I've recently realized that my frustration with my kids has gotten way out of control, to the point that I'm saying really unkind things to them and yelling at them a lot. I also have decided to stop spanking and start being more compassionate toward my children. I've always shown them affection and told them I love them, but then would turn around and get angry and overwhelmed, and snap at them. I'm doing well with the no-spanking thing, but the no yelling thing is so much harder. It's become an ingrained habit.
The main problem is that my family is big. I have six children, all under ten, and I unschool. So it can get pretty loud and crazy sometimes. When the noise becomes to much, and kids are calling for my attention, and someone is crying, and someone else is tugging on my shirt, that's when I end up snapping at the nearest kid, who usually wasn't doing anything wrong, or nothing major, anyway. It makes me feel really bad. I know they don't feel like we listen to them, and there's never enough time to spend with each of them.
We used to belong to a conservative christian church that mandated every aspect of our lives, including requiring wives to be "quiverfull", popping out babies even if we couldn't afford it, it risked our lives, and we felt like the worst mothers in the world. We've escaped that life, and now I'd like to hear from other parents who have been where we've been--who were told that they had to spank their kids, that it was necessary, that you had to control every aspect of their lives to make them into good little soldiers, etc. I'd like to know how they handled the transition, and how they un-indoctrinated themselves from all the crap that they'd been brainwashed with over the years. I'm already a control freak-- add all that brainwashing into the mix, and I feel like I've basically been subconsciously programmed to take any and all freedom and choice away from my kids.
I want to learn how to let go, and give them more freedom and individuality. But asking for advice from moms who only have one or two kids doesn't help a lot. The typical "gentle parenting" answer when a child doesn't want to clean up and go eat is "let them eat what they want, when they want." Well...umm...that doesn't work for a family of eight. What if they all want different food? What if they all want to eat at different times? I'd like to not have to set up a cot next to the stove! And when they throw a fit because they need extra attention, I try to give it to them, but if I'm changing a poopy diaper, and someone is crying because someone else hit them, and a child comes up to me, having a meltdown, it's just not possible to stop everything and give that child all my attention. I used to be a mom of two children...it's a whole different situation, and what worked in that setting DOES NOT work in a family this size.
So I'd really like to know how other moms like me have handled it. (If there are any!) Trying to start attachment parenting/gentle parenting this late in the game, after ruling with an iron fist for ten years is a real challenge. How can I step aside and let them have some freedom, yet still keep enough order in the house that mealtime isn't complete chaos---and all without yelling or spanking?
I cannot relate to you situation (only 2 kids, AP style from the get-go) but I just wanted to say I think you are very brave to make this transition. It must be incredibly hard. I have found the books "Unconditional parenting" and "Playful parenting" to be helpful but the authors of these books only had a few kids I think. What about Dr. Sears stuff though? He and his wife had 6 kids I think. Maybe check out their website or some of their books at the library. Good luck!
songbird- I don't really have any answers either but I can relate in many ways. I have four, and they are spread out, but they are all boys and I am a single, full time, no breaks parent, so yeah, I do know how you feel overwhelmed. When my first two were little it was easy to be gentle, follow their cues and all that, but now it seems like I have to be so severe just to not lose ground in the day to day. I didn't have the strict religious background you do, but my mother was very controlling and I think the end result is similar in some ways - wanting to parent differently but sometimes having no idea how, especially when the going gets tough. I find one thing that helps me more than any particular book or technique with them, is to focus on destressing myself. There really isn't time or money to "do something" but even little moments I can have in a day to feel more positive and relaxed goes some distance in how peacefully I can handle the chaos. Good luck with your journey... I'm going to keep up with this thread to see what good advice does come down
Jess, mama to five boys
Welcome! I am sure you are not alone .... I only have two kids but get overwhelmed and sometimes react the totally wrong way- and lash out at nearest kid- no matter who is at fault I yell at the one who is closest or making the most noise even if it's crying.
You are very brave! Maybe set up a "cool down" corner where there are pillows and calming books, gentle toys to send everyone (including yourself) when times get bad. I cannot relate, 2 kids four years apart ---but I admire your strength.
Welcome to Mothering
I only have three children, but I can appreciate the challenges that every additional child can add to the mix.
There is a 'moms of Many' thread on this board that you might find interesting and helpful. I'll try to find it for you....
ETA: I think that this is the latest one....
I just wanted to tell you how absolutely wonderful you are for making the transition, for recognizing that you haven't been taught a compassionate way to parent, and for seeking resources and help! Amazing.
Forest For The Trees Radical Family Support Consulting for Growing Families (ask me!)
10+ Years in Professional Holistic Childcare and Support / Alternative Education / Unschooling my Friend, Z (4)
Future Community-Dwelling, Stay-at-Home, Sole-Parent by Choice!
