Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad, BAD........Sorry!
Disciplining children. That's always a tricky one, isn't it?
We try not to shout. Really. We do.
But just sometimes you need to. When our three year old is about to stab seven year old in the ear with a chopstick AGAIN. Or that time when you enter the kitchen to find either of the children balanced precariously, on one foot, on the back of a dining chair trying to reach the chocolate biscuit tin on the top shelf of the cupboard.
J is truly one of the calmest, most level people I have ever met. I'm more volatile, but do the best I can to remain calm around the kids and I hope that I at least recognise my volatility.
Strangely, with both of us, the big things don't tend to make us blow. We remained quite calm when our son scooped the entire contents of a supermarket shelf on to the floor, or when our daughter decided to use the (old) iPad as a trampoline.
It's normally the silly, small things that send me over the edge.
Like the morning our son complained his shoes were too small and he was unable to wear them just as we were leaving for school. The shoes were too small because he had put them on without pulling the lip out AGAIN! The lip had therefore curled into the toe of the shoe and, of course, he couldn't get them on.
I have lost count of the times I have told our son to pull the lip up on the shoes as he puts them on. So much so that:
a, I can feel my blood pressure increasing as I re-tell this story
b. I am turning into my mother
Anyway, this resulted in my losing it and both children standing by looking on with the kind of expression I presume they would reserve for an imbecile, as this ranting forty-something stomped up and down the hall.
As usual, I digress.
Both of our children had been the subject of angry outbursts from their birth parents prior to being taken into care. In the case of our son these had been accompanied by violence as well.
I've spoken elsewhere about the effect an angry parent shouting at her children in a supermarket had upon him. In the early days he hated shouting and particularly hated it if it was physically close to him, having had, we know, his birth parents shout directly in his face.
Additionally one of the most shocking moments of our early time with him was his instinctive cowering when I made a sharp movement close to him. I can't remember what it was now, swatting at a fly I think, but even so he ducked as if he thought I were about to hit him.
Sad. Horribly, horribly sad.
We have therefore been careful to look for the signs of anger rising in the children and indeed to look for the signs of frustration and anger rising in us. Taking steps to diffuse the situation or even walk away from it if needed to avoid the otherwise inevitable 'blow'.
We were warned off using the naughty step or any similar method by our Social Worker. She advised, sensibly I think, that to exclude an adopted child can reinforce a feeling of not belonging or being excluded from the family.
So, if we needed to calm things down and correct our children in the early days of their individual adoptions we would make them sit on the sofa with one of us, under a blanket. We'd allow them to be physically close, cuddle us or sit on us if they wanted, and wait for them to calm down if needed before talking through with them why they were there and what had gone wrong.
Particularly with our son that could mean waiting some considerable time while he calmed down, but he at least did so and was at no point separated or excluded from us.
As our son became older, and particularly once he was able to read, we were able to adopt a slightly different version of that tactic.
Despite having an aversion to shouting our son's default state of anger is to shout, to stomp, to make noise and even occasionally to throw things. When this happens we have therefore always attempted to remove him from any form of stimulation and give him the space he needs to calm down before we begin to talk to him about whatever might have happened.
We therefore developed the idea of the red card. This is literally a laminated sheet with red writing on it. If our son's red carded he has to sit on the stair, a chair or the sofa, with no distractions around him, and read the card out loud.
The card says something like:
I am reading this card because I have been
Talked back to my parents
Unkind to my sister
I understand it is not good to behave like this and I must calm down
Sometimes I behave badly just to get attention or because I am jealous of my sister.
I must apologise to my family for.... *he has to insert what he did*
What the card says is actually pretty inconsequential. Making him read it however provides just the few seconds he needs to calm down and to be able to listen to our explanation as to why he should not have behaved in the way he did.
Our daughter is of course still too young to use the red card. She has however worked out how the system works. And now, when she is naughty and she knows we are aware she has been naughty, she will go and sit on the stairs with the laminated 'red card.'
There she pretends to read the card:
"Bad. Bad. Bad, Bad... BAD!"
The problem of course in this circumstance is keeping a straight face. We try. We often fail.