the network for radical unschooling families
I am still trying to figure out this radical unschooling parenting thing. And then trying to explain it to hubby. But he is insistent that toddlers can not be reasoned with and has to be told no and spanked to follow through. So please help. I am trying to get our family to be respectful of each other and stop with all the yelling and spanking. Can anyone give me some suggestions on how to handle toddlers? Hubby thinks she is spoiled and gets what ever she wants when ever she wants. Thinks I am ruining her by not making her clean up toys and by giving her food when ever she wants it. Here are some examples of what we face pretty much every day.
Throwing fits for not being able to do something, like she is unable to because she doesn't have the skills. And throwing her self on the floor when she does get a no for whatever reason she may get one. She screams a lot (which bothers hubby). When she screams I find out what is bothering her or what she needs and do it or get it for her as much as I can. Hubby feels this is wrong and she should use her words and not scream and I am rewarding her so she will continue to scream.
As far as food, I have relaxed a lot. We went from 3 meals a day with a snack here and there to complete freedom to eat what and when they want if we have it in the house. Hubby is getting use to this and is agreeing it is a great idea.
We have gone from chore charts to just asking for help. Of course none want to do anything ( all three of them, 9. 8. and 2) which is beginning to create issues which I need to deal with my own feelings of letting go. I ask but I still want them to do something so it upsetting when they choose not too, so I get bitter feelings inside. I know that is a major issue I have to work through.
I know I still have traditional parenting inside of me and I got to let go. Every day is a struggle. But I am trying and getting there slowly.
Any suggestions would be great. Thank you.
He's right that toddler's can't be reasoned with. The difference with parenting peacefully is seeing that a parent's job is to use our greater reasoning ability to set our kids up for more success and happiness. Its not such a matter of not saying "no" as making whatever you want to say "no" to a non-issue by findind another solution. Punishment comes from a failure of imagination. That's true even for people who value spanking, btw - as they develop more of an ability to predict and be proactive they spank less, naturally.
Thinks I am ruining her by not making her clean up toys and by giving her food when ever she wants it.
It's hard to argue with something like that if the other person has expectations that children should be obedient. If your dh thinks that, then he's right, you're ruining her obedience by not enforcing it. Are there any peaceful parenting classes in your area? Alternately books on the subject could help. Those won't be unschooling by a long shot, but a kind of compromise - gentle discipline and manipulation instead of threats and physical force.
If your spouse is unhappy, its better to compromise than draw lines in the sand over unschooling. Find ways for him to feel good about parenting!
Throwing fits for not being able to do something, like she is unable to because she doesn't have the skills. And throwing her self on the floor when she does get a no for whatever reason she may get one.
But as I said, a major aspect of more peaceful parenting is getting ahead of the game - set her up so she's not falling apart over this and that. Notice what sorts of things your dd wants to do and find ways to make those things easier for her. Look for ways to shift "no" to something else. Sometimes that's as simple as changing "not just yet" to "yes, let me free my hands". It helped me, since I have a retail background, to think of how I would say something to a customer - not "I can't help" but "let me help you find a better resource", not "I don't have that" but "I have something similar to what you want".
We have gone from chore charts to just asking for help. Of course none want to do anything ( all three of them, 9. 8. and 2) which is beginning to create issues which I need to deal with my own feelings of letting go.
Also, realize that your husband may be reacting to your reactions! He's trying to help and make things better in his own way. Seeing a spouse as trying to help can help You find ways to meet him halfway. Big jumps into unschooling can make the home seem chaotic - which can leave a partner who works out of the home worried. So it can be better to move slowly - don't go back to the chore charts but be definite about a few things to help your dh feel comfortable. Doing a quick housecleaning Right Before he comes home might be a good strategy, and be honest (kindly) to your kids that cleaning up lets dad feel better and be easier to get along with.
Thanks for posting your questions. We run into these same situations in our home. Meredith, your ideas really help. I especially like that you commented about "jumping into unschooling" and the home seeming chaotic. Been there done that. It also helps me to remember that unschooling isn't the same for every family as each family is different. I try to meet my dh in the middle over the spanking issue as he is very reluctant to do away with it completely. He does agree with me about trying to parent without yelling so much so that's a step forward for us. And as he reminded me a few days ago..."Just like you are trying and learning new ways, so am I and I won't get it right every time."
No, he won't. And there should be plenty of room for him to learn. But nobody is going to hit DH if he messes up. I assume.
So that would be one thing to let go of -- hitting a small child is wrong, even if you call it spanking. Look at it from her point of view. She is tiny, the world is frustrating as she is trying to figure everything out and hitting her doesn't help, it just hurts.
Then be happy that meals being free and easy has been a success! Hurray! Celebrate that. Talk about that. See how that might relate to the rest of the day.
Like -- are we hungry? Are any of us having a meltdown because we missed that snack? How are we going to handle all these dishes? Adults load the dishwasher, use lots of paper plates but everybody please remember to return your dishes to the sink or put things in the garbage as appropriate. The 9 and 8 year olds are certainly old enough to begin to be responsible for returning their dishes to the kitchen as they get used to eating whatever and whenever. But make it part of the joy of living and eating as they like, not yet another thing to be nagged about.
Other household chores? Let go of as many as you can. Really. Nobody is judging. If they are, laugh it off. Especially as you are transitioning.
Do what you absolutely cannot live without doing, leave the rest, ask for help gently but don't be disappointed if nobody is excited about carrying in groceries or folding laundry. It is boring, repetitive work that you and DH are responsible for. One day your kids will notice you are carrying grocery bags and bound off the couch to help -- really. :) But it may take a while for them to see it as having anything to do with them or that it would be nice to help you.
