Last night I sucked at motherhood

My boy turns seven in a few weeks and he hates homework.  He also hates school.  He hates anything that resembles learning.  He doesn’t mind learning if it doesn’t feel like learning.  The knowledge has to sneak up on him.  I suppose many of us are like that.

I’ve been reading this book.  It’s called Positive Discipline.  disciplineIt explores a positive and constructive approach to parenting with an emphasis on Adlerian psychology.  The recurring theme in this book is that parents and teachers must get away from the belief that in order to make children do better, we must first make them feel worse.  The book explores the psychology of misbehavior and the pattern of inflicting “blame, shame, and pain” on a misbehaving child, and that ruling by fear may stop misbehavior in the moment but not in the long run, and that adopting a teamwork approach to problem-solving is a more constructive and nurturing approach.  It’s powerful stuff.

I’ve actually been reading this book for some time.  I started on it perhaps a year ago, but since my reading time each night is for ten minutes or so after I get into bed at night, it took a while and I only got halfway through.  And then my youngest started resisting bedtime, and nights became more difficult and reading time took a hike for a bit.

But I picked the book back up again a few weeks ago and started skimming through what I’d already read in an attempt to catch up, because I really, really want to learn this stuff.

Last night I forgot all about the book.  I forgot about Adler.  I forgot about the positive time out.  I blew it.

When homework time rolled around last night, the struggle commenced.  Tears.  Hyperventilating.  Pleading for a brownie that he didn’t know he wanted until I announced that it was homework time.

And all this was before he ever even wrote his name on his paper.

“Nolan,” I said, taking his head in my hands and looking into his eyes, “it’s OK.  Take a deep breath.”  He let out a few short pants.

“Again.  Take another breath,” I said softly.

Pant, pant, pant.

And then a struggle over which page he would start on.  More tears and panting.

This is the routine, four nights a week, for a year-and-a-half, minus one glorious summer, a spring break and two winter holidays.  How could I know that last night was the night that I would reach my limit?

“Nolan,” I shouted, “do you know that I hate doing homework with you?  I hate it.  I absolutely hate it.  I hate it.  I … hate … it.” 

And I kept on as he sobbed.  After a year and a half of school, was he surprised that he had homework every night?  I mean, did this really come as a shock to him every night?

No, he sniffled.

But I kept on about how hard he makes every evening, how everyone has to do homework, but not everyone cries about it every night.  Were it not for this, we could be halfway done with the very page he was protesting.  Why would I want to spend my nights doing this?  He can just sit right there at the desk and wait for Daddy to come home and help him.

And then I sputtered out and went into the kitchen for a breath…which, ironically, I should have done in the first place.

So, the thing is, this is one of the things I’m trying to solve.  My tantrum last night is not a legacy that I care to leave my children.  I want a close relationship with both of my kids, and I also want to shape them to be responsible, considerate, smart, loving.  And the book doesn’t tell me what to do when their suggestions fail.  Or maybe their suggestions are fine, but I fail.  Either way, last night was most definitely a fail.

And today I start again, and try to recover from my outburst.  Nolan seems fine, but I am not.  I pray for patience.  I want to get this right.  You only get one chance to raise your child.  Last night I sucked at it.  Tonight, we’ll see.

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About Joyce

40-year-old university advisor, 10-years married with two small children, trying to do it all and have it all and still manage the occasional social interaction through the wonderful world of blogging.
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15 Responses to Last night I sucked at motherhood

  1. Great post. I know I can realte to it and I’m sure many other parents can as well. COuple of thoughts – first stop beating yourself up. We all blow it sometimes. Also, maybe you should consider Nolan to forgive you. Also, I know just what you mean about hw being so hard. I wrote a post awhile back and said how happy I was when my children don’t have hw. It’s as if everyone is off. Lastly, I have been reading this book on parenting called The Explosive Child and it’s by Dr. Ross Greene. Generally, I am not into these sort of books. However, I am finding this one interesting and more important – helpful. Check it out and let me know what you think.

