I am the mother of a 6 yr old daughter and 5 yr old twins, son & daughter. In September of 2003 my husband took a job that requires lots of travel, he is gone all the time. Since then, my twins keep trying me out. I can't get them to listen at all. Everything is a constant battle right now, from brushing teeth to sneaking outside to picking up toys to eating. I feel completely exhausted, not to mention like a terrible failure as a mother right now. It seems as though every rule I set down is just a challenge to them to break. Every task, no matter how small, is monumental to them - and I don't ask much. I don't know what to do. Yesterday it was raining and the small creek by our house was up. I wouldn't let my kids outside, It was really wet and muddy and I didn't want them near the water. I was cooking dinner & realized they were not there. I had just told my 5 yr old daughter she could NOT go outside. So they sneaked outside and I found them playing outside in the creek. It scared me to death. It was just a matter of minutes, but they could have been dead. I don't know what to do!! I have always had my husband here to back me up and that was all it ever took. But now that he is gone most of the time, it's like they think they don't have to listen to me. I don't know what to do!!! Does anyone have any comments or suggestions?? Please - anything. They are really good kids, people even complement me on how well behaved they are in public. It's just at home with me. I love them more than anything. I don't expect them to be perfect angels. I just can't figure out how to get them to listen to me.
What i do with my kids is things like, if they steal snacks, then they lose snacks (i've even had to resort to hiding them in my room), if they sneak outside when they aren't suposed to be outside they lose the privlidge of going out. Get a big box or garbage bag, whatever toys they don't pick up and put away are going for a week or whatever length of time you decide (this one works well with my kids). Make sure they know there are consequenses to their actions....not just being talked to or a quick time out. Let them know what the punishments are going to be and stick to it, do it each and every time. For example, if they eat all of their meals then they can pick out a special treat at the grocery store, if they can consistantly pick up their toys without you having to ask over and over again (ie, set a time limit, say 30min to clean up, don't talk to them, don't remind them, when the 30 min is up take away what is not picked up, they'll get the hint and start picking up right away) then they can pick out a new toy or go out for ice cream or something that will motivate them. They aren't going to like the new rules, but stick to them and they'll figure out that it is in their best interest to listen. Also, explain to them the dangers of playing in the creek, how you would be upset if they were go get hurt etc. Don't be afraid to be strict, they need to know that behaving gets them what they want.
Also, it may just be the age (i have an almost 6 year old girl who doens't like to listen at the moment), but they could also be acting out because they are upset there father is gone most of the time. So try to talk to them about feelings, how they feel about not seeing daddy all of the time, let them send him pictures or something if that is an option, call him whenever they can, talk about him a lot, even give them a picture of him they can carry around with them.
I can relate as my kids are 12, 4, 3, and 2. I can only speak from my own experience but I have learned a few things along the way. My husband is a computer programmer so he doesnt work set hours and goes on business trips. I became very apparent to me along the way that for the most part, I have to stand on my own when it comes to my kids. A few things that really work for me are:
1. I refuse to argue my case with them. As long as we are going back and forth, they are winning the argument. I will get tired of the battle and give in most of the time. So, I dont even argue. When they start to argue with me I simply say " What did I say?" I will not change my mind.
2.Today is a new day and I can start fresh from here. I have failed in the past leading us to some of the problems we have right now. This does not mean that we have to continue with the same dysfunction today
3. I will not count to 3 or give other ellaborate warnings. My word is law when it comes to this house. Counting to 3 gives my kids 3 extra seconds to stop doing whatever action I am getting on to them for
4.If they directly disobey, their punishment ties into the wrong action. Sneaking out to play in the creek would be grounding from going outside in my house. They hate to see everyone else going outside while they have to stay in.
5.I listen to their opinions but refuse to let them shape their raising. They do not have the maturity nor do they have the life skills to have a say in how things go. One day they will have their own family and will be the head of a new household. When that day comes, they will have plenty of say in things
6.Consistency is everything. If you get in trouble for it today, you HAVE to get in trouble for it tomorrow or it means nothing. We have house rules and they are posted on the fridge. There is no arguing with them as they don't change with my level of anger or my mood.
7. The most important thing that I have learned is to not treat them nor expect them to act like adults. They have bad judgement due to lack of experience. Through their actions, good and bad, they learn about their place in the family and in society. They learn that rules affect us all and they learn to make better judgements. We have so many conversations about things where I am asking them "What do you think you should have done differently?" They learn that choices have consequences and we are responsible for our actions.