Okay, here goes. I SO don't get how to use GD. I mean, I get it in theory (I think), but in practice? I'm totally blowing it. Or maybe it's just the transition from where I am to where I want to be that I don't understand how to maneuver. I was raised with corporal punishment, time outs with our noses on the wall and our hands up high so that our arms got tired, cold showers, and a mismatch in love languages. I knew my parents loved me but didn't always feel very loved. There was very little decision-making allowed by the kids. Parents said jump, we said how high. We were good little robots too. Until the teenage years hit. Then things didn't go so well for any of us. Bunch of delinquents.
I see families around me who use GD, but to be honest, I don't much like to be around their kids. Maybe they aren't really using GD and are a bit more in the permissive category. Maybe it's a temperament issue. Whatever the case, I rarely come across kids I like whose parents use GD. Maybe it's just my area or something, but it creates a hang up for me because, while I feel like GD is the "right" way to discipline (if there is such a thing), I don't want my kids to by tyrannical, tantrum-y and disobedient, which is usually what I see.
I started off not wanting to be my parents, but wanting to have well behaved, obedient, confident, and happy children. I offered lots of choices, tried to be consistent (which gets much harder with more kids), used inductive reasoning, and lots of hugs and high fives, but also time-outs, and, I'll admit it, the occasional spanking (Please don't throw stones yet. See the title of the post). Initially, that was only for dangerous behaviors, my reasoning being that I'd rather they experienced a swat that a severe burn or being hit by a car. Then they got older and I got stumped.
So that's the background. Where are we now? Well, I have a 7 yo who is typically well behaved but she struggles a lot with self esteem. I think I put too much on her and didn't make enough allowances for mistakes. There is also a heavy temperament component; she's rather pessimistic by nature and thinks the world is against her. This victimhood thing creates a lot of trouble when it comes to division of labor or equality about anything (who gets the favorite bowl or the biggest cookie). I also have a 6 yo who has some sensory issues. This is where it gets really sticky. As much sensory input as we can get into that little body of his, there are times where he will be completely non-compliant and ornery and will pester everyone in the house. Or he will go on a destruction rampage and ruin all sorts of things for reasons I can't seem to figure out. We have tried everything to coach and teach respect, self-control, and responsibility, but we still struggle. When he gets in those modes, it seems like he's literally begging for a spanking. When nothing else works, that will. He will push and push and push, and no matter what we try, only a spanking will curb the behavior and help him get control of himself. I hate it. I feel like he's being unfair to us when we are trying desperately to avoid spanking him but he refuses to modify his behavior until we do.
Neither of them are very good at pulling their weight around the house. They fuss about chore time consistently and the more I try to use GD, the more they think they can just sit around and continue to MAKE messes rather than clean them. It's not until my DH gets home and threatens them (which I hate because I've just spent the last three hours trying NOT to threaten but to persuade, be patient, reason, and guide them) and suddenly, before you know it, the chores are done! I hate this dynamic. It makes me think I should just throw in the towel with this gentle parenting thing and just be a dictator. Apparently it gets results (though I know, not the long term kind I'm looking for. No internalization of morals is happening that way). The harder I try to do what I think is the right thing, the more they walk on me. And frequently, I try for a good two hours to keep it together and use gentle methods, but in the end, I'm just so frustrated that I start yelling and threatening. I hate losing control like that and I know that I'm perpetuating the cycle, but I quite honestly don't know how to get out of this rut! How do I be the kind of parent I want to be when I've already established myself as a totally different type of parent? How do I internalize this new set of parenting values to the point that the answers are just there for me (I spend a lot of time mulling over what to do and I often come up with squat) and I instinctively know what to do? Currently, the instinct is to get mad and yell and treat them punitively, which I hate. I really want to change and to break both the cycle we are in and the one I inherited from my parents. I don't really know how to transform myself but maintain some semblance of cohesion in the family in the meantime. How do we get things accomplished with GD when they are used to more heavy handed parenting and really only respond to that? How do we get chores done, homework done, rules followed (I try to have very few rules, mostly about being helpful/responsible and respectful), and a general feeling of peace in our home? Currently, there's lots of disrespect between siblings (I also have a 2 yo and a 10 month old, but, while they take up much of my time, they aren't really causing any discipline difficulties; we've pretty much only used GD with the 2 yo and except for a whining phase of late, she's mostly wonderful), disrespect to parents, bad attitudes, and general non-compliance with things that just plain need doing (I refuse to be a maid and I also refuse to live in a pig pen, which is to say I'd like to be able to walk around my house without having to watch my every step for fear of twisting an ankle, but it certainly doesn't have to be spotless).
Someone please teach me how to transition from the heavy-handed parent I'm trying not to be to a more kind and loving parent without becoming a doormat living in a pig sty with piglets who rule the roost! (too many barnyard analogies?)
You may commence throwing stones for the spanking thing now....