Tuesday, November 30, 2010

greatness knows gentleness

Taking care of babies was second nature to me.

Yellow Ducks

I'm sure I've lost a few brain cells over the past six years, but when I think back now, I seriously cannot remember ever having any question about the way things were supposed to be done. I was proficient with baths, diapers, feeding and the treatment of diaper rash. I knew how to effectively stop a baby from crying. Infact, I was so tuned in to my infants every single need, they very seldom cried. Because of my mothering expertise, I dished out heaps of (solicited) advice to people with singletons, twins, triplets and more.

People would track me down asking for help and I'd cheerfully give it.

I was instinctively good and my babies were perfect.

My babies slept 12 hours through the night when they were only a few months old. They napped and ate and pooped and cooed and rolled around the floor like precious little dolls. I took them out for walks - every day - and then, I'd prop them up in little bouncy chairs and read them books. We listened to classical music and I would dance around the house, with my babies in my arms, and marvel at my greatness as a mother.

These days, I don't feel like the greatest mother, anymore.

Sometimes, when the stars are aligned just right and everyone is getting along well, I'm a maternal beacon of awesomeness. My husband will stare at me in awe, as I coordinate arts and crafts projects and summon our children's help to bake something tasty.

But then. It ALWAYS happens that someone does something and the whole perfect scene that I've worked so hard to create will unravel before my eyes. I try to summon great patience in these situations and sometimes it works. Sometimes, it doesn't.

This past weekend, when Henry ambushed the marshmallow supply, William gave him a full-body tackle. As I was standing in the kitchen, I could hear them running around behind me, and the next thing I know, Henry is sliding in to the kitchen on his face and William is on his back, grabbing at his neck and SCREAMING, "Henry! Spit out the marshmallows!"

Henry is three and just by virtue of being three, he is a pill. It's how three-year-olds are wired.

William is six and by virtue of being the older brother, he was trying to help keep things in order. That's his self-imposed job and he takes it very seriously. William is generally a very docile child, but he knows it's not OK to ambush the marshmallow supply so it's absolutely WRONG that his little brother would dare attempt such a thing.


As William and Henry are sliding in to the kitchen on their faces, the girls are coloring quietly at the kitchen table. But then, sensing that The Crazy is happening, Elizabeth leans over and uses her scissors to slice a picture that Carolyn just drew. This evokes a screaming response from Carolyn, who then stands up and smacks her sister in the head. Both sisters cry, both brothers cry and the mother tries her best to keep her patience in check.

The mother does well.

Yay! Mother!

But the rest of the day was much the same. Fighting. Bickering. General Loudness. Me realizing that these kids are going stir crazy, since they've been in the house for the past week and there's really not much I can do about it because we're all still too sick to pack up and go anywhere.


Finally, I lost my patience a little bit. OK, a lot. But not nearly as badly as I lost my patience a few weeks ago when I dropped by to pick the children up from their "non-parental supervised play date" and they all IGNORED me in my crippled state as I hobbled after them.


How did I handle that situation?

I brought all three kids home, gave them a single swat on their bare bum with my family's Blood Spatula (because my hands were too torn up to spank), and then, I made them sit for 20 minutes in a room, by themselves, while I regained my senses. When they came out, very apologetically, I calmly talked with them about WHY they behaved the way they did, WHY it was wrong, and WHAT we could do better next time. Then, we wrote a letter of thanks to the family that we dropped in the mailbox.

I was surprised how many people suggested that I should have left the children there and let the neighbor take them home. That never crossed my mind for a number of reasons...

First, her daughter had a ballet recital later that afternoon, and I didn't want to encumber her with our children, when they would be leaving in an hour.

Second, there is a big maturity difference between an almost eight-year-old and three newly turned six-year-olds. It's important to me, that either my husband or I be there to supervise that interaction.

Third, these are very nice people, but we just met them.

Fourth, we've had less than five babysitters in our children's entire lives. I don't trust just anyone with our kids. Never have. Never will. At least not until all of my off spring have earned their black belts in martial arts and are proficient with a cell phone.

When I spoke with Charlie about this later, he actually told me that his initial reaction, when our neighbor asked if the children could come over, was NO. But then, he caved under the social pressure when all the kids were jumping around and begging him to go. It turns out, my husband didn't want to disappoint the children or our new neighbor. Also, he's a lot more easy going than I am and doesn't fully possess what I consider a well developed MATERNAL instinct.

Paternal instinct = outdoor play while wearing a short sleeve shirt in November is OK.

Maternal instinct = outdoor play while wearing a long sleeve shirt, sweater, jacket and hat is OK.