I am just now starting on my first baby, but I wanted to tell you that I was (also) raised in an extremely conservative Christian environment, and left as a teenager; I left the church, and set about putting a lot of physical and emotional distance between myself and my family. It's hard. Be gentle with yourself, you're doing an amazing thing. As an adult I still struggle with knowing what aspects of my childhood I want to keep, and which are so damaging I need to discard them. At times, I feel without anchor, and I miss the absolutes of having my life dictated to me, down to the most minute and personal detail. It would have been easier for me if I could have accepted the lifestyle and submitted myself to the religious and personal ideals my parents and family adhere to. You can do this. It's worth it. If yesterday wasn't very good, and today isn't much better, try again tomorrow. Be encouraged. :-)
And on 09/23/2011, we were three; husband, daughter, and me!
There is an online resource for Christian moms and gentle parenting if you're interested, it's gentlechristianmothers.com Since you are working on switching and I suppose you probably don't have a lot of time to read books, i'd start there. I think the first step in being gentle with our children is being gentle with ourselves, so make sure you're well rested, eating well and getting some exercise. When you feel great it's so much easier to deal with the everyday:)
Cathy mom to 13 y/o DD, 10 y/o DD, 7 y/o DS
has a section on discipline for larger families. The author also recommends books like Positive Discipline and How to Talk so Kids Will Listen...
Midwife (CPM, LDM) and homeschooling mama to:
13yo ds 10yo dd 8yo ds and 6yo ds and 1yo ds
I have 4 under 6 years and know how frustrating it can be. I don't know anyone that can keep positive parenting up 100% -- we are humans. What helped me was Naomi Aldort's book Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves. I don't follow it 100% but it really gave me a good starting point.
We also homeschool. I use a curriculum called ENKI and it really has you tap into the rhythm of your children/family so that you will be active when everyone is full of energy (baby sleeping in a sling as we would walk to the park) or focused during down times. The curriculum also suggests a quiet time, usually 1 hour during the day when everyone is doing something by themselves away from everyone else (we use audiobooks often for this).
The last thing that has helped is Manager of their Chores. It is amazing how much it helps the day, the kids, and me to have them involved in doing chores before we have any play time. My 3 year old helps push all the chairs in at the table and clear the table! When everyone is busy with me, doing their job, they don't frustrate each other or me and they can't create another mess for me to clean up.
Sorry this is so scattered but I thought it might help. Keep at it, it take work and time to get the positive parenting habit going.
I have not been there, but I really respect that you have reached deep into yourself (despite the chaos) and want to make a change! You seem to have a good grasp on how you feel and what you want, and articulate it well. You should write a book! Like keeping a journal of your days, your achievements and struggles ...good times, bad times...revelations and realizations...then share it with us! You could really open a lot of eyes and hearts with your unique and very Real perspective.
As a parent I cannot relate, as I have only two children. But as a child that went through similar upringing to what your have, I DO understand. Do everything in LOVE and understanding. Remember children understand when you explain things to them and talk to them.
“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.”
Jalal ad-Din Rumi
I am an AP parent of 5, and I am also an elementary school teacher. Here are somethings that I find work for us. Kids thrive on routine, but they also need choice. Try not to give totally open ended choices. It will not work with that many kids and you will find yourself running around pulling your hair out. Instead, give them the option of 2 or 3 choices for older kids, 1 or 2 choices for younger kids.
1) Routine. Not scientific scheduling, because kids are people, not robots, but ROUTINE. By routine I mean that you do the same things in the same order every day. You mentioned that you are into unschooling, but coming from a rigid structure background. You can marry the two together. You have some routine but you give you kids tons of choice. For example:
-Wake up, play quietly or watch cartoons.
-Breakfast - a few different of choices of food supplied. If a child is not hungry, that is fine, but they stay with the family during breakfast. This allows them to have the choice to eat or not, but you don't have to be supervising them all over the house.
-Get dressed - let them choose their clothes for the day.
-Family outing - park?pool? wherever, just let them burn off some steam and PLAY PLAY PLAY! Run, get fresh air, ride bikes, whatever. Everyone joins in, but they choose their own activity. If someone just wants to bring a book and read then great.
-Indoor family activity - craft? Painting? baking? or, set up some centres like in a classroom. (We have them set up in our play room) paints, crayons, colouring books, reading books, lego, whatever. Everyone stays in the same room, but they choose their own activity. Or, give them a challenge, like building a fort, or a scavenger hunt through the house.
-Lunch- a few different choices of food provided.
- What do you need to do now? Groceries? Rake leaves? Pick weeds? Chores of some description. Keep this brief, but everyone is involved.
- Cartoons or some sort of quiet activity before dinner. This gives you time to get something prepared, and the kids time to wind down.
