And the lesson is…

Sometimes being a parent is hard.  (and sometimes it’s harder still.)

My four year old son is trying out his wings.  And unfortunately the wind that they are stirring up as he flaps them is driving the rest of the family insane.

And he is the kid that gets hyper tired.  And he has been tired a lot lately.

So last night as we were getting ready for bed the four of us were huddled in the bathroom as I tried to get him to give me his leg to help him with his pj’s and as I asked him for the fourth time to get his pjs on, his father reached over and grabbed his ear.


And it hurt and surprised him.  And so my little boy kicked out at my husband in outrage.

And then my husband snatched him up and put him in a time out in the hall.

Now, often when my son is put in time out, he is silent.  Sometimes he cries when he knows he has done something wrong.  And then there are the times when he mumbles.

He mumbles when he feels he has been wronged.  He mumbles about what was done to him and how he will resolve it.  Who he will no longer love, what he will no longer do with them, or otherwise what he feels has been severed as part of this punishment – usually best friend hood.

And last night he mumbled as he sat in time out.  And I caught a couple of “nevers” and “evers” and I watched as my husband calmed down and tried to help me get our daughter ready for bed and I wondered.

What was the lesson we taught him?

So we talked about it later, after the kids had gone to bed. 

My husband was already feeling guilty so I didn’t try to blame him for the ear grabbing (especially since I had done the VERY SAME THING earlier this month).  Instead I wondered about his time out.

We put him in time out because he tried to kick his father.  He tried to kick his father because his father hurt him.

Is the message that we are sending that mommy and daddy can hurt you and you can’t do anything about it?

That seems like a craptastic message. 

So we resolved that we will try very hard not to pinch his ear.  And we will try even harder not to get pissed if he fights back, if we should slip up and do it anyway.

And really that’s the best we can do.

And the lesson learned is that parenting is at best a VERY imperfect science.  Because parents are at best VERY flawed.

But we try.



3 thoughts on “And the lesson is…

  1. I’ve often thought that about time-out, that it very often doesn’t correspond to the deed.

    For example, when one child is screaming because she is frustrated, we use time-out. It sometimes works. But don’t kids sometimes need to yell and scream to get out their frustrations? (I know sometimes I do.) I can’t help but think that I’m teaching them that they need to keep their frustrations to themselves.

    And if so, what kind of lesson is that?

  2. You know, we’ve been guilty of idle threats for a long time. I realized we were sending a message that we would threaten to spank (which terrified our son) and even though we never followed through with it (ok, we did once. It was awful) we were still coming across as bullies. So now we do other things. Try to get the punishment to fit the crime, so to speak. And try to use motivation to produce positive behaviors. Although sometimes we believe punishment is effective.

    Time outs also aren’t great once they get older. Ever try to get a nine-year-old into time out? Yeah, about that…in other words, it doesn’t work. So we have a behavior modification plan in place now. Things are much happier around here. Much happier. And although we still get angry sometimes, we’ve finally learned to speak with a clear, level voice (our kids are afraid of loud noise, they instantly shut down) and tell them firmly what is expected. Sometimes we’re actually successful at this.

    I think that you are doing a great job. Just thinking about what message you are sending? A very important step.

  3. about a year ago, Jake bit me and I pinched him. He said he bit me because I picked him up too hard and hurt him. I did. Then he did then I did and it was awful.

    We both cried, and talked about our feelings. I talked about why I picked him up too hard (frustration, anger, exhaustion- all things a 3.5 year old knows all about) and they we talked about why he bit me (surprise, anger, hunger- all things a 33.5 year old knows all about) and then we talked about why I pinched him (shock, pain, revenge- things no one should know about). It was so terrible.

    He still reminds me of the time I pinched him. But it’s usually in jest, the good and okay kind. I remind him of the time he bit me, he reminds me of the time I hurt him when I picked him up, and I remind him of the reasons I was so frustrated.

    It was a real teaching moment for us both.

    I think it happens to all parents, sometime.

    It sucks.

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