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Asserting parental authority (but not really how it sounds)

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

Sometimes I think DS thinks we're all just great friends and DH and I have no real authority. We are not trying to be "authoritarian" parents per se, but when we ask DS to do something (like sit nicely at the table instead of leaping around), he basically turns it back on us. He accused me the other day of not using nice manners at the table, and told me to go to my room. Sometimes, DH will tell him what the consequence is if he doesn't comply with our requests, and DS will immediately tell DH he needs to comply with whatever consequence DH laid out for him. (We try to use natural consequences as much as possible, but DH doesn't always subscribe to that and sometimes it has to be a logical consequence if there is no natural one...)

 

How do we explain to a 3 year old that mommy means what she says and he needs to listen? Other than scaring him by yelling, of course. We are not UP, but would like to be more gentle than our authoritarian parents were.

post #2 of 13
It could be that she didn't know how to handle it better at that moment. I remember meeting up at a McD's PlayPlace with friends, and she has a rule that the kids have to eat before they can play. I have no such rule, partly because I figure the play is far healthier than the food so if she doesn't eat I'm OK with it, so my dd wasn't used to that, and planned to just immediately play. I saw her kids having to wait and decided it would be best for all if she waited as well, but I was having a hard time figuring out how to communicate that to her effectively without making my friend feel bad. Like, I couldn't say, "Honey, I know you usually get to just play, but your friend's mom makes her kids sit and finish their food before they play, so you have to wait too." That would be setting my friend up as the bad guy, which IMO would be rude. I don't remember how I handled it but it was tricky. So it's possible she was dealing with enforcing more rules than she usually has and wasn't sure how to gracefully do that at that time.

Or maybe she just didn't want him to argue with her. I don't know.
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 

Thanks, mamazee. I changed the OP and removed the story about my friend b/c I felt like I was getting too long-winded. That situation is what prompted me to finally ask the question after a week or so of similar moments when I think we could be doing things better/different/more gently/less thumb-squashing.

 

FTR, she is very strict in terms of rules like no shoes on furniture, staying at the table til everyone is finished (and asking to be excused first), no running inside, etc. She confessed that a good friend of hers really annoys her b/c the friend lets her kids run around in restaurants, and my friend doesn't think it's appropriate, both for manners and for safety reasons. So she is strict, but keeps a very even, quiet, calm keel which is where we differ. (I get frustrated and annoyed too easily, and I yell too much.)

 

I just thought that for those with parenting styles similar to hers (gentle, calm, no scolding, no yelling, etc.) people would have something different to say than, "You don't say no to ME." I'm trying to get us off that kind of stuff. I kind of equate it to spanking a child for hitting, and saying, "You don't hit me." Well, we just don't spank and we say, "We don't hit." No one does. But DH and I have to say no to things that are dangerous, inappropriate, etc. and yet DS doesn't get to say no to us when he doesn't want to do what we ask. I'd like to teach him that objection is okay at times, but continuing to argue when we have "laid down the law" so to speak (like saying it's time for bed or whatever) is not.

post #4 of 13

hm.... so with the accusation of not using manners at the table, i would probably just kind of go along with that and ask questions.  like: what did mommy do that was unmannerly?  should i not put my elbows on the table?  thank you for pointing that out. 

going to your room isn't a natural consequence for rude eating behavior (not that we have table manners at our house) but maybe cleaning up afterwards is?  or did your kid just kind of pull that out of the air or apply the going to the room thing from a different situation?

also, are you guys enforcing the consequence?  i personally would tend to ignore the kid telling you to do the consequence after you said it but immediately make it happen if you've already given notice.

lots of that just sounds like normal 3 year old testing of boundaries.  for the rest of it (and we are UP) i just try to reiterate and bring up in situations throughout the day when dd asks me to stop or to do something that WE listen to HER.  therefore she needs to listen to US.  i'll also point that out when she's challenging in that way.  (like: you remember when you wanted mama to get the puzzle from the shelf for you?  you asked and mommy listened?  can YOU listen to mommy now?  i am asking YOU to xyz.  thank you.)  probably 70 percent effective, though it won't work if there's any drama/crying/tantrum freakout occuring. 

 

... i missed your original post so i have no idea what everybody else is talking about. i am only addressing what you have after editing.