And think long-term -- as you enjoy today -- these kids will be older in a split second and then what? Do you want a clean house with obedient children or a close-knit loving family that enjoys each others' company?
***As far as food, I have relaxed a lot. We went from 3 meals a day with a snack here and there to complete freedom to eat what and when they want if we have it in the house. Hubby is getting use to this and is agreeing it is a great idea.***
This really stood out to me. Success! And your husband is on board. I wonder why unschooling is easier for you in the food department than in other areas. Maybe if you explore what you as a family have going for you there, you can build on that. Something is working. Something has budged. Other things will follow.
***I ask but I still want them to do something so it upsetting when they choose not too, so I get bitter feelings inside.***
I still get bitter feelings sometimes. What helped a lot is to know that it's not my job to eradicate every feeling I have on top of everything else. That was causing more stress for me (and everyone else). With practice, I realized I could sit with my feelings and watch them evaporate. Bitter feelings are not the most pleasant experience, but they're not permanent, either.
I like what Meredith and others said about respecting your spouse and keeping the perspective that everyone is learning and changing.
Do you have any specific toddler situations you're dealing with right now? I might have some suggestions (in addition to the good ones offered so far) since my kids are young.
About the spanking, I was in a situation last night where I considered coming verbally or physically between my son and my husband. As it worked out, everything settled down.
He's been sick for a few days, and we're all a bit ragged around the edges. We have some medication that my son didn't want. I know my husband was desperately tired, and he was encouraging the medication because he thought it might help him rest. As I sat there next to them, I thought that I would put myself physically in the way of the medication if it looked like my husband would force it.
Have you ever put yourself physically between a spanker and the person being spanked? Has anyone else had experience with what type of intervention works when force is an issue?
No. I have distracted a Mom or two at the store who were threatening. But I have never had to protect my children from my husband.
It's way better to steer those situations in a different direction before they get to that point. Can you look back now and see places where you might have changed the dynamics? Don't look at it guiltily, kicking yourself for not having done that but as a way to work on shifting your vision of parenting. Rather than being reactive to crises -- which is the parenting most of us are familiar with -- be proactive. Start feeling the atmosphere and change it before it turns into a full storm.
You won't always be able to do that. But the more you practice it, the better you'll get. And the more you head things off, the less stressful the ones you miss will be.
(I never thought of this before, but all the parenting on TV that we've been watching since we were kids, all the images that were added to what we saw at home, what we've seen other parents do, is reactive because it has to be for dramatic storytelling. Parents on TV can't head things off. They have to let things escalate to crisis points. They can't be good proactive parents. How enthralling would it be to watch families fixing problems before they became problems? ;-) We want to live life without crises, but it's not much fun to watch! ;-)
***Can you look back now and see places where you might have changed the dynamics?***
In the situation I wrote about, yeah. It was my own dynamic I needed to change. We talked about it in the morning, and as it turned out he was nowhere near forcing the medication. So there I was, projecting worse-case scenarios, considering a valiant leap, adding to the tension.
The medication sat on the dresser. In the morning my son woke up, asked for it, and gulped it down. This is neither good nor bad since I didn't think it was really necessary in the first place, but it does make me consider the particular charge I add to any atmosphere, to see what resistance I'm projecting or contributing to.
I agree with Merideth pretty much across the board. I do not agree with spanking and don't think it works. I think it creates problems in the future.
In all honesty, it sounds like she's being 2. I have a 2 y/o and it sounds pretty typical. All children have different personalities and temperaments. Using your best judgment and a bit of 'the force' (like a jedi) to see potential problems and re-directing the situation is tough but can be done. I too struggle with my toddler every single day. Some days are better than others but peaceful parenting is the best way (i have found) to get him to understand, help myself feel better about my parenting choices. Look inside, if it doesn't feel right, it's probably not. Trust yourself too Mama :)
Parenting a toddler is so hard. I read somewhere that the average toddler requires attention 3 times a minute. When you consider that some of those times they need your attention for more than 20 seconds...its constant!
We have a two year old who is very independent and gets so frustrated! He also is not talking much yet which leads to further frustration. We have found the single most loving and effective way of communicating with him during these times is something called emotion coaching. Basically you accept all emotions as legitimate and discuss the feelings and help your child come up with ways of coping with the emotions. For instance, Charlie has tantrums but they are now a fairly intentional decision on his part that he needs to let off some steam. When he's getting really frustrated we'll talk about his frustration and then discuss what to do, sometimes we'll all pound on a pounding toy or sometimes he'll decide he feels like a tantrum and will lie down on the floor and kick and pound (usually with us cheering him on). I highly recommend reading Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman. It is a very helpful explanation of emotion coaching and how to how to deal with difficult situations positively without spanking, punishing, or belittling your child. Its all supported by studies and so when people criticize your parenting, you can recommend they read it too, even if they are very conventional themselves. I've found it really helpful with getting my family (my mom and siblings) on board with what I'm doing.
I also totally agree with what several people above say about trying to prevent problems by setting up your child for success. I disagree with a lot of Montessori, but I've also used some of their ideas to make our home usable for a short person. Many of Charlie's meltdowns are frankly my own fault for keeping him out too long, not having food available when he's hungry, planning too many activities, being distracted or stressed myself.
Good luck! You won't be a perfect parent all the time but rejoice in your successes. Not only are you being a better parent to your children, but you are showing them a new way to parent your grandchildren someday.
oh, one more thing. Do nice things for yourself too. Give yourself "time outs", treats, days off, whatever your can so you have something to look forward to and something to look back on with pleasure. It helps prevent mama-burnout and fatigue.