    • Joyce says:

      Nolan and I apologized to each other last night. I always apologize to him if I treat him less than respectfully. Thanks for the book suggestion. I’m going to go online and see if I can find an excerpt. You might also consider the book I’m reading. It’s something of a classic in its field. Nolan is sometimes explosive, but mainly his problem with homework is that he finds all forms of schoolwork incredibly boring and tedious. ALL forms. Even sitting and reading a short book to me.

      Thanks for being supportive. It’s intimidating to put this stuff out there. You never know if someone will stumble upon the blog and draw the wrong conclusions. I’m trying so hard to do this right.

      • If I look for another parenting book, I will consider it. Does he find it boring because it’s easy, hard, or some other reason? Teacher in me – sorry.
        I know what you mean about putting yourself out there. We all self monitor but the more honest the post is generally the better it is. If someone stumbles across this post and judges you negatively, they need empathy training. It’s them not you. Again, we all lose it at times.

      • Joyce says:

        So far he seems a little slow to catch on to new concepts, but eventually he gets it. So school work is somewhat challenging to him. At the same time, the homework is fairly routine every week – one language arts page and two math pages. We get it on Monday and turn it in on Friday.

        He also doesn’t like me to tear him away from his current activity to work on homework. And I do give him advance notice that it’s almost homework time.

      • This book that I noted might prove helpful. One thing author pushes is getting the child to part of the process. In other words, get him to figure out why hw is so upsetting for him and then figure out how to make it less so.

  2. cookie1986 says:

    I’m sure you are not the first or last parent to feel like you’ve failed. I feel like that ALL the time, and my daughter is only 18 months old.
    Chin up. Today is a new day, and you are doing the very best you can.

  3. Sis says:

    That does sound tough, it would be hard to be in school all day and come home and do homework, especially for an active little boy.

    • Joyce says:

      I know … he does get a nice long break after school though. I can’t possibly get to homework time till sometime after dinner. I sort of wish they would send the homework home on Fridays so I could find a time during the day that maybe works better for him. But I suspect that his favorite time would be never.

  4. Oh Joyce…don’t beat yourself up! I’m constantly going through this. He knows you love him and it will occur to him someday that you are just trying to help him. Knowing how to discipline is hard stuff. It’s a constant learning experience for both us parents and kids!

    • Joyce says:

      Last night was better. After some coaxing I got him to come sit. We had a short talk about neither one of us wanting a repeat of the night before. I let him choose which page he would work on, and he did it without complaint.
      Based on a questionairre that both his teacher and I filled out, I think he has ADD. I need to give it to his doc and see if she has any suggestions. I do believe it can be managed without meds.

      • I often have my suspicions that Bency does too. It’s hard to differentiate between normal boy behavior and ADD. It just seems like he can’t help jumping around and acting impulsively. I’ve spoke to my doctor about it and he said he might but he would not medicate him especially at his age. So far Bency’s behavior hasn’t affected him at school so I guess that’s a good sign but I’m always kind of holding my breath. It’s just so hard to know the right way to discipline and handle it all!

  5. My lowest mothering moment (so far, of course 🙂 ) was when I totally lost it with both of the kids, screaming and yelling at both of them at the top of my lungs. Shocked them–and myself–so completely that I immediately put myself in a time out (yes, in the naughty corner). I’ll never forget the looks on their faces as mommy waited out her ten minutes and then had to go apologize to them. It was an eye-opener for everyone. We all lose it. We all have to atone for it. And we all have to say we’re sorry. That’s the best we can do or expect of anyone else.

    • Joyce says:

      Yes, asking and receiving forgiveness should be a part of family life. I am not proud of my shortcomings, but I take heart in the fact that my children can count on an apology from me if I misbehave.

    • Joyce says:

      PS…I love the idea of putting yourself in time out! I’ll bet your kids did too 🙂

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