Parental 'Coaching'


I have a question or two for you, using this safe haven as a sounding board yet again.

The other night, after cooking for quite some time and just about to serve the adults dinner (the children had eaten already because we had guests from out of town arriving late), our oldest came with a fork and started picking out of the fruit bowl. He tried to do so discretely, to which I commented on the fact that I could see what he was doing and that he simply had to ask if he wanted more. Two seconds later, our second child came in, nonchalantly got a fork and went to the fruit bowl... Dad was right there and didn't say anything. So I admit, I overreacted a bit and said, "Enough is enough, if you guys wanted some more, you had to say so when it was dessert time, but I don't want anyone picking out of this bowl anymore. I will make you a cup if you want some, just ask!"

After I give our second child a bowl and he is off, my husband takes me aside and comments on how I should give the children warnings before I get to that level. ABSOLUTELY... but at the same time I went into my pity place, thought about the hours of labor put into the meal, about how he didn't intervene in any way, how he hasn't been with the children all day.... and so on and so forth and kept my mouth shut (particularly when you have guests over, not the best platform for discussion, right?).

Anyway, just a day later, my wonderful husband (and I do ADORE him, I'm not being sarcastic) comes home after yet another grueling day at work (granted, he has hit a rough couple of months) and starts barking at everyone in his way, "Why are the shoes here? ...No, that's not how you do it! ...The house is a dump! ...Stop being a cry-baby! ...That's because you're being a brat!" and this after we have a jar where we put money in if there is any name calling, after he told me to give warnings (I generally give 4), after he just walked in the house...

I suppose I am venting a bit, sorry. But I do have questions for you:

-I really don't believe there is such thing as constructive criticism... or at least, because of the inherent quality of "criticism", how does on not get defensive when receiving, say, "feedback"?

-What are the "tricks" you use to keep your cool when you are tired/exhausted/overwhelmed/frustrated and your temper is just shorter than it normally is?

-What strategies do you use when you see your husband/wife/partner slipping on issues you have together agreed upon previously? How do you support and encourage those behaviors (no blowing up unless given fair warning, ie, guys I'm about to explode, please help me not get there; no name calling...)?

-What about disciplining? How do you share the load where one parent doesn't always have to feel like the one reining in the children?

Thanks for letting me vent and thank you for the advice I am sure will give me much to ruminate!

Comments (10)
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4 warnings are 3 too many.

My DH was an only child and I was one of 4. He had trouble being the strict parent, partly because he could not imagine how one thing or another could become a problem. Well, I knew otherwise from my childhood experience that some things times 3 would become a problem. Or that over time, allowing something to go on would become a serious problem as they got older.

We had talked about the need to provide a united front. So I was usually the one who developed the rules and enforced them. We did not argue or scream in our family--things would get real quiet if one of us were unhappy. Nevertheless, he knew I had a handle on this motherhood thing, was doing my best, and trusted my judgment. He now attributes how well our 3 turned out to my mothering. And actually, lots of it was my stubborn persistence.

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Yeah,the warnings actually made me laugh.From your previous posts I remember that you are pregnant...Can anyone really expect a pregnant woman,or any woman for that matter to,"Give a warning before they reprimand?" I think not.
When I'm about to blow my top,I walk away. I know it sounds simple,but it does help me. I go into another room,for about 5 minutes and take breaths and try to calm down.
I DONT think what you did was really "going off" though. So you got irratated cuz the kids kept picking through the bowl.
I think it is fair that when either parent are saying something to the kids,that the other parent not get involved unless they have to. You had control of the situation,you handled it.Your husband really had no right telling you to give a warning next time.
And,I think his own behavior should be brought to his attention.That why should you have to give four warnings just for getting the kids out of the food,when he didnt give any after coming home and going off about everything?

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SJ- you had me giggling and you definitely have a point. I guess, because I came from an environment where the adult reaction predictability factor was always somewhat random, I try to stay cool as a cucumber and warn them... I try to get these children to understand the rules before I lose it, although I think they ALL knew it was a no-no. Thanks!