Also, even if I had been willing to leave and let the neighbor drive my children home an hour later, they lost that privilege the minute they started to act up. Most importantly, what message am I sending to our children if they throw a fit and I promptly cave to something that I otherwise feel very strongly about?

It's almost as if God thought I needed a sign to justify my "One Of Us Needs To Be With Our Children When They Are At Someone Else's House Rule", because two weeks ago, I attended a play date with just William. Since this was after the play date debacle where Mommy lost her marbles, before we even arrived, I laid out my expectations. I told William that he will have time to play, but when it is time to leave, it is time to leave.

He fully understood.

Less than an hour in to the play date, the two boys start to tumble, the family dog gets riled up and snaps at William and five minutes later, we're packed up and graciously saying goodbye.

I'm just so glad I was there because I could immediately tell William was afraid and ready to leave. If I hadn't been there, I'm certain he would have been too timid to say anything to the boy's parents. And if they had picked up on his anxiety, who is to say they would have called me, straight away?


Four years ago, when I wrote a post about losing my patience, someone left me a comment which essentially read, "Shame on you for not possessing the same control you expect of your children." That comment has really stuck with me, because with time, I've come to believe that it is absolutely correct.

While I do believe that there are certain situations in which a spanking is the fastest way to get a child's attention, I have a hard time believing that it is the correct thing to do. Sure, it's quick and it's easy and it gives the resemblance of assuming control. But striking a child? It just seems so wrong, regardless of what they've done.

But yet, I've done it.

I am definitely not a spankaholic. Very rarely do I spank our children. Infact, I can count on one hand (and one Blood Spatula) the number of times I've spanked them in their entire lives. But, those times are all in the moment of pure anger. Once I have an opportunity to calm down, I can always think of several more sensible and gentle ways to have handled the situation. Unfortunately, when I'm in that stressful and frustrating moment, my senses elude me and I turn in to a raging lunatic that cannot string words together in a cohesive sentence.

As my children grow, I find that I am struggling with maintaining my patience on a daily basis. At the innocent age of six, these children have become experts at targeting my weak spots, pushing my buttons and teaming up to see just how far they can push me to the edge. But as my children grow, I also find that sense doesn't come before age ... and wisdom is often hard.

I am in awe of those fully conscious, non-drugged out people, who are intentionally peaceful and do not yell at or spank their disobedient children. I am also in awe that 29 countries around the world have banned spanking and parents can serve time in JAIL if they hit their child. If I'd been living in one of 22 European countries, there's a good chance me and my Blood Spatula would have been put on trial and I'd be in the lock-up.

(If I May Address The Court Your Honor ... The Blood Spatula isn't really a tool to induce bleeding. It's a regular spatula, used to flip omelets and pancakes and scoop warm cookies off a baking sheet. The tradition of the Blood Spatula has been passed down for generations in my family. It could possibly be traced back to my great grandmother who came to the United States on a boat from Ireland during the 18th century. Or perhaps her mother, that pulled potatoes from a field. What is in the marrow is hard to take out of the bone! I've only used it this one time, Your Honor, because my hands were ripped and torn from falling down in asphalt! Also?! Before I inflicted it upon my naughty, naughty children, I tested it out on my own leg and it hardly hurt at all. It almost ... dare I say ... TICKLED!)

(To which the Judge would undoubtedly reply, "Solitary Confinement! Off to bed, with no dinner for ye, ye cold heartless witch of a mother!!!")


Yesterday, after the tussle between the boys and the girls, I sat the children down and asked for each of them to tell me three things that they love about their sparring partner.


Once everyone had a chance to talk, I continued, "Sometimes, people that we love don't act as kindly as we'd like. And as difficult as it might be for us, we need to be kind, anyway. We need to forgive them and be gentle and do our absolute best to love people especially when they are acting ugly."

William looked at me and said, "Like when you hit me with the Blood Spatula? That was terrible, Mommy, but I love and forgive you for that."

His sisters nodded in agreement and then they all stood up and took turns kissing me on the cheek, while I imagined the countless hours they'd spend in the future, on a therapist's couch.

What kind of role model am I?!

Of course, I love you! But I also want to CHOKE you!


I've already written that last month, my sister mailed me the book, "Positive Discipline" and I read it cover-to-cover. But obviously, I need to read it again, more slowly this time. I need to take notes and discuss it. I need to absorb the message and implement it in to in my every day life. To this end, I'd like to form a little book club, specifically to discuss this book. Hopefully, it'll go better than my knitting club which has been idle for two years and never made it to the cast-off.

