about the sports rule on your personal blog. I am glad it had the desired effect.

  9. OMG - My paternal grandmother used to use the pink Avon hairbrush on us! I'd forgotten all about that until now! The prices we'd pay for jumping from the hay mow...

  10. You know those little paddle ball thingies? The flimsy rubber string that attached a ball to a little wooden paddle. We used to love those damn things until the string broke after...oh, about FIVE MINUTES and the wooden paddle became a big problem for us when we got out of line. Fortunately that wasn't very often. All mom had to do was glance at the top of the fridge where she kept it and we were good as gold.

    Your children are fortunate to have a nice mom who doesn't actual kill them but disciplines with LOVE. They sound terrific btw. Enjoy them now, babe. Believe me, it get WORSE. LOL

    Sorry I'm late posting today. Great one, Kell!!!

  11. My oldest and youngest are boys. The oldest is a lot like your J. He had ADHD, was very quick, and although quiet, headstrong. I leaned on him a lot. I still do. The youngest, also a boy, is just the opposite. He's the ultimate baby.

    There's one boy and two girls in the middle. The oldest girl is quite independent and forthright - at least in the house, with her siblings.

    I used to be closest to the oldest, but since he married and moved out, I'm closest to the younger girl/#4 child. I love them all equally, but the 1st and 4th have wanted to be closer to me.

  12. Thanks everyone. Yes Anika, it worked out well. I'm not afraid to admit when I'm wrong so I would have changed the plan if it hadn't worked out.

    Rita....ow, poor honey!

    Ashley, I completely understand. When you have kids you don't have babies who are mini-me's. You have little people with their own personalities and beliefs of what's right and wrong. And it's enough to drive a mom nuts or warm her heart. :)

  13. It seems that J is head strong & introvert, & also ahas been attention seeking. I think all the measures that you have employed to deal with her are good & have just the right amount of flexibility.

    However, I think P is more intelligent of the two. She appears more street smart and less of a bookish theoric. She deals with Every situation more intelligently & naturally, you don't have to ( subconsciously, whether you know it or not) worry too much about her. You know she is perfectly capable of taking care of herself, less fussy & avoiding trouble kind!


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