Monday, August 18, 2008

Does Supernanny do Refunds?

Does Supernanny, or the authors of my other go to parenting book "Parenting the Strong Willed Child" offer any kind of satisfaction or your money back guarantee?

I think I'm due one.

We're struggling here, big time. I should rephrase that, since I am at home with the kids all day, it's me, ME.

I'm struggling, big time.

I need help - otherwise in years to come Miss E is going to stumble across this blog, and if between now and then I haven't broken her spirit with ineffective parenting, reading about the trials I felt in her young years just might.

Almost four years into this parenting gig - and I feel like I have no more of a clue now than I did when Miss E was an infant. Is this the norm? Is this what parenting feels like always, as each new phase arrives, and each new challenge faced? Or, do we ever get to say 'yeah, I think I know what I'm doing?' Even for a short time?

Maybe I have too high expectations of myself, or of Miss E? A good friend called me the other day after reading an email I'd sent her whining about not being able to manage my child and said 'don't be so stinking hard on yourself'. She knows Miss E well, and has seen many a full blown strop from her. She assures me that other kids do it, including hers.

The thing is - I rarely, if ever, see a child Miss E's age act out in public as much as she has done lately.

My feelings of inadequacy as a mother, and in truth, frustration of the tear your hair out variety, comes from the fact that we had conquered the tantrums and were successfully dealing with behaviour through lovingly, and consistently applied discipline. I told everyone who would listen, 'All Hail Supernanny', seriously!

So why then, now, when we apply the same techniques, consistently, the only consistent result is utter rebellion?

In "Parenting the Strong Willed Child" the authors recommend a series of steps to bring about better behaviour (in five weeks they say, ha ha ha ha ha ha!) and they focus on giving your child undivided attention for specific periods. To engage in play with them and let them direct the play - allowing them to instruct you in their imaginary sessions.

I get the premise behind this, but I hold my hands up and admit - that I am not good at it. I tend to give half hearted attention - while I'm doing something else - it's bad, I know it is, and I've been doing better in this regard. That's not to say I think I'm a complete failure as a mom, I don't. And it's not that I never give my kids undivided attention - of course I do - but I do have my fair share of times when I'm playing Candyland and trying to take in an episode of Divine Design at the same time.

In an attempt to have time with just her and I, lately Miss E and I have baked, we've coloured, painted, played outside together in the kiddie pool, in our neighbour's pool, and on the swingset. And, today we made homemade playdough. However, rather than giving Miss E a boost and then buying myself time where she will play independently, all these activities seem to do is create the expectation that I will be there, at her side, in her face, every waking minute. With another child, a house to keep up with and ,a blogging addiction,this isn't realistic.

Miss E was spoiled with lots of attention for five weeks at home in Ireland, and I accepted that there would be an unsettled period when we got back. It's been seven weeks since we returned to Florida - and all the challenges we faced and overcame before, are right back with us. The not listening, the tantrums when she doesn't get her own way, the demands for things NOW, from snacks, ice cream (over and over and over again!), to 'prizes' from every shop we go into. We have enforced all the tried and trusted Supernanny rules, and we've tried reasoning with her - to no avail. We're not making progress here, at all.

To use that all American phrase, 'Miss E! Get with the program already!'

I am now at the point where I am on edge any time we have to be in a situation where other kids and their parents are. Now that school is back this week - you can imagine how that goes for my stress levels. And there I go feeding into the whole situation - I know this, yet I feel powerless to change it because I feel like I don't have the tools to help me. I seriously need someone to tell me what to do (or what not to do). I feel like managing this effectively should be instinctive, and so I feel like my instincts are failing me.

I talked to my family and a friend last week about feeling guilty that I sometimes talk down about Miss E. In my efforts to forewarn people about my child's feisty personality I fear I am giving a completely negative impression of her. I did this at parent's orientation for preschool last week. I told the teacher that Miss E is 'stubborn and has a tendency to be bossy'. I told the other moms that she was a 'firey redhead'. What I didn't tell anyone was that she is beautiful, articulate, smart, funny, happy, compassionate, and very, very loving. And so, that mommy guilt that I'm so familiar with, plagues me once more.

This is why Jennifer's post at Playgroups are no Place for Children struck such a chord with me this morning. That, and the fact that the meltdown her son had, is one we managed to avoid at Miss E's preschool orientation this morning but only because by this stage, I can sense it coming, and we said our 'goodbyes' before the fuse was lit, so to speak.

I didn't entirely escape the terror of my almost four year old's tyranny however, she unleashed it in Target on the way home, throwing herself down on the floor for good measure, twice. I don't know how I did it, but I did not raise my voice and I remained completely calm as I steered her (firmly) out of the store. Sweat may have been involved however, along with a voice a few octaves and decibels higher as I reigned her in after she dashed out from behind our car into the parking lot. Thankfully there was no traffic coming, but neither Miss E nor I knew that. Another source of frustration, because no matter how many times we've had the conversation about roads, driveways, parking lots and DANGEROUS cars, it's not even close to sinking in.

I realise this is the second post that I've made a short period of time about my frustrations in parenting Miss E. I know that part of this stems from my innate dislike for doing anything that I'm not good at. I don't feel like I'm good at being a good parent, and I hate that! My standard routine when I don't know how to do something is read up about it, educate myself, find out what's worked for others and go from there.

So, once again I'm asking - what works for you? I know I have more experienced readers with older kids who've survived the preschool stage. Tell me where to go to find help! Tell me I don't just have to resign myself to 'that's just the way it is' - there has to be a way to make this better.

