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Thursday, January 19, 2006

long, depressing post

Well, it's open-book, and I suppose technically I have until february fourth to finish it, so that's why I'm blogging right in the middle of my database exam. I should get it done, just to be finished and able to move on to other things, but I can't concentrate.

Ugh. Son1 keeps hitting Son2. Son1 is 11; Son2 is 5. And no matter how many times we explain it, S1 just can't seem to understand why it's wrong to hit somebody smaller than he is. So he keeps doing it. This morning Two coughed as One was passing, and One hit Two, hard, in the middle of his back, because "he coughed on me on purpose". I snapped. I screamed at him until my throat hurt (gee, how dignified, and we wonder why he doesn't respect his mom...) and I slapped him a few times too. Not hard enough to hurt him, but still, not very nice of me. Not nice, she says...sheesh.

Firstly, it is not legal or ethical anymore to beat, starve or shun children, and outside of those options, I can't think of anything that hasn't already been tried, to no avail.
  • Time outs? Tried that. It does help to defuse a situation, but it does not lead to any change in behavior. Besides, I can't levy a 10-minute time-out five minutes before he has to leave for school, and we already know that delaying consequences doesn't work.
  • 1-2-3-Magic? On 3, you have to impose a Consequence, and finding workable, effective consequences is where the problem is.
  • Lecturing? We do that. He hates it, but he doesn't change his behavior.
  • Natural consequences: I like this one, let the results be the punishment - you break a toy, now you don't have it to play with, what have we learned today? But there are no natural consequences to beating on people smaller than you. That's why so many people do it.
  • Logical consequences also sounds good. Consequences imposed from outside that bear a logical connection: if you break curfew, then you can't go out tomorrow night. If you fight over the TV, we turn it off for the day. Etc. Well, the logical consequence of hitting a little person would be to be hit by a bigger person, wouldn't it? But of course, it also demonstrates that under some circumstances hitting a smaller person is okay, and we don't want to teach that.
  • Sticker charts and rewards? I can't keep track. I've tried this one so many times, and it always falls apart after a few days. I run out of stickers. I don't have any change. I promise I'll get to it later and then I forget. This is one of the reasons I suspect I may have adult ADD, because I simply cannot behave consistently from day to day. I've been trying, and failing, for years. And I'd be willing to blow along like a tumbleweed for the rest of my life, accepting my chaotic nature as part of my unique charm, except that it makes me a Not Very Good Mom, and I'm messing up my children. That's a consequence I can't accept, but Just Try Harder isn't working. And getting help is impossible. I can't even get anybody to believe me.
One friend helpfully told me, "I just wouldn't put up with that behavior." When I pressed for details, i.e. what exactly does that mean, what do you do that constitutes not-putting-up-with something, she simply reiterated that she would Not Put Up With It. Umm, thanks for some completely useless advice.

Secondly, and secondarily, of course it is morally wrong to beat, starve or shun a child, and of course I know that. But to be brutally honest, I'm beyond caring about that at this point, and the real reason I don't try it is because I'm pretty sure it wouldn't work.

I always said my first job is to protect my kids from anything that might hurt them, and when I feel they're threatened, Mama Bear comes right out. But how do you protect one of your children from your other child? When you want what's best for both kids, and those goals conflict, what do you do?


Elemmaciltur said...

Sorry, but I don't know about disciplining kids. However, I'm sure you'll get him in grip soon enough. Don't give up on it. There'll be a way!

Theresa said...

This might sound totally nuts, but maybe the next time he does that, pull him aside, where it's quiet, and the two of you can be alone, and ask him to tell you why he does that, to explain what inside him makes him think that hitting is a better way to solve the problem. Sometimes, you get amazing answers that give you some insight into how to handle things.

alala said...

It doesn't sound nuts at all, but umm, he won't talk. We do that a lot, have done since he was 7 and S2 was 1, and he just gives us this blank look and waits for us to tell him he can go. He has an amazingly wide vocabulary, but he has a really hard time talking about feelings.

Useless Man said...

If you REALLY wanted Useless Advice, you would have asked for Useless Advice!