Edited by hildare - 8/4/11 at 1:22pm
post #5 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by swd12422 View Post

Sometimes I think DS thinks we're all just great friends and DH and I have no real authority. We are not trying to be "authoritarian" parents per se, but when we ask DS to do something (like sit nicely at the table instead of leaping around), he basically turns it back on us. He accused me the other day of not using nice manners at the table, and told me to go to my room. Sometimes, DH will tell him what the consequence is if he doesn't comply with our requests, and DS will immediately tell DH he needs to comply with whatever consequence DH laid out for him. (We try to use natural consequences as much as possible, but DH doesn't always subscribe to that and sometimes it has to be a logical consequence if there is no natural one...)

 

How do we explain to a 3 year old that mommy means what she says and he needs to listen? Other than scaring him by yelling, of course. We are not UP, but would like to be more gentle than our authoritarian parents were.


If my kids are not behaving at the table (calm, not interrupting, not whining about the food) then they do have to go to their rooms.  I mean I'll remind them/correct them of course but they can't interrupt dinner for everyone else.  I think that's plenty logical.

 

Sometimes DS will tell me to go to my room and I remind him that he doesn't get to say that to me.  I'm the mommy :)  If he were to continue with that then he'd have to go to his room.  I consider that 'antisocial behavior' and I always tell my kids that if they don't want to be nice to people they don't have to be around people.  In fact, I insist on it :)

 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by swd12422 View Post

FTR, she is very strict in terms of rules like no shoes on furniture, staying at the table til everyone is finished (and asking to be excused first), no running inside, etc. She confessed that a good friend of hers really annoys her b/c the friend lets her kids run around in restaurants, and my friend doesn't think it's appropriate, both for manners and for safety reasons. 

Is that considered 'strict'?  I thought those were all pretty basic rules.  Unless you're saying it in a positive way?  I missed your OP story about your friend.

 

post #6 of 13
I think of myself as pretty much the opposite of strict, and I would never let my kids run around a restaurant or put shoes on furniture. I don't make them sit at the table when very little, but we do spend our meals together when they are older. But anyway I don't think those rules are about strictness, the first two anyway, but about being respectful of others. If you run around a restaurant, you bother everyone and potentially trip people carrying hot and heavy food and knives and things. And I suppose you can let your kids put their shoes on your own personal furniture you'll have to pay to get cleaned or replaced if you want, but it would be incredibly rude to allow that for anyone else's furniture. I think the issue of when a child should be expected to sit through a meal is something we all have different opinions about though.

It sounds like you felt like she was more coercive than you thought, though, with her language? Is that the issue? I think I'm generally pretty darn laid back with my kids, but when the older one ignores me repeatedly, eventually my tone will change. The first time, I tell her nicely to do something. The second time, I still tell her very nicely in case she didn't hear me. The third time, I touch her and tell her firmly. But if it gets to a fourth time, I might not be happy anymore. I shouldn't have to tell her something four times. I don't yell at her or shame her, but she'll know I'm unhappy with her. I don't think it's realistic for anyone to always have a sweet nice patient tone of voice with their kids every moment. I mean, we're human beings and I'm not sure if it does our kids any favors to not see us have all of our emotions and see us dealing with them responsibly.
post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 

DS is awake, so I'll try to address everything quickly....

The rule at the dinner table is that everyone uses nice manners and respect. That means if you're yelling, whining, throwing food/forks, or generally being disruptive, you don't get to stay. DS's bedroom is as far from the table as it can be, so he goes there to make whatever noise/disruption he felt couldn't wait til after dinner. In that respect, I figured it was a logical consequence.

 

When I say "strict" I guess maybe I do just mean following through and enforcing rules (or even having some to begin with). Maybe my friends are just way more permissive or lazy (some are permissive and some really are just too lazy to teach their kids manners). At any rate, I'm definitely not the most laid-back of my friends with kids. (And the issue of how little is too little to be expected to stay at the table til everyone is finished kind of goes into my definition of "strict" too, since some people believe EVERYONE stays at the table til the meal is over, no matter how old, and some are okay with littles not having the attention span to sit quietly, and some don't think anyone should be forced to sit at a table after they're finished eating, regardless of what else is happening. Maybe I should have used a different word to convey this....)