CM- Thanks for the perspective. I do tend to get in a tizzie about stuff as of late (2 weeks away from having the babe, yep!)... Perhaps this weekend, when it'll be just the two of us, my husband and I can regroup a little bit and see where we can really support one another so there isn't any coaching nor unnecessary blow-ups (fruit bowl incident however, totally legitimate!).

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2 more weeks,how exciting!

I think you're doing a great job then.Here you are cooking all this food and entertaining people.I was on bed rest and usually crying over something everyday,LOL. My husband deserves some kind of reward for putting up with me then.
I'm so happy for you both!
Glad you're getting some alone time before it happens.I guess if we dont hear from you for a while we'll know why then!

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how does on not get defensive when receiving, say, "feedback"?

Try to focus on the intent of the comment, consider the meaning and count to 10 before you respond. Stay focused on the issue and resolving it. When you see the discussion go in the wrong direction, stop and bring it back or let it go for now. Let yourself be distanced, focus on the problem you are trying to resolve, not the specific words in the feedback.

-What are the "tricks" you use to keep your cool

Count to 10, sing or play music, tickle the kids, get myself and everyone else laughing somehow. Sometimes I still lose my cool. Sometimes I regret it. Sometimes I think kids need to learn that you can only push someone so far. If you keep pushing buttons after you crossed the line, the person is going to get very angry at you. It's a life lesson. I can't send them into the world expecting everyone to put up with their crap. I don't hurt them, I just scare them a little once in a while, so better they learn it from me. I don't think that's wrong if it's kept to a minimum. (Some people tell me I'm cynical. LOL)

-What strategies do you use when you see your husband/wife/partner slipping on issues you have together agreed upon previously?

Well, DH and I don't have a list of situations/responses that we plan. I mean, we don't have a "Always give X number warnings" or "Time out must be exactly X minutes" or other official rules like that with each other. We just make an effort to be consistent, if it's a rule it's always a rule not just when we're in a bad mood. If I think he's "doing it wrong" I might say "Wait a second" or "Slow down" or "Do you mean that?" But mostly, I think saying anything would only make things go from bad to worse. So I let it go, walk away if I'm having trouble containing myself. It's better for him to screw it up alone than to have a divided front. A few times, DS come to me later and says something about Dad being unfair. I tell him to take it up with Dad. I won't take DS's side or let him whine to me. (He's 13 now, but even at 7-8 I would tell him that.) Sometimes DS does go talk to to DH and they work it out. That's what I think should happen. We sometimes talk about a discipline situation later, ok, if I bring it up. ;o) I will tell him when we're alone if I think he hurt the kids' feelings because his response was out of his own bad day not just the kids' behavior. If it's just not how *I* would have done it, but it worked out anyway, I forget about it or take a lesson. If I liked how he handled something, I tell him that, too. That happens more often with DS#1, being a young teen boy sometimes he relates better to DH than to me. I swear, sometimes I can say the exact same thing but he hears it different from DH and it works better.

-What about disciplining? How do you share the load where one parent doesn't always have to feel like the one reining in the children?

When they're little, I do most of it. But, I'm a SAHM mom with strong opinions, so I'm there most often, and tend to keep my control even after DH gets home. The pick up your toys, don't hit your sister, sit down at the table kind of stuff I've just jumped in and handled. I think now that DS#1 and #2 are getting older (13 and 10) their behavior is fine on the manners and routine stuff. They step out of line with respect, attitude, etc. Stuff that is more vague, more situational or subjective. You know, "Don't use that tone with me!" They get sarcastic, walk right on the line of disrespect, testing the line. It's harder and takes both of us! I think DH and I have become much more of a team now that we're into the pre-teen and teen ages. Sometimes DH gets home and I tell him about what DS#1 said or did, what priveledge I might have taken away..get him updated.. then say "You need to take him for a walk." I ask DH to back me up with a man-to-man chat about how men should behave. None of that was any master plan, just instinct, for what it's worth. Just a gut feeling when DH needs to be involved, as a father to a son in a way a mother is not.

