Win Win / by Susie Lubell


So about that parenting lecture. Here's the thing. I find parenting to be hideously difficult. I do. Well I did up until two weeks ago. Ever since my son had an opinion which was from basically the time he could hold his head up, we have been embroiled in an epic power struggle. And I feel that, as the adult, I should win. And he feels that, as the cuter of the two of us, he should win. And this year, the year I envisioned to be full of story time and art projects and baking and wild imaginings and wonderment and merrymaking, has really been a lot of fighting and conflict and shrieking and time outs and hell. It hasn't been that bad but the bad moments color my memory because they are so bad.

And I have tried many techniques, none of which worked. We've talked to counselors. No light shed. We've read books or at least parts of books because I just don't like to read parenting books. They are all boring. I even considered that maybe he had a chemical imbalance. Or maybe I do. Well, for sure I do, but nothing that a little pita with nutella can't remedy.

But back to the lecture. We have friends whose kids are so well behaved it appears they are not actually kids but very small adults with smooth skin and high pitched voices. Turns out that these parents did a workshop some years ago in the Adler method of parenting (Alfred Adler, Viennese psychotherapist, long dead), the basic tenet of which is positive discipline. But not the "good sharing" "good pooping" bullshit that we heap on our kids from the moment they latch on. Good latching baby...In fact, I have basically stopped praising my kids altogether, but that's something else I'm trying, which is also working.

Here's how it plays out anecdotally. If my daughter won't hold my hand when we cross a street I say to her: You are such a careful girl! Thank you for teaching mommy how to be so careful crossing the street. She immediately grabs my hand. And when my son starts talking to me while I'm on the phone, which he ALWAYS does, I say: I really appreciate how patient you are being while I'm on the phone. He walks away. Win win.

The other really important piece is that, on the advice of a friend who had just gone to an Adler-based lecture on positive discipline, the very lecture I sent my husband to despite having to miss the Lost finale, I sat my kids down one morning and said the following: guys, I heard from someone who teaches mommies and daddies how to be better mommies and daddies that kids your age are old enough to be told something only once. They agreed. I now ask them to do something and nine times out of ten they do it without being asked again. Sometimes with a lag in execution but I am learning to be even more patient as they get used to my new M.O. I'm happy to report we are going on three weeks conflict free.

Now there is obviously much more to this than a few tips, but when tips work, I'll take them. This is why I don't have much to write about lately. I'm sure once these kids figure out I'm playing them they'll find other ways to get my goat. And then we'll be back in business. Until then, my posts are going to terribly boring. I'm just warning you.