- dinner - options
- quiet play or centres, or reading.
- get ready for bed
Remember, this is a loose routine, but once your kids get the hang of it they will know what to expect and will be less stressed out. Less stressed kids = less stressed mommy.
2) Keep them nourished with healthy snacks. In our kitchen and play room we have a box of granola bars, some cut up fruit and veggies, some dry cereal, some raisins and nuts, some juice boxes and bottles of water all in a designated area on the floor, so even the littlest ones have easy access. The kids have access to this food whenever they want it. This way I know that they are properly nourished during the day and they are eating when they are hungry, not at a specific time that I have determined for them. I do serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and set times because I find that they usually are ready for a substantial meal at those times during the day.
3) Naps - a few of my kids still need naps. I have arranged my day so that quiet activities happen during nap times. I have not SET nap times, but I have watched my kids enough to know when they start to be sleepy, and have arranged the routine to accommodate those sleepy times.
Basically, once your kids are rested, well fed, and in a consistent routine for the day you will find that they are better able to play on their own, make their own choices, and handle stressful situations. You will find that are are better able to spend time will ALL of your children in a meaningful way. This is how teachers manage 30 little ones all at the same time.
I hope that helps.
How about you give the two oldest babysitting responsibilities while you are cooking or taking care of the baby? Maybe tell them that you will give them each a dollar if they keep the younger three happy and occupied while you take care of some things. If you don't want to give them money maybe you can tell them if they help out they can choose what's for dinner or where you go on your next outing. I also try to separate my kids if they are together during the day too much- like telling one to play upstairs in his room for a little while and the other downstairs. Maybe you could pair up the kids ( like one big with one little) and have them go to different areas of the house for a period of time during the day. My kids tend to behave better if they are given jobs and purpose during the day (even if the job is to play nicely while I do the dishes). They also like having defined roles within the family- the oldest is the one that makes sure everyone is being safe and the middle one is the "entertainer".
I too came from a conservative christian background, and have been an unschooling mom (of "only" three, though). I did alot of reading, Montessori, Sudbury Model school, other materials about parenting. Then, I just decided to ask myself ONE question everytime my kids asked to do something. I was so accustomed to saying NO to EVERYTHING - keeping tight control. So, finally, I began to say (to myself) "Why not?"
Mom, can we walk over here?
Before: Stay on the sidewalk - next to me.
So, this calmed things down quite a bit, because the kids were happier and felt more in control of their lives.
Then, I began to change my no/maybe answers, using the word willing. Can I eat this cake? I'm willing to let you eat the cake after lunch, after a half sandwich, etc. This shut down a bunch of the whining and negotiating. "PLEASE, just this once" etc - was met with "I'm not willing", so they understood what that meant., and I repeated it calmly. It can be used MANY ways. I'm not willing to go outside til the table is cleaned up. Etc, Can we buy this? when answered by I'm not willing meant that I didn't have to explain whether or not I had the money, because, I was simply not willing to buy that item, whether I had the money or not. It didn't mean I never explained something if necessary. I'm not willing to buy that now, because we need the money for ice skating, etc.
I also used alot of humor, when I really just wanted to snap. Can I eat this (plateful of cookies at a pot luck). Oh, dear, I'm not THAT KIND of MOM!!! Then we'd all laugh, and she'd pick something else. I used that phrase a lot, and we always laughed - even though I was saying NO, basically.
I also put more emphasis on how the kids treated each other than I did on a bunch of household rules. My kids are always tickled by hearing other kids tell stories about their moms - she won't let me: have purple hair, get my ears pierced, wear XYZ, etc. When my kids hair got dyed, my kids would get asked "what did your mom say?" and they would say "my mom DID it!" (why not?) I learned to care more about the inside than the outside. This means I no longer dressed them in outfits I liked - peter pan collars, etc (easy to laugh at now).
I have great kids - one is a college honor student, one is a teen dancer and one of the kindest young ladies I know, and my youngest is a quirky kind of nerd who loves working with her hands and collects vintage cameras. They are very bright, and have learned how to think for themselves.
Though I made alot of mistakes with yelling and spanking when they were younger, I think the girls appreciate it more now because they know I made the change and that it was tough.
I recently watched one of those nanny shows on tv. For timeout, they would give a period of time (I think it was the typical one minute per age of child). The trick was that everytime the kid yelled, fussed, left the time-out area, the timer for the time out started over again. The first time it happened, one young lady spent 120 minutes fulfilling a 3 minute time out. But after that, it worked like a charm. The success of this technique also illustrates the necessity of consistency and following through.
Also, a support system is great. I joined an unschooling play group. I asked questions and observed alot of interactions. I found most unschooling parents to be much less judgmental than others.
I wish you all the best!