Thursday, December 15, 2011

Help Me Mother Ellen

Ellen is my youngest and she is 4. She is articulate and advanced and hilarious and delightful but also a stinker. She is stubborn. She likes to fight about clothes and shoes and sides of bed and color of cups and how her hair is done and she will rarely do anything I ask her to do or wait patiently for more than one second. I feel that she needs her will broken and I wonder how to do it.

When my other kids have hit this stage I've had other babies already or been pregnant so they were just out of luck. I was laid up. Out of it. Didn't care about them anymore and they knew it. They learned their place in the grand scheme of things. But this one--how will she ever learn that? Half the time I am strict, structured, follow-through and parent her very awesomely. The other half of the time I let things go, am extra "nice", decide not to fight stubbornness with more stubbornness, and I roll with the punches. This half and half strategy has served me well with the rest of my kids. They are turning out OK. They aren't perfect but if you ask them to put something in the garbage for you they do it without making a federal case of it.

But there's more than just the half and half going on. Each of my kids are also strict with Ellen half the time and lenient with Ellen half the time so that's six more halves and they often conflict. I find myself yelling "Don't give in to her!" and "Just do what she wants!" alternatively. The great thing about having your kids get older is that they can help you with the littler ones. But then you find yourself in this alternate hell-dimension parenting them about how to parent her while also parenting her much differently than you parented them and still also parenting them normally about other stuff and pretending like you aren't a hypocrite when you give her extra computer time just to get her off your back but don't let the older kids have it even though they are nice and deserve it.  

So anyway, I've tried being strict and dealing with the fall-out. It's a lot of fall-out. One day I was nice and cheerfully did everything she asked and tried to teach her through my example how to be amiable, flexible, and helpful. It actually worked pretty well. But it wasn't 100% effective and I simply can't sustain that kind of cheerful subservience unless I'm getting some kind of pay off. Parents of youngest kids who aren't spoiled: How?



31 comments:

  1. I'm out. My kids are spoiled to the core.

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  2. Anonymous6:03 PM

    I'm going through the same thing with my youngest too. The exact same thing - so I am no help because, funny enough, I am doing it half and half too! Jerri

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  3. Youngest children have a tough row to hoe - and I think they deserve to be spoiled some.

    The trouble is, as they grow, the older siblings get more and more judgmental about what you've done wrong with this youngest sib.

    Let me know if you figure it out - I can tell my mom what she should have done.

    I already know what I should have done!

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  4. Wish I could help, but am in the same boat. Exactly. The same. My baby girl turns 7 this week and couln't be more sassy. Love the way you can describe my life in ways I can't! No such thing as an unspoiled last child...!

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  5. True, it may be hard to raise an unspoiled youngest child, but still more impossible, in my humble opinion, to raise an unspoiled only child. So at least she's not that.

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  6. My youngest is only 7 months and is in the happy phase of being able to sit without being able to crawl and likes to be held and nursed, so I have no advice.

    But my husband is the youngest of 7 and was his parent's easiest kid and a very unspoiled, selfless person. They were just really worn out from all the crazy older kids and had basically just given up by the time he came around. He remembers that before he was in elementary school, he spent entire days watching old James Bond movies and running around outside completely unattended. You could try that!

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  7. Kacy, you just explained EXACTLY what is going on over here as well. Except there are two of them. And I keep saying "No More Mr. Nice Guy!" and they look at me like I've lost it, which I have, because who says that?

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  8. Well, Carly turned out okay so there is hope.

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  9. Try having only one child. ARG!

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  10. I am the youngest child with two older brothers, each of us about 3 years apart. My oldest brother jokingly called me "the favorite," but we all got along pretty well and still do (now we are all in our 20s).

    Truthfully, no one ever said I acted like I was spoiled and often thought I was "more mature than my age." Maybe this is part personality, but I remember some nuggets of behavioral truth my mom drilled into me...things like "Suck it up. Life isn't fair. Get over yourself." Also, the classic "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

    I took these very, very seriously, as if I was NEVER nice to others or did things they wanted, they'd NEVER be nice to me and do things I wanted. My mom had a way of showing me that the considerations of others were very important.

    She was continuously always explaining things over and over, til the point I'd finish her sentences, while performing certain actions, like arranging the silverware on the table and making the dinner table "nice" for others. Small things. I tried to emulate her a lot, seeing how she made my family happy by being giving and nurturing to them. In the end, I became the "baby" of the family who likes to baby them.

    They groomed me well to take care of them in old age hah! :)

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  11. Did you take this post out of my journal?

    Last night I yelled, "Phoebe, just go in and say goodnight to Margaret and get it over with so we can all go to bed!" AND "Just let her cry! She'll never learn! She'll never learn!!!"

    We are in the same lonely, ugly, shameful boat.

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  12. Darn, I was hoping some of the other commenters would have the answer - at least I know I'm not alone.

    My youngest is 3 and rules the house. I don't think I have the energy to stage a coup. I'd settle for her not hitting me and learning to whisper during church.

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  13. Clearly, you are just going to have another one. That will buy you two years to figure out what to do with that one.

