Chrstmas Spirit

Chrstmas Spirit
My wife and kids having a little holiday fun

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Story of Susan and Anne

Today's free for all blog is one I have really looked forward to writing.  It's about a woman in West Virgina who I'll call Susan.  For all my new followers, I don't like to give a lot of identifying information about my readers because I respect their privacy.  Keeping identifying information private will lead other parents to trust me with their delicate situations.  One person's question could help many other people with the same problem.  It's for this reason if you send me a parenting question, I will handle it with great care.   

Susan, in essence, had many questions.  If I had to sum up her questions, it might read, "what am I supposed to do with this child?"  Susan has a daughter named "Anne" who was a real mess.  Anne is 4 years old but has got temper tantrums down to an art.  She had a "potty" mouth, liked to throw things, hollered, scratched, and be generally unpleasant when things didn't go her way.  To make matters worse, Susan had a mother who would tend to meddle and compromise Susan's authority.  Also, Susan is in school studying the social sciences. I certainly applaud her but it is an added stress.  Also, Susan does have a partner named "Alan" but I don't know if he is a live in boyfriend, if they are engaged, etc...

The first time I chatted with Susan on the phone, she was a bit rattled.  She explained so many different problems that I would have needed a notebook handy to remember everything.  She gave me the impression that little was going right with her child and she was at her wits end.  What Susan didn't quite realize is that she had three things going for her.  Before reading on, if you are having troubles with your child, try to grasp good things that are going on.  It can potentially make your problems seem more manageable.  Here are the three good things I believed Susan had. 

1.  Alan seemed to be a real help.  From what little I know, he seemed to be really trying to make a positive difference for Susan and Anne.  For example, I know he's employed and I know he tries to be involved with discipline.  

2.  Susan had an open mind.  Those who think they know everything can not be helped.  Though I am the author of a parenting book and blog, I'm not above listening and learning new things.  Susan was an excellent listener as well.  She listened to my reasoning, subsequently asked for clarification, and challenged me for new ideas.  I know Susan had looked for help from others as well.  She seemed to be taking everyone's advice while trying to make the best decisions for her family.  That's a winning strategy.

3.  Susan had me to lean on for help.  I'm not bragging but I'd been through every war Susan was fighting.  In the areas Susan was having problems, I am, shall we say, "battle tested."  It's a product of working with 400+ kids. When any parent is having problems, there needs to be a mentor/partner to lean on.  It's been my experience that the hardest battle a person will ever fight in parenting is the one they fight alone.

I decided the best way to help Susan was to give general pointers but really attack one problem hard instead of attacking all the problems at once.  The problem I attacked was bedtime.  Susan didn't have any kind of solid routine with Anne.  I may use bedtimes in a future blog so I don't want to harp on it now.  I will say that having a bedtime routine has many advantages.  I explained Luke's bedtime routine to Susan and told her to use the ideas she was comfortable with.  Basically, Luke takes a bath, puts on his PJ's, brushes his teeth (with parental help), reads a story (with both parents- separately), and goes to bed with the book previously read and his aquarium turned on.  The process starts around 6:30pm and ends between 7:15pm-7:30pm.

At last check, Susan didn't copy my routine exactly; but that was never the point.  The point is she needed to start HER routine and stick with it.  What happened though over time was amazing.  I only worked hard on night time behavior but things started to change during the day as well.  For example, the last time I heard from Susan, Anne hadn't even had a time out in previous three days.  The tantrums had also ceased.  This could have been because the child was getting enough sleep or maybe Susan felt more empowered/confident during the day and the child reacted in a positive way. I don't honestly care about the reason for the turnaround.  What I do care about is that the family can look at each other as less of a trouble and more of a treasure.

One overriding theme I heard from Susan was how she had "mistakes" in raising Anne in the past.  For example, over a period of time, Susan placed Anne's grandmother in the role of a parent as opposed to letting her be the grandmother.  The way I see it, grandparents have already had their turn being day to day moms and dads.  Though I'm never opposed to grandparents helping/being involved, they should not be leaned on to the point of making them the unofficial parent.  I am guilty of doing this when Cameron was younger. It led to problems with my mom.  Like Susan, I originally thought the ensuing problems were the fault of my mom.  When I analyzed the situation more carefully; I realized the fault was mine for placing my mother in that position.

Susan seemed to me to have a complex over her past mistakes.  I felt like having this complex was compromising her ability to be an effective parent today.  No matter what mistakes she had made, it was time to get over it, deal with today, learn from the past, and most importantly; move on.  Though I can't say definitively that's what happened, her actions seemed to suggest it.  There's an old saying that you can't cry over spilled milk and I, for one, believe it.

Over time, Susan may have more problems with Anne.  Everyone else with children will as well.  But I believe she is up for the challenge and may prove to be a parent other children would be envious to have.  I wish her continued success and I hope all of my readers can learn something positive from Susan's story.

On Monday, I will be writing an education blog.  I have several different topics to cover but will take the weekend to decide which I will attack next.

Finally,  I know I may sound like a broken record but I would appreciate my readers who found Susan's story of value to pass it along to other parents. This blog is growing and you are the reason.   Many thanks!!!   



  1. I am trying to work the bugs out in this system. OK, they're not really bugs. More like an operator error. (I'm the operator) I hope anyone who would like to leave a comment can do so.

    I'll be the first. "That is really one great blog, Clay." See, it was easy! All the best.

  2. I'm enjoying the blog. Have you considered a post on the topic of "family sleeping"?

  3. Sleep is an important topic. It's one my wife has mentioned more than once. Do you have a certain angle you'd like addressed when I write about it?

  4. Children respond very well to limits they are given - as a retired teacher I have found that many parents are surprised at how well their little monsters behaved in my classroom and how I NEVER experienced tantrums. It's because the children had clear limits of how far they could go before they got into trouble with the Authority... in this case, the teacher. Children always know the parent is the Authority - they just sense if the Authority is fuzzy about limits so they trample their way over them and learn that making a lot of noise gets results. Noise never worked with me, either as a parent or as a teacher - so I never got noise: no shouting, no whining, and no stamping of feet. If I said no, no matter how much noise ensued, it stayed no. So there was no point in making noise. I had tantrum-less kids because when I saw no reason to say no, I said yes, quite a lot. But my yeses always came from me, not through pressure from them. And they knew this. Very well. They are now 15 and 13, and it's still the same, but they have discovered negotiating (I hear them doing it together) so I allow negotiating, and it works much better than pressure ever would.