If I let myself, I'd be the one always reining in the children. When it happens that a mother is the one doing all the reining, I don't think it's always b/c the father won't step in. Sometimes I think the mother doesn't back off let dad do it. Pretty soon, a habit is formed where dad thinks mom wants to be in charge. Just like men not helping with household chores, b/c when they do the woman hovers and want him to do it "her way." I'm not saying that's what is happening with you, I'm not there, I couldn't know. Just throwing my 2 cents out there for consideration. I know I'm guilty of thinking that way, handling a child situation myself because, I confess, I want it done my way. Though the truth is, DH's way would be fine, too.

Maybe I'm deluded, I don't think moms and dads need to agree and take the same approach, just agree on the same rules. Sometimes it works out best that DH and I approach the kids' discipline differently. I think the kids can adjust from one parent to the other with no problem if the basic rules are consistent. There are probably some exceptions, but I'm not going to try to think them up right now.

DH and I both believe that philosophy of "Pick your battles." But sometimes we don't agree on the battles. Right now it's DS#1's hair, he's 13. DS wants to let it grow, and right now it's halfway to his shoulders, all soft and fluffy and blonde, it's actually sort of cute ;o) I think the girls like it. DH would tie him down and have it cut if he thought I was on board. IMO, DH feels like he is judged as a parent for letting his son wear shaggy hair. I think it's a battle that doesn't need fought and don't care if people judge b/c I know he's a great kid under his hair. We have agreed that if DS's gets a C on his report card, his hair gets cut. If he can control his academics and his behavior, he can control his hair. If he shows he cannot, he can't control the hair either. He never gets in trouble at school for behavior (hope I didn't just jinx that), but he has 1 class in particular that he doesn't try his best on his work this year.

Having said all that, I do agree with the other posters about 4 warnings. That's just you post-poning the inevitable. That must be exhausting. If they get 4 warnings, they'll use all 4. If the get 1, they'll learn to get it the first time. I count backwards, starting at 3 or 5 or 10 depending on how much time it takes to do what I've told them to do. 3 to put the breakable down, 10 to get the scooter from the end of the driveway and put it in the garage... 3 to drop the fork and step away from the fruit bowl ;o) Sometimes I ask a question to get them to tell me what they should be doing. I find it more effective to ask "Where do YOU think you should put your shoes?" than "Put the shoes away" and way more effective than yelling about it. I learned that from a teacher of DS's. So you could ask "How should you eat that fruit?" And they'll tell themselves to get a bowl. Instead of repeating a direction that didn't get followed the first time I ask "What are you supposed to be doing?" Kids like to feel like they're making their own choices. I like to make them *think* they are!

You're doing a good job. You must be exhausted. I remember how I felt trying to parent while pregnant, especially the first couple months and the last couple months. I was just too tired to do things the way I wanted to do them. I let a lot of things go I wouldn't normally have. The first couple months with a new baby were at least as hard. But I remember a time when I actually said to my kids, "Watch out, Mommy is back!" It was a tough adjustment, we lost focus sometimes because we were just too tired to focus. But got it back soon, we just have to.

There is so much to this subject I could discuss it for pages. Since discipline is ever so much more than behavior, rules and consequences. It gets into school, study habits, participation in activities. Discipline is teaching, not punishing, so we're doing it with every decision we make for our kids. I think when DH and I are talking and deciding about whether to move DD up to the next level in gymnastics, or what math class DS should take in 9th grade, that is just as much about their life long discipline as the habit of leaving the scooter in the driveway or sneaking chips to his bedroom.

Sorry about this whole chapter, sometimes I have a lot to say. Thanks for bearing with me to the end. ;o)

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I try to stick to simple standards.

