My review of the book Duct Tape Parenting was just the start to my journey through the idea of becoming a duct tape parent. Let me make the phrase “duct tape parent” clear, the duct tape is for me not the kids. I know, bummer. Duct taping the boys to their seat would sure be a lot easier than duct taping my mouth shut.
The first thing I tried from the book was Say Nothing, Do Nothing. I decided to stop being the reminder, the nagger, the alarm clock, the maid. I decided to just be Mom. That was a really empowering parenting moment. I put my relationship with my boys first. If it causes a problem in our relationship? I’m out. (Simply put, obviously it’s not always that simple.) Dragging them out of bed every moment was damaging our relationship. I would yell, they would get mad and grumpy, everyone would be late. So I told the boys I would no longer be waking them up. “Here’s how to set an alarm clock! Good luck!”
My first piece of advice is to ask questions and make a plan before hand. I told the boys, “I will no longer be waking you up in the morning. What is your plan for waking up on time? What is your plan if you miss the bus? What is your plan if you miss the bus and make me late for my responsibilities ” I let them make the plans. I kept my mouth shut. They did amazing. “We will pay you $2 to drive us to school. We will pay you double if we make you late.” It’s a deal!
I literally stayed in my bathroom the first morning. I had to be willing to let them fail. There’s your next piece of advice. And fail they did. Amazingly, three weeks later, they have not missed the bus once. However, they have gone to school without a lunch packed, without eating breakfast, without brushing their teeth (ewwww) and leaving the house in shambles. It has been getting better every day as I set expectations for what getting to school on their own looks like. I’m taking it one step at a time. Tackling one detail at a time. And not picking up their slack. As badly as I wanted to bring them their forgotten lunch, I did not. Instead, they used their allowance to buy lunch. It’s only happened once!
Setting expectations has helped us all be successful in this challenge. I realized that saying “Clean your room” meant something much different to me than it did to my 9 year old. Here is his room “clean” according to him:
Ummmm…n0. So we had a talk, this is what a clean room looks like in our family: Nothing on the floor, clean laundry put away, dirty laundry in the hamper, bed made. Now we are all on the same page.
Don’t expect your kids to read your mind. Don’t expect them to know what you mean. But expect that they can do it. Because they can. This is something that I have learned through this process. My kids are so much more capable than I have given them credit for.
Ignoring bad behavior. This is where the duct tape really comes in handy; when the whining came, when the fits came, when the fighting came. I said nothing. I did nothing.
Discouraged kids are misbehaving kids. Figuring out the real reason my kids were acting up truly changed the way I dealt with misbehavior. What were they seeking? Attention? Power? I then began to ignore the bad behavior and give attention to the need behind it.
Whiny voice? Bouncing a ball in my face to get my attention? Picking a fight with a sibling? Ignore. Ignore. Ignore.
Regular voice? Playing nicely (even if it’s for one minute!) “Hey there, buddy! Would you like to help me make dinner?!”
Positive attention led to positive interactions. No attention led to fizzled bad behavior. Think this is easy? Of course, not. It’s not easy. But it sure is worth it!
So where are we at now? We are making plans together as a family. We are integrating Family Meetings, as suggested in the book, which are changing the way we interact as a family. We are problem solving together instead of yelling. My boys are taking care of themselves leaving me less frazzled and able to interact with them in a more positive way. Things are not perfect. Far from it. But I feel like we have a plan. We have some great tools in hand to become the family that we want to be.
I have a new sense of joy and purpose in my parenting; and I can thank the book Duct Tape Parenting for that!