To kick this off, I'm giving away two copies of Positive Discipline which will hopefully, give me (and two people who are equally curious) a better road map of how to raise my children in a more positive way. If you're interested in joining me on this quest, leave a comment on this post and I'll randomly select two people by Sunday, December 5.

I'm not the greatest mother that I once was.

Or, that I once believed myself to be.

I definitely need to get that feeling back, again.


  1. Love to read and we babysit with toddlers whom I fully expect to grow over the next few years; the book could help a lot. Thanks for holding the raffle. Hope the pain is letting you get around a bit more easily.

  2. I would love a copy of the book. I have a 18 month old son that is heading to the terrible twos. I read you blog alot and I look up to you for having triplets and raising them, I don't think I could do it.

  3. another great book i would "recommend is how to listen so your kids will talk and how to talk so your kids will listen" i think you handled it well

  4. I'm coming to realize babies are easy. Once kids start having opinions that they stick by then its the beginning of the end....and a teenager,whew, well there are days that I just pray that I raised him right and he makes the right decision because I can't do it nor make him do it if he doesn't want. (especially at 18 years old and 6'2")

    I read studies about how spanking kids causes them to be more aggressive at 6 and 7. ( I do spank and I'm positive that my oldest got spanked at least once a week when he was 3) But honestly, where is the study on the children who were spanked and how did they behave as a teen? THAT is the study I want to know the results of.

    My son is currently writing his essays for college applications. He writes how I was VERY strict with him to keep him out of trouble. (he had to unload the dishwasher and take out the trash and his friends didn't)
    I have tried my best I have! Damn straight I was a "mean" mom. Keeping him in line. Riding his ass all these years to do the right thing AND his homework!

    Keep on, keepin' on sister! Right now you have little people and little problems...wait til they're bigger. Yikes!

  5. One walloping huge hug for you. Love this post.

  6. What a coincidence, but two weeks ago I signed myself up for a workshop/discussion evening on "maintaining strong patience with strong kids." ;) My two and a half year old is consistently testing my limits these days and I figured I could use all the tips I could get! So yeah, PLEASE include me in the poll for this book everyone is raving about too! :)

  7. Yay you, I think you handled THE situation correctly. You sent a message and they got it. I too could not believe the comments that said they would leave the children, in that case the children won. I haven't read the whole post yet (had to say yay you), but will probably have more to say. jmo but I think you are awesome.

  8. I'd love to join you on the journey to learn how to discipline. Lindsay047@gmail.com

  9. Hey there...long time reader first time writer...

    I have triplet girls who just turned 7 and I could have written this post.

    I rocked at being a mom when they were babies until about 5. My girls slept 12 hours, would listen, play nicely. We could do art projects and have fun. Now it seems that their one and only goal is to push my buttons. I lose my patience very quickly and have often gone to other mothers to ask for help. They pretty much give me a blank stare. Like their kids are prefect and don't irritate them. Sometimes I wonder if my expectations are too high.

    I was going to go to the book store today to look for that book. I need some help. My husband has more fun with them these days than I do and that makes me sad. I am so excited for them to get off the bus from school and withine 5 minutes I am ready to rip my hair out. They bicker with me, with each other and are just a wreck. I get that they hold it together all day at school, but how do I get them to take a breath when they get home so we can have fun too.

    We often go to someones house and when i say it is time to go they are running in the opposite direction or said they didn't hear me. Your posts the last few weeks have been hitting home. We just move again this summer and that has some to do with it. But any help getting control back would be nice!

    Hang in there...and I too find myself looking for the wine in the middle of the day!

  10. Tho I am long past disciplining my own children (when I used to lock myself in the bathroom for fear of saying something I would regret or killing them, well not really killing, just spanking) I now have 2 grandchildren and would love to pass along the book to them because, yes they are adorable (1.5 years, 2.5 years and another on the way) I think they sometimes let them get away with stuff because it is easier but down the road they will wish they had better consistent guidelines. BTW, I absoltuely love reading your blog.

  11. Don't be too hard on yourself. You amaze me with how you run your home, your kids, and still hold a job away from home each day. I realize that your husband is there with you, but still you are the one! God gave you the Trips and Henry because he knew you could do a good job and handle the daily stresses of life A grandma in IL

  12. I've struggled over the last 13 years with disciplining my children.

  13. I have been thinking about your situation with the kids at the neighbors for a while and I do not know what I would do and I know that my day is coming soon when I will be in the same situation as you were. I would love a copy of Positive Discipline because I need all the parenting advise I can get. I think that you are doing a great job with your kids.

