The fact that I typed that title is pretty darn funny, because if there is anything I don't enjoy about parenting, it's the disciplining part. Mike and are BOTH softies. Him probably even more than me, but the Bible says over and over and over again in Proverbs, If you do not discipline your kids, you hate them. Hate, really? That sounds harsh, but I think I get it.
If you love them, you want them to be loved by others. If we let them act like Heathens, who's going to love them, right? Teachers. Friends. Family. Colleagues. Teammates. For sure, life will be easier for them if they are trained to act with love for others.
I think that I was always a pretty good kid. A pleaser. I made plenty of mistakes, but needed very little discipline. If you just looked at me the wrong way, I'd fall apart, so I don't remember needing much help being a good kid. We have 2 kids that are just like that. Natural born pleasers. Their goal in life is to make others happy. To go with the flow. Easy-peasys in a lot of ways.
But, what do you do about the kids who know what they want and will fight you to death to get it. Pleasing is NOT their game. They aren't bad kids. They ARE NOT bad kids. In fact, I KNOW that a fierce strong will take them places in life the rest of us wouldn't have the nerve to go. (Run 3-4 miles 5 days a week in the 90+ degrees Georgia heat and humidity, NO THANK YOU!) When they are 2 and 3 and driving you WILD, you can't see it, but when they grow up, it is GOOD. So good. They'll make you so PROUD the way they achieve one thing after another after another.
But like their "pleasing" siblings, they too need guidance.
One night last week, Carly was lying in her bed reading the book Wonder. When I went up to kiss her goodnight, she started crying saying that Lilly didn't ever say, "I love you" to her like Via did to Auggie in the book. (Via is Augie's older sister.) I just don't understand why? I love her so much. I love Lukey and Ella so much. Why doesn't Lilly love me like that? She went on to give examples of how she didn't ask her to ride any rides at an amusement park and that she wouldn't play Barbies with her and that she ALWAYS yells at me for sucking my fingers, but she never yells at Lukey and Ella for it. :-(
Broke my heart. I hate it. It drives Mike and I wild that Lilly isn't as kind to her as the other two. We've "talked" about it a million times, but talking only gets us so far, and then we slide back to our old ways. Anyone else?
Despite that fact, I talked to her more. She seemed sad, remorseful even, promising she'd do better.
On Friday night, some of our new friends who are twins came over to play with Lilly. These two girls are sweet, precious, good as gold girls. I love them. They have the sweetest bond as sisters. They are ALWAYS together, you never see one without the other. They seem to genuinely like each other and get along so well. Every time I see them, I can't help but think, I wish my oldest two girls were like that! I had told Lilly, you can play with them, but you MUST include Carly. They all jumped on the trampoline, played basketball, just had a ball together. And then the question was asked that always gets asked, "Sleepover?"
Mike and I said yes, but that she'd need to take her little sister along. It made sense, the two of them plus Lilly and Carly, it would be a good even number. -Except, she wasn't buying any of it. She cried and said that wasn't fair, she just wanted to be with her friends, HER AGE! I understood. We never ask her to bring her little sister along, but we'd already talked early in the week about being more kind to her sister, and this seemed like a good chance to show kindness. To love beyond herself. To prove that she could be Kind to Carly.
But nope. It didn't happen.
I ended up texting the other mom that Lilly couldn't come over and that I was sorry to disappoint her girls.
Lilly ended up going to bed without watching Heartland, her favorite show, and without the sleepover. I'm pretty sure she cried herself to sleep.
And I of course, second guessed myself. Was that the right thing to do??? Everyone says it's "normal" for big sisters to be annoyed by little sister until the grow up and leave the house. But I hate it. Their hot/cold relationship causes me a ton of stress and heartache. We keep saying we are going to help them connect better as sisters, but honestly, we aren't sure how to make it happen. Sometimes they play well together, but definitely not as much I'd like. Carly and Lukey play non-stop and honestly never fight about anything. Lilly loves being with her friends, and is a great friend. But she is NOT always great to Carly.
Anywho, this isn't really about sibling relationships, but more about discipline.
So, we took away her TV time, canceled the sleepover and everyone went to bed. It was really too late at that point to deal.
The next morning I called her into the laundry room and tried to talk her through it.
"About last night, we gave you a chance to show love. You could have made Carly SO happy. You could have been so happy. The twins would have been so happy. But you chose otherwise and everyone suffered. It's my job as your momma to grow your heart in love. When you have the chance to love someone, even if it is not the *ideal* situation for you, you need to at least consider it. I need you to not just think about your own happiness, but that happiness of others. I have seen you give kids the clothes out of your gym bag so that they wouldn't have to run in jeans, even when that meant you ran in black leggings. I have watched you give away your brand new hair scrunchies to kids who wanted them. I see you sit with kids at lunch so they aren't sitting alone. You are SUCH a good helper to me. I hear the way you cheer your friends on and encourage them. You are so supportive of others. You always want to take your friends places. You have such a good heart for *other* people. I know you know how to love beyond yourself, but why not do this for Carly? We don't expect you to be perfect. We know she annoys you, but you can do better. I need to see better from you."
We hugged and then moved on about our day. We were going to Jekyll Island and she was in charge of making everyone sandwiches. She made them without an ounce of fuss. She rode in the front of the van with me and we had so much fun listening to the music. We laughed together. Talked together. We didn't let Friday night ruin Saturday. She told me over and over, "Thank you for bringing us here. I loved doing this. (bike riding along the beach) We have to come back here again." It was a day that I'm certain we won't forget.
Had I held onto my anger with her for not being loving towards her sister, it would have been bad. Trust me, I have experienced that. We lived that way for far too long, not forgiving, constantly reminding her of her past mistakes. That is a miserable way to live. God love all the sweet neighbors and friends that I'd call crying about "what to do with her" and for having patience with me for so long.
A few years ago I took a year long parenting class at our church. I cried my way through it, realizing that although I had great intentions, I was lacking so much wisdom when dealing with a strong-willed child. The main things being, I didn't know how to end the battles. And I'm telling you, she was the toddler who battled everything. I was the momma who thought that I needed to win all the battles, which never really happened. I held onto the anger. I remember the teacher basically saying, not in these exact words, but give the appropriate discipline, not when you are fuming mad, because you will be much too harsh and regret your words/actions. And then when it's over, kiss them or hug them, tell them they are forgiven, and let that event die. Don't keep rehashing past events. Don't let them think that you are constantly mad, sad, angry, or disappointed in them. Remind them of all the good that you see. Say that you expect to see more good. And then to the best of your ability, LET IT GO. Search for the good in them and don't let it go unnoticed. SAY it when you see it or hear it! Play cards together, go for a bike ride, to the mall, whatever it is that you enjoy doing together and start over. Clean slate. New day.
Forgive them like you want to be forgiven.
Encourage them like you need encouragement.
Find the good in them like you want others to see the good in you.
Give a punishment that fits the crime. One that will help them consider their options the next time they are in that same situation.
Focus on their heart. Their character.
Remind them that our purpose here is to love others well. And that that often requires sacrifice, but that God always sees it, and gives us great Joy and peace for loving each other well.
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9
Don't let them hang out in "I'm a bad kid, poor me, I'm a looser, life stinks" land. That won't help them, or you, or anyone around them.
As momma bears, let's be their biggest fans. Let's love them unconditionally. Let's teach them to love others well, even when it means sacrifice. You will have more Joy in the Chaos, I PROMISE!