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  14. Really funny post, and dang funny comments and sadly so so true. When I was single and a child development minor, Oh yes, clearly I knew it all, I would look at parents and think "if only they would be consistent. If only they would follow through with their threats". Well, I was totally right but its about 1.9 TRILLION times harder than it sounds. Anyway, good luck with that, I'll just keep having babies til I figure it out. ; )

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  15. I can't believe how perfectly you just described the complicated nature of parenting. I don't have 3rd or 4th children so I'm not in the same boat as you and Lisa, but I would still sail with you two anywhere you want. For reals, that would be a kick in the pants.

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  16. I know the answer. Your last child should have down syndrome. I have totally screwed it up. Grace is the perfect last child... Can't be spoiled. What have I done?????

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  17. I'm at a complete loss in this department. My youngest is eight (and our only boy) and he gets away with murder daily. My girls are always on my case about how easy things are for him. I try so hard (some of the time) to be strict with him, but it's so hard. So, sometimes I don't and just plead with the girls to leave me alone and do what he says.

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  18. As you know, we completely ruined our last child, so we threw him / her away and kept the previous four, but PLEASE don't do that with Ellen. We like her too much (though we also appreciate that you're the one who has to deal with her mood swings).

    Great picture of the kids.

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  19. You have the exact same dilemmas as I do. I was reading and kept thinking I do that, I do that too.

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  20. Recently, I've been watching the Cosby show on Hulu and I've decided that I pretty much aim to parent just like the Huxtables. You are so often giving us all great parenting book suggestion, this is my suggestion to you. Watch the Cosby show and then ask yourself, what would Cliff do?

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  21. I can't believe Ellen is 4.

    That's all.

    Oh...except, good luck with Ellen. I have my own youngest child to deal with. I have no good advice.

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  22. I just feel like saying Ditto. I have similar issues with my youngest.

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  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  24. (Ellen deleted my last comment because she didn't want you to see it, but I sabotaged her next attempt)

    Make Ellen in charge of something significant that she'll take some pride in, and for an extended period, so that she'll have to make more responsible decisions that come with real consequences of life, and thereby she'll need to rethink her modus operandi — at least in those instances, which should give her added perspective.

    It's not an assignment... it has become her mutually agreed upon domain.

    See if she comes to you with any frustrations or advice about it, and help her see that cooperation works (both ways).

    Also, key on her powerful aspects in general and put them to use proactively.

    Let her have times where she can vent, and if she's being obnoxiously innocuous, pretend like she's not there. See if that makes a difference and if she's been playing off you. If she truly wants to fight, don't engage her that way on her terms.

    Also pay attention to what types of situations might trigger different responses in her, looking at as many of the variables as possible: location, time of day, food recently eaten, the atmosphere, the choreography of the situation, the players, their ages, and about three hundred others.

    Let the kids work out their issues between themselves as long as one isn't wielding an advantage over the other. If Ellen is not giving an inch to them, let her stew it out in solitary confinement for about 15 minutes. It gets old after a while, plus it's not as fun to complain when nobody's around to listen and you have to be your only audience.

    If she keeps it up, tell her uncle Rusty has a lot more in his bag of tricks and isn't afraid to up the ante. I've never met a 4-year-old who's been around the block more times than me. They might lead for the first few laps, but I still know the shortcuts if I need to use them.

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  25. it's nice to read this post and the one about crying because you can't enjoy your fit-throwing child. we just added no. 2 and in response, no. 1 has amped up her will to super villian levels in what i'm optimistically assuming is a last ditch effort to remain center of the universe. our motivational threats are useless as she's concocted the "nuclear option" - so the threat of losing particular toys if she doesn't pick up is countered with "i want you to destroy all of my toys". it leaves a parent little recourse - the only thing that has really given her pause was when i exasperatedly said i was going to turn the hose on her during one of her fits - but it's kind of hard to stomach waterboarding as toddler punishment.

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  26. I'm trying to figure out what subconscious instantaneous suggestion made me want Doritos right after I clicked on the comment button.

    Anyway, my plan to solve all my parenting woes with my 5th child is to have a 6th child. After that I have no idea.

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  27. Oh, come on. We all know the answer to this one. Consistency!

    Now if any of you figure out what that means and how to do it, let me in on the secret. My older kids will thank you for it (but probably not the youngetst).

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  28. In our house, our youngest (age 6) just isn't allowed to talk, have an opinion, or a life outside of the other two (ages 13 & 9). Not a good recommendation, by the way. He has very poor communication skills and can do nothing without his 9 yr old brother.

    She will grow out of it??? Maybe.

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  29. I guess this is the wrong forum to defend myself and say that I am not judgmental about what Granny Babs should have done with her youngest child. But, just for the record. I'm not.

    Lars is my youngest, but not really, I hope, because we want to have another one someday. I appreciate him WAY more than I appreciated the others as babies. And he also sleeps in our bed way more. I tell him all the time that he is my favorite, because he is. I just hope that I remember to stop telling him that once he knows what it means. Probably by then he won't be my favorite anymore because he will have figured out how to drive me crazy.

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  30. (sorry that my comment was not helpful at all.)

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