My mom took me out to dinner a few weeks ago. We had some spring rolls and white wine (with ice cubes – our signature cocktail). We talked about my kids; my mom is very close with them. She picks them up from school once a week and masterminds adventures big and small. They cook. They teach the dog tricks. They do crafts. They adore her.
And my mom adores them. Mid-spring roll-bite, she also suggested they are brats.
It’s cool. My mom can say this to me and I appreciate the honesty. She’s right. On the kid behavior spectrum – from bratmobile to singing angel, my kids are pretty good. But yes, they can absolutely be brats and oftentimes I have no idea how to reign them in.
They whine like they’re getting paid for each high octave note. They run free from my soft hollers at the community center parking lot. They jump on our furniture even though they know house rules.
Are they bad kids? Absolutely not. Do we have solid control over them? Hmm, debatable.
Luckily I know some expert disciplinarians. My mom and her sisters raised me, my sister and cousins with tough love. We knew who was BOSS. My mom was tough, but Aunt Kitty was the queen. She had a Death Stare that spoke louder than words. When we’d act an ass in public, she’d yank us by the shirt collar and firmly whisper “Don’t. Ever. Do. That. Again. You understand?” When we misbehaved in a restaurant, Aunt Kitty would excuse herself, promptly take the pint-sized offender to the car, and sit in the parking lot until the rest of the party finished dinner.
That kid was a jerk in a restaurant once.
As my mom and I spoke, these details of my childhood returned. These mamas had firm rules that never wavered. We loved and respected them. We feared them. So as we sipped Chardonnay, I asked my mom to coach me.
She reminded me that no means no. No explanations needed. Don’t water down a firm answer with a long-winded reason. I find myself justifying decisions to my kids all the time.
Choose a Time-Out or Thinking Chair, and use it consistently. The time can be brief, but they need to take a moment to understand the consequences of a poor decision. Sit with them if they need reinforcement.
Catch them behaving well. Reward positive behavior. I created a chart and the girls earn stamps for good behavior at bedtime. 10 stamps = ice cream. Then we start again.
Leave restaurants or take away privileges when they ignore fair warnings. I did this recently. My kids were destroying the bathroom with an aquatic version of Cirque du Soleil. I warned them if they didn’t stop, we wouldn’t go a festival in town. I wanted to go, so did they. They didn’t stop, so we didn’t go. We all paid the price. But I followed through and that felt… not good, but I felt stronger.
I’m trying. I still look to my mom – my Discipline Coach – when my kids’ behavior is running me ragged. I feel like such a BITCH when I’m channeling my inner disciplinarian. She confirms it takes many years to shape these fine young citizens, and I’ll likely feel like a bitch for much of that time. I’ll report back soon from the bitchy trenches.