  14. Hey Jenn~

    I totally relate to where you're coming from with the discilpline...I know everything you went through to get your precious children and I know everything I went through as well. It's so hard sometimes to keep our cool with our children....I usually try to calmly remember all the shots ect, ect....and that helps!

    Keep the posts coming!!

    Finley, Jude, Avah and Baby Jack in Heaven

  15. I think as parents we all lose our cool every now and again...I would love to have a copy of the book.

  16. I think I need to read that book. We're in the throes of three here with a singleton - and how did you manage 3 without completely becoming certifiable?.

    Number 2 is scheduled to be arriving in May and there are days where I wonder how I'm going to survive, let alone impart the guideance and paitence I don't seem to possess some days unto my offspring :-)

    I am hoping that your first holiday season in your new house stays magical.

  17. I think you are doing a fantastic job! My problem is that I don't follow through. I threaten the timeouts, but most of the time I just let it slide. I could really use some help!

  18. Just this week someone quoted to me "Sometimes you love them so much you can't stand it. Other times you just can't stand it." So true.

    It seems like all of us go through phases like this. You aren't the only one. For me the infant stage was so much harder. My two colicky, miserable infants were so incredibly difficult and the day they were finally old enough to say what was bothering them rather than just screaming 20 hours a day was so blissfully amazing that I feel I have generally been a much better parent since then. However we still have days (or weeks or months) when behaviour seems to be out of control or I am not handling stress very well and I snap and shout when I should be kind and gentle. I think along with forgiving and loving those we argue with, we need to especially learn to do so with ourselves. Mothers can be the harshest critics of themselves. You have had an INCREDIBLY stressful year with many changes and difficult things happening and I wouldn't be surprised if it takes a full year to sort of get back into a groove again. Wishing you strength and peace!

  19. You are awfully hard on yourself (and, in my opinion, on your children, at times). You have super-high expectations of almost everything -- yourself, your family, your home, your domestic life) and I think that is causing you a lot of unnecessary stress. I realize that a) I have never met you in person and am therefore missing a lot of the complexity of your personality and behavior and b) this is your blog and is probably a way for you to vent and process some of your conflicting emotions regarding parenting and life. That being said, the overall feeling I get is that you need to cut yourself some slack and maybe, maybe, maybe stop thinking/analyzing so much. I realize this is unsolicited advice and I wouldn't blame you if you didn't take it, but I have BTDT and I would just like to see you relax a bit and appreciate that good parenting is not perfect parenting. As my therapist once said to me, "even if you COULD be a perfect mother, imagine how damaging that would be to your children. Who wants to grow up with a perfect mother?!?!? That's the surest route to therapy out there!!!" She was being humorous but the point was well-taken; striving for perfection makes everyone tense, and prevents you from embracing the messy, chaotic, at-times-out-of-control honesty that makes us all human. HTH and I admire you for your honesty, especially in such a public forum. I could never deal with the criticism you and other "mommy bloggers" get on a regular basis.....

  20. Love to have a chance to win the book, I have four kids myself and know what it's like to be in that crazy stressed out moment

  21. I would love a copy of Positive Discipline. I have a copy from the library but it'd be great to have my own copy that I can underline as I wish. And if you are doing an online book club for the book I'd love to be involved.

    I think the story of the kids forgiving you is a great one. I think whoever wrote "Shame on you for not possessing the same control you expect of your children" is quite mistaken because they forget that we are all human and all do things that we regret. What kind of role model are you? One that teaches your kids that mistakes are okay, that you acknowledge what you should have done instead and that you try to do better next time. Kids (and parents) that expect themselves to be perfect are just going to be disappointed. Learning how to handle your mistakes is an important lesson.

  22. I appreciate your honesty and desire to be a better Mom. I too strive to improve everyday. I have 2 year old twins and a five year old (all boys) and I would love to read and discuss this book.

  23. Wow. Just ... Wow. Your comment about showing the same patience as I expect out of my children shot through me like a cold shower. I had to close my office door because I began to cry. How utterly simple and true.

    Why, why does that logic fail me when I'm ready to lose my temper with my boys?

    I come from a family where there is a cycle of abuse. It has always been my commitment to NOT LET THE CYCLE CONTINUE. Yet, there are times when I get so fustrated, feel so lost that I have to step out to the garage to keep that commitment. I need to learn how to handle that emotion better for me and my boys.

    Your comment about three year olds being pills was also reassuring to see -- I have three year old triplet boys, and sometimes I think I am going to lose.my.mind. Along with my patience ...

    Honestly, it's like herding cats most days. I look back on the first few months when I pumped, fedd, and changed babies every three hours around the clock. That was NOTHING compared to now when they are mobile and sassy-pants.