 

"Because I said so" or "because I'm the Mommy" just seems to be out of line with a lot of the values on this board, so I asked what you all say or do instead to let your kids know "who's boss." Obviously, there is a huge spectrum between the UPs (or what I perceive to be the concept of UP based on what I've read here) and the "show 'em who's boss" methods (right up to spankings and yellings and the proverbial squashing of spirit under the parent's thumb). We do have rules, so we're not exactly in the UP category, but I'd like to be closer to that than having my kid cut his own switch. My friend that I mentioned in the OP (which I removed) is very quiet, mellow, respectful of her kids and I never thought she would pull the "You don't talk that way to ME" card, but she did. So I wondered how all you feel about this concept.

post #8 of 13
UP isnt'a bout not having rules. I think maybe you're confusing Unconditional Parenting with Consensual Living. Consensual Living is about always finding mutually agreeable solutions and not forcing children to do what you want. Unconditional Living is an anti-behaviorist thing, and is only about not using rewards and punishment.
post #9 of 13
It's been a long time since read UP, but for me the main messages of the book were to respect your child and to make sure that you connect with your child, especially after you've had an issue.

In terms of "backtalk", we do the following: If it's just one thing I'll usually look at the child and say "that sounded rude, please try again." When they were 3-4,I would often have to model for them what I would consider more polite. Now that they're older, they can do it on their own. If it's crying and carrying on because they didn't get their way or for some other slight, I send them to their room until they can be social, and then we'll reconnect after.

I think, OP, your son would be a good age to start using the ideas in"How to talk so your children will listen..." When he says back to you "no, you need to go to your room!" You can acknowledge his feelings "oh, it sounds like you're mad at us" without getting into an argument with him about going to his room. I find that addressing the emotion underlying the statement often helps, if I can remember to do it. I also found that asking my kids what the rule was helped me and them. They'd get a reminder about what the rules were, by I wouldn't always be threatening the consequences.
post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mamazee View Post

UP isnt'a bout not having rules. I think maybe you're confusing Unconditional Parenting with Consensual Living. Consensual Living is about always finding mutually agreeable solutions and not forcing children to do what you want. Unconditional Living is an anti-behaviorist thing, and is only about not using rewards and punishment.


Yes, I stand corrected. I meant consensual living. Sorry! I was typing too fast and distracted by DS, and UP were the only letters I could think of at that moment.

 

Lynn, I just read How to Talk, and I do try that. If I tell him, "That sounded rude. Is there a nice way to say it?" his response is, "No, it's not. It's not rude." (and will sometimes add, "Know what? Go to your room!" It's really hard to not get angry or laugh (depending on how escalated the situation is), neither of which would be helpful.....) He's even hit me before (playfully, but hard and I don't want to encourage that) and I'll say, "Please don't hit me. That hurts." He'll respond, "No it doesn't." "It doesn't hurt ME." Do you just let these things go after you've said your piece and hope it sinks in eventually? I know it's part of being 3, and it'll pass, but I want it to pass without him hurting someone and with him learning nice behavior.

 

post #11 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by swd12422 View Post




Yes, I stand corrected. I meant consensual living. Sorry! I was typing too fast and distracted by DS, and UP were the only letters I could think of at that moment.

 

Lynn, I just read How to Talk, and I do try that. If I tell him, "That sounded rude. Is there a nice way to say it?" his response is, "No, it's not. It's not rude." (and will sometimes add, "Know what? Go to your room!" It's really hard to not get angry or laugh (depending on how escalated the situation is), neither of which would be helpful.....) He's even hit me before (playfully, but hard and I don't want to encourage that) and I'll say, "Please don't hit me. That hurts." He'll respond, "No it doesn't." "It doesn't hurt ME." Do you just let these things go after you've said your piece and hope it sinks in eventually? I know it's part of being 3, and it'll pass, but I want it to pass without him hurting someone and with him learning nice behavior.

 


I wonder if you could try rephrasing it in a way that he can't argue with you about how you feel etc? Just leave your feelings out of it and say, "Please ask nicely," or "Please don't hit me." Then just kind of refuse to engage if he turns it back at you or something? That sounds really frustrating but we're not there yet so I don't have many ideas for this...

ETA: Actually now that I think about it, DS does do this sometimes... But he is pretty easily redirected... The two things that seem to work:
Reminding him how he'd feel if the roles were reversed (i.e. if he says, "It doesn't hurt me," I might ask him to remember how he felt when a friend hit him, "That's how I feel when you hit me.")
Trying to read his underlying intention (for "You go to your room" I might say something like, "It sounds like you need some space right now, would you like to go play in the other room by yourself for a little bit?")
post #12 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by swd12422 View Post

Sometimes I think DS thinks we're all just great friends and DH and I have no real authority. ... 

 

How do we explain to a 3 year old that mommy means what she says and he needs to listen? Other than scaring him by yelling, of course. We are not UP, but would like to be more gentle than our authoritarian parents were.


