Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Child Cruelty

I have a feeling this is going to get a shitstorm of comments but here goes...

I'm not what you might call... strict. Oh sure I talk a good game but when it comes to actually laying down the law with my kids, I go all soft and cave. I hate the look of disappointment on their faces. I explained all this in my last post.

But I'm trying to change that. I'm trying to be more consistent. Talk the talk but also walk the walk.

Tonight little Sally - who's not so little any more (she's 4 years old now) - dumped out a huge bag of beads on her bedroom floor. we're talking, literally, thousands of beads. I know because I just picked them all up last night. They were all in one big bag so... no sorting or anything, just a giant bag of beads.

I told her, "You are not coming out of this room until all the beads are picked up." And she decided to scream at the top of her lungs at the back side of a closed bedroom door. She sobbed. She wailed. But she did not pick up those beads.

I came in and told her, "You can come out as soon as you pick up the beads. Until then you are not to leave your room." I was prepared to bring her the little training potty if she said she needed to use the bathroom. But I had to stick to my guns. She couldn't leave her room. I'd said it, I had to stick to it.

15 minutes go by... then 20... then 30... then it's all quiet.

Sometime around 23 minutes I tell some FB friends that she's going to bed without dinner because she refused to pick up those damn beads. I get a "food is fuel. you shouldn't take that away from her. She won't understand."

This is where I have to say... if what I'm doing is considered cruel then start calling me CRUEL MOMMY because seriously? missing one meal? How is that cruel? She is well-fed, has a warm bed and plenty of clothes and toys. She NEVER misses a meal or a snack. How will this one time of her missing a meal be cruel?

I think to myself, how many times have I missed a meal simply because I've gotten too busy to eat? How many times have I skipped a meal because I'm still full from the previous one? Since when is skipping ONE MEAL considered cruelty? I understand, if I was consistently using this as a punishment, that would be cause for concern.

Not to mention, I never told her she couldn't have dinner. I told her she couldn't come out until the beads were picked up. SHE is the one who chose not to pick them up. I feel like, if she's hungry enough she will pick up the beads. And by the way, at about the 30 minute mark, she just cried herself right to sleep.

It's all a messy gray area... food & children is a hot topic right now. I am not perfect by any measure but I do okay with my kids and food. We teach them portion control, we give them lots of healthy choices. They definitely eat better than I did as a child (my dad's favorite food group was Hostess). I don't use food as a reward or punishment... instead I try to make a real-world consequence for my kids and if that happens to involve food then so be it For example, don't eat dinner? You don't have to. You don't even have to try it if you don't want. But you don't get dessert if you don't eat dinner. Am I cruel if I keep dessert from my child too?

This just seems like a natural consequence to me.

Last week I had a problem with one of my other children who was constantly taking snacks without asking. For instance, he'd eat up a huge stack of lunchmeat... sure that's healthy but maybe it was 20 minutes before dinner. Or maybe I needed that lunchmeat for school lunches. Or, he'd drink 3 glasses of orange juice. OJ is great! But not 3 glasses at once. We have 7 people in our family - we need the juice to last longer than once day. So I told him that if he takes food without asking he'll need to skip the next meal, whatever that meal is. I figure, if he's all loaded up on whatever food he's just taken he won't be hungry anyway.

And EVEN IF HE IS, won't that be the best lesson of all?

I had plenty of life lessons taught to me by my parents. Some of them taught me more than others. But the ones I learned the most from were the ones that stung the most. I lived to tell about it. I don't hate my parents. I respect them for being strong enough to not put up with my bull. And, to be honest, for all the times I thought I was right and they were wrong, all the times I got punished for trying to get my way instead of living under their rules in their house,

I think I'm better for it now.

Texan Mama


Ellen Stewart (aka Ellie/El/e/Mrs. Seaman) said...

I'm only the mom of one, but it seems like what you're doing just might help. It doesn't seem cruel.

I have a class of super disrespectful kids, and for the most part they are as rude to their parents as they are to me. And their parents put up with it.

We are not meant, at your kids' ages, to be friends with our children. They are children, we are parents. Looks like you're on the right track--and it is a track, always traveling forward.

Jen said...

I don't think it's cruel to have a child skip a meal as a punishment. I have done it with my own children.

It was hard but the child learned their lesson.

Being a parent is not easy or doing what is easy. It's making tough choices so that we can raise healthy, well adjusted children.

Melani said...

Yes I agree with Jen and Ellen. My kids are just as stubborn as the next and they seem to love to push my buttons. But I have learned over the years and by parenting to teenagers and adulthood, I don't really care if they like me, as the mom, but they better respect me, period. And not not make a fool of me in front of my parents.

Gigi said...

That is not child cruelty. That is sticking to your guns and being consistent. Good job, mom.

rach said...

I don't think thats cruel at all. Thats teaching them responsibilities and consequences for thier actions. I think its cruel not to teach your children discipline and responsibility. How will they ever cope in the real world? Keep doing like your doing! you know your kids and your family better than anyone else!

Jennifer said...

I don't think it is cruel. I probably would have taken her dinner in her room, but that's just me.

Frogs in my formula said...

Setting boundaries is in no way cruel. It's your job as a parent.

I am dying to know. Did she fall asleep before she picked up the beads or after? You can't leave us hanging!

Michelle said...

Well, shucks. I might as well be the lone naysayer. For the child that was eating food without permission, yes, right on, having the child skip a meal seems like a good consequence. But for the four year old who spilled beads? You were willing to place a potty in her room, why not take her meal in her room? With holding food is not a logical consequence of spilling beads. Not being allowed to do anything else (thus leaving the room) is a logical consequence.

You asked! :)

Maggie S. said...

What cruel? The ball was completely in her court. Pick up the beads, the world is your oyster.

We have tons of metaphorical "beads" in our house and we all want to dump them and no one wants to put their own away. We all want someone else to do it.

You are the champ.

I would comment further, but I am dying of starvation because of the food stealers.

Jennifer said...

I don't think it is cruel. If she really started complaining she was starving and I thought it was legitimate, I probably would have taken a sandwich in there... because the yummy hot meal would require her to pick up her beads and come out to eat at the table.

Swizz said...

JMonster was once sent to his room for something. We brought him his dinner and his response was, "Great! Room service!"

That food was promptly removed. :o)

Missing one meal is NOT a big deal. Being firm, fair and consistent IS.

You go, girl!

nicole said...

I would have done the same. And I think we have the same 4 yo girls. Mine has screamed/cried herself to sleep before too. It is hard to stick to your guns, but it is worth it in the end.

I read your post before this one too, but am commenting here. Just keep trying. Sometimes giving in on the consequence is okay, but usually you'll want to stick to it. Even when it feels like you are being punished too. Good luck!

rude katy said...

Not cruel--sticking to your guns shows your kids that you mean what you say...which is a good thing when they get older and the consequences (and dangers) are bigger.

As for the food stealing? I worked for a family business where the owners' mom raised 4 kids as a single mom; three boys, one girl.

When the boys were all teenagers, she had a policy. One shelf on the refrigerator was strictly for dinner meals--do not even think of eating this food as snacks or for any other meal. Because she had three human garbage disposals in her house, plus their visiting friends, and I am sure she was on a tight budget. I know it's hard to organize things like that, but it sure beats having to run out to the store at the last second to replace what someone thought was the fourth meal!