No putting lables on children, like saying "You are NAUGHTY for doing that" or "You are a CRY BABY ". I refer to the BEHAVIOUR not the child. Like today in the carpark... a child was heading towards a car, and the mum said "You are so NAUGHTY for going in front of the car". Well the real issue was "I don't want you to be hurt by the car driving over the top of you'. I think that statement gets the message across and does not "label', the child into thinking "I am Naughty." Does all that make sense !

My second standard of behaviour maintain my compsure, and if I explode I always apologise. I do this because, over the years I have found that I am a mirror to my children. If I behave badly then how can I tell them not to ? Behave the way that you want them to behave.

Another good thing to do is...if you are tired, exhausted, just come home and you dont want to have to deal with a request, a problem, or anything...just say "How about we deal with this later, or tomorrow morning at 9am ?" Postpone the incident to when YOU want to deal with it.

Thankfully my DH and I always discuss behaviours or our children, when they are not around. That way we can be united in the way that we will deal with things. But on occasion, I have been greatly upset by his treatment of the children, where he has got angry etc, etc. So we have had our arguments over that. Mind you we have been married for 24 years, and have a 19 yo and 14 yo, so we have had lots of practice !!

Last but not least....dont loose track of the big picture. Keep that statement in your mind. Is it really worth having a battle over the children eating fruit after dinner ? That's up to you to decide...but if it upsets YOU, then don't have the battle.

Also, pick your battles. Sometimes things go wrong, does it really matter ? If most of the time you are a happy family, who love each other, and you are working on better ways of communication, then thats wonderful.

Good luck.


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"I can't send them into the world expecting everyone to put up with their crap. I don't hurt them, I just scare them a little once in a while, so better they learn it from me"
I really agree with this kind of thinking.

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Wow, I have to say, I am blown away sometimes by the responses I read, this time being one of them. Thank you so much!

Stephanie, you raise so many points that had me giggling and nodding many times. Much of what you say happens in our house too... and I have to admit, if some people go through a "nesting" period, I am going through a phase of OVERthinking issues and going in circles. Sometimes, it's right in front of our noses: I can start by saying that 4 is too many warnings!

One thing our middle child (8) says, oh little perceptive one, "but you never told me that", playing into my belief that I have to give him fair warnings... So yesterday, my response was, "That's because you are very capable of knowing right from wrong. And if you have a doubt, we can talk it out together before you act upon it!"... He got the message loud and clear: he asked for more dessert, apologized to his brother after bullying him a bit on the Xbox, A DIFFERENT KID! Love them....

And Popi, what a great point about, "if it upsets YOU, then don't have the battle." Walking away and coming back is what I do most of the time... It gets you thinking about what the issue REALLY is.

So, thank you thank you for all the help. I think I'll be coming back to this post when I feel somewhat overwhelmed again. Oh, and by the way, I also talked to my husband this morning already; a great talk!

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Four warnings? You have more self control than I do! I give my son one warning, if I think about it and depending on the situation. He'll be 16 in July. I'll be 50 in August. I think the next few years will be interesting around here!

I should introduce myself. My name is Julie and I live in coastal Virginia. I've been on this site for years, mostly on the soil/compost board. I learned that it isn't legal to compost my son, so now I'm just a "mean mom" and make him miserable. That's my job, right? :)

BTW, mean as in I say what I mean and mean what I say. And I have no problem with creative discipline...I want to give him plenty to laugh about when he's older and has kids of his own! I've met a few other "mean moms" and we've started a yahoo group. I'll put the link in my profile in a minute, I don't know if we're allowed to do that in our posts.

I'll read more of this board to get a feel for what's going on, etc.


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I went thru conflict classes at several of my jobs. One thing that helps, even though it sounds silly, is the person giving the feedback should start by saying, "Hey is it ok if I give you a little feedback?"

I've used it in the past and it does help put both parties a little less on the defensive.


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