From the title of your post it's pretty clear that you're very conflicted about what it means to have authority as a parent.  It's both okay and necessary to be authoritative.  You get to set limits that will help him be safe, kind, polite, and responsible.  

 

I can't see the McDonald's story, but from the response to it I can suggest some words that might help in the future.  If I hadn't known in advance that my friend was going to be sitting down, I would have gone with something non-judgmental like, "Every family has different rules.  You can play first if you want to.  I'm going to eat with everyone else now.  Do you want to join us?"  If I knew ahead of time I would prep for it in advance with, "Usually you play first.  Today we're going to eat with our friends first and then play."  Not phrased as a question, not with an "okay?" on the end.  Just, here's how it is today. And I'd be prepared to go home if he insisted on playing first.

 

You can't explain to a 3-year-old that mommy means what she says.  You have to demonstrate it. I really like the Love and Logic approach, which I know gets some flak on this board, but it's really working well for us right now.   There's a lot of "as soon as" or "as long as."  "You can stay at the table as long as you sit nicely."  And then calmly remove him from the situation if he persists.  There's no yelling.  (My son actually likes yelling -- he thinks it's hilarious, so it has no disciplinary effect at all.)  As for him hitting you, I would stop that right now.  My husband is much more polite than I am, and he uses "please" a lot with those types of things. I would drop the "please" and say, "Do not hit me.  It hurts. I do not like it," while making eye contact and gently holding his arms.  And I would put him in his room if he kept doing it.  And ignore the arguing back.  

 

Instead of "Because I'm the mommy," how about, "Because I expect you to be polite," "Because we have to be safe," or "I can see you're not happy about that, and it's okay to feel sad/upset."?

 

 

post #13 of 13


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by swd12422 View Post




Yes, I stand corrected. I meant consensual living. Sorry! I was typing too fast and distracted by DS, and UP were the only letters I could think of at that moment.

 

Lynn, I just read How to Talk, and I do try that. If I tell him, "That sounded rude. Is there a nice way to say it?" his response is, "No, it's not. It's not rude." (and will sometimes add, "Know what? Go to your room!" It's really hard to not get angry or laugh (depending on how escalated the situation is), neither of which would be helpful.....) He's even hit me before (playfully, but hard and I don't want to encourage that) and I'll say, "Please don't hit me. That hurts." He'll respond, "No it doesn't." "It doesn't hurt ME." Do you just let these things go after you've said your piece and hope it sinks in eventually? I know it's part of being 3, and it'll pass, but I want it to pass without him hurting someone and with him learning nice behavior.

 


Yeah, "How to Talk..." works better for some kids than others, and it works better for slightly older kids (4-5+). He's 3. He doesn't have the ability to take another perspective yet. Really, for him, if it doesn't hurt him, he can't imagine it hurting you. Crazy, but true. So, I agree with the others. "Don't hit." "Ask nicely." might be more effective right now. From my experience, 2 year olds are testing the boundaries of their physical world, 3 year olds are testing the boundaries of how much of your behavior they can control, and 4 year olds are testing social boundaries. Once they get these boundaries figured out, they do calm down a bit for a few years.

 

I know that others disagree with me, but I don't think consentual living is possible with a 3 year old. They do not have the ability to realize that someone else might be thinking something different from them (remember, this is the age where they play hide-n-seek by hiding their eyes. "If I can't see you, you can't see me" is their line of thinking). I think it's a reasonable philosophy for children over 8, but I couldn't imagine doing it with a 3 year old. I'll also confess that it doesn't fit my personality. I'd much rather lay down the law and deal with the fall-out.


Since he's fairly argumentative, you might focus more on "I" statements... "I don't want to spend time with you when you talk to me like that." "I find that rude." Instead of asking him, "is there a nicer way to say that?" say "is that the same as 'mommy, can I have a glass of water please?" One great phrase that I learned from a preschool teacher skilled at teaching 3 year olds was "Oh, I guess we have different ideas about that." That sidesteps a lot of arguments, but doesn't force them to give up their version of reality, and doesn't force you to accept his reality. View it as arguing with someone who is not rational (3 year olds aren't).

 

Have you read "Kids, Parents & Power Struggles"? That's a good book too, and might come in handy with your son's tendency to argue. It is a characteristic that will stand him in good stead when he's older, but it's hard to deal with in a 3 year old. Or a 7 year old. I think I need to re-read that book for dd.

 

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