We are now getting the outer rain bands of Tropical Storm Fay - she may strenghten to a hurricane and is forecast to go right over our area. Schools are closed tomorrow and Wednesday. For those of you inexperienced in storms like this - this means we ain't goin' nowhere for the next few days. We'll be stuck inside - so hopefully this makes you appreciate that I need your help and answers, STAT!


Iota said...

Do you know what I would think seriously about doing, Annie? I would think about getting some local regular (as in at regular intervals) help and advice. I don't know what this would look like - a paediatrician, a parenting counsellor, a parent educator. Not sure what is available. Don't know how much it would cost. Maybe there are charities or local churches that offer this kind of thing.

You probably just need strength to plod on, but if there is some clever idea out there, a local 'expert' may have it.

This is TOTALLY not a reflection on what I think of your abilities as a mum. It's because I think that sometimes what we all need is someone to stand alongside us, give us encouragement, words of wisdom, bring an outside perspective. Like a blogging friend, but on the spot. You are a long way from family support. You are dealing with trying to do things your way in a foreign culture. This makes it harder and lonelier. Don't get beyond your wits' end.

My strong guess is that you are doing all the right things, and that Miss E will come good in time. Is she bored? Let's face it, in England she would be starting school now, and that would sort her out (or at least use up all her energy). I love reading about her. She sounds a gorgeous child, full of life and love.

Feener said...

just read playgroupie's and now yours and i am sorry i don't have advice but i feel better that i am not the only one with a handful. i am getting nervous for the return to school......

Patty said...

New here and stopping in via twitter. I can empathize with you completely. I have a four year old son who is full of energy and although he is loving, smart and full of life as well, he can test your patience constantly.

I just wanted to say you are not alone in this, the previous poster gave you some sound advice. I would also like to suggest checking out the for some advice and insight as well. I am not a parent coach nor certified parent educator, but I am a former elementary teacher and I still feel the frustration you have. Parenting is not a natural talent and I think we all put too high of expectations on ourselves. We can only do our best and what is in our control. I hope things will improve for you and I'm sure once your daughter starts school things will change a lot as she matures and develops her social skills.

Jennifer, Playgroups Are No Place For Children said...

First of all, I'll be thinking about you as Fay hits and hopefully it's just a bunch of rain and tiny bit of wind.

Secondly, I (obviously) feel you on this one. It's so frustrating when you truly ARE consistent and it doesn't matter!

I, too, feel bad when I describe my child in less than flattering ways. I don't want people to have a bad impression of him.

When you find what works consistently, please bottle it and I'll buy it for a million dollars.

Anonymous said...

Annie- you need a babysitter! A regular babysitter so you can go to Target alone. Target is no place for children (especially one that you know is headed for a meltdown).

Also, I still feel like I have NO idea what I'm doing. I've been a mom for 8 years and I'm still figuring it out. In fact, as soon as I feel like I'm finally on top of a problem, another problem crops up.

Don't forget- being strong willed will serve her well later in life. It just stinks for you right now. Go have a glass of wine and reflect. ;)

Domestic Extraordinaire said...

Don't know what to say but I wanted to give you lots of (((hugs))) found you via twitter.

Loralee Choate said...

You know? I used to be so overwhelmed when my boys were young. I still can be but they are 12 and 9 and it is so much easier now in a lot of ways.

It's just really DAMN DIFFICULT being a SAHM to little ones. Even the "Easy" kids can make you want to stick forks in your eyes sometimes.

I think that you are probably doing a much better job than you think you are.

MoziEsmé said...

I hear you! I listened to the experts tell me that a child who acts up is a child who needs attention, so I gave my baby lots of attention, and all it did was make her demand even more. Every kid is different, and I don't think anyone has the answers for ALL kids.

I keep telling myself that often "difficult" kids turn out to be the most successful adults!

slackermommy said...

I'm with Domestic Accident. You need a break. Raising strong willed kids is not easy and parents of these kids question their parenting skills when the actual parenting has little to do with their behavior. I should know since my oldest has been quite a handful since she was a toddler. She is the strong willed poster child and getting a break from her was the only way I could keep my sanity. I did not take her shopping or anywhere that I knew she wouldn't be successful. Eating out with the family and other fun outings were privileges and if she couldn't behave then she couldn't go. Teaching her that she was responsible for her behavior and training her to have self control was the best thing we did.

You are doing a good job and you are not alone in your feelings. I wish I was blogging back when Madeline was a toddler because I needed to hear that I wasn't alone and I wasn't a bad mother. No one understands raising a strong willed child like a parent of one.

Queen of Shake-Shake said...

3 to 5 are tough years, especially when raising a strong willed child.

Do you want to know my magic solution for those years?

It's called a bottle of wine.


I wish I had some wise advice for you. All I can tell you is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I pinkie swear it.

My hard kiddo is almost 8 now and while, yes we have other challenges, my gosh it is easier than the 3-5 years.

In the meantime, keep yourself well-supplied with wine.

Tracey said...

Oh, hon. I have SO been there. My eldest had about 3 rough years (sorry) where I honestly thought there was either something wrong with Me or Him. (turns out, him, but that's beside the point)

Consistency, patience, learning her hot points... those are your best weapons against the behaviors you want to see less of. But just because you don't notice the changes doesn't mean it isn't having a profound effect on her.

Honestly, school teachers had a huge effect on my son. Especially when he got a teacher that just CLICKED with him.