    I've tried all kinds of books and strategies -- Five Love Languages of Children, Raising Boys, Dare to Discipline, Raising Godly Tomatoes, 1-2-3 Magic, Love and Logic ... I still suck at this parenting discipline thing.

    I don't know if the book you are offering would help, but I'd love to try ... for my boys and for me.

    Since the Ducky Boards I've seen you as a role model for parenting with triplets. You amaze me with your humility and honesty. I hope I can learn from you and this book to be the best parent I can be for my boys.

  24. Oh my gosh! I so need this book and to read it with you! I have 3 kids 4, 2 and 4 months and I feel like I've lost all control! I was just discussing yesterday with someone that they need to mandate parenting 101 in college, not all the other non-sense classes on info you'll never use again in your lifetime.

    It has always been my dream to be a mom but I feel as though I'm failing miserably sometimes! I'm glad I'm not the only one who is clueless some of the time!

  25. In reading this post, all I can think is, you sound like so many other good mothers out there. We try our hardest to be the best mom we can be, and yet we still screw up. Sometimes in spectacular fashion. It's a frustrating, maddening job.

    I think you're a step ahead of a lot of moms for putting this out there, admitting your mistakes for all to see, but striving to not make them again. That is what makes you a great mom.

    I, for one, believe the times that I've screwed up have taught me the most about being a parent, and since no one's lost a limb yet as a result of mine, or yours, I think the kids are gonna turn out okay. :)

  26. In my opinion being a mother to babies is soooo much easier than toddlers, 5 and 6 year olds, pre-teens and teenagers and everything in between. It is so easy to be the world's greatest mom when they can't really tell you that you aren't. As a mother of a 6 year old and a 17 year old I can attest to that. I think we all struggle with decisions we have made as parents and feel bad for some of them, that's what makes us human. Don't be so hard on yourself:)You seem like an amazing parent to me.

  27. Oh I so love your honesty! I have to admit that I turn into a crazy mother sometimes (okay most of the time) and I always feel so quilty about it. I so need this book and would love to do this with you. My triplets are 6 too and they are in K this year. Both my husband and I agree that their behavior has changed since starting school but they are still pretty good kids. I just get so frustrated with the no listening or being naughty to each other thing.
    I am back working full time as well and I seriously think we are leading parallel lives! I will look into this book so I can join you on this journey.
    I want my kids to remember me as "The Best Mom Ever"! Not the crazy mom who was a screamer!
    Nicole...AKA Hot Mama LOL!

  28. I definitely need that book. Although I also think I am a great mother, my 2 year-old babies are becoming better and better at totally draining my patience.

    I was raised with a lot of spanking and although I find it absolutely horrible, I have a hard time holding my hand back at times.

  29. Hi ~ I'm one of those silent readers but for some reason this post really hit home and made me want to comment! I too have a hard time letting just anyone watch our children (10 yr old daughter and 2 yr old GBB Triplets)! I don't think it's a fault at all on our part! I know some people think it is and that's their opinion! Unless they've been in your shoes, than they really don't have the right to comment/judge your choices for your children!

    A friend and I were just joking yesterday about stopping and thinking before we loose our cool when our kiddos start acting like total wild monkeys that haven't been trained at the zoo before we let them out to play! hehehe I think it's just part of being a mom ~ I mean we can't always be perfect! Can we?? : ) I'm going to have to look into this book you mentioned!

    Anyway, it seems like you've got some happy, healthy kids... Isn't that what it's all about??? I know in our house it is!!! Keep up the great job!!! Those adorable kids of yours will thank you some day!

  30. My son just turned 2 and is starting to not listen to me and be disobedient. I have been on the lookout for a book to guide me in how to handle this the right way. I would love to read this book and get some good ideas.


  31. Things have been a little crazy here, too, lately. I really think it has a lot to do with the fact that it has been raining and cold so we haven't gotten outside to burn off some energy each afternoon (my kids have gym time at preschool but 30 mins isn't enough). I think I need to win/read this book to help guide me when my patience is thinner than thin.
    fingers crossed that I'm the lucky pick! xxxx

  32. I believe I may be in need of some "Positive Discipline" as well. My g/b twins turned 6 in November.

    North, San Diego

  33. Love this post, love it. I can totally see that being me with my two 6 year old boys in a few years. My boys are just 4 next month and yet they test me every day as well. Love them but sometimes I just can't take it. There are days you just don't care why they had to knock over the basket of laundry you just spent 30 minutes folding. I can't get that time back buddy and now I have to do it again...haha! Anyway I'd love to read this book, pick me pick me, haha!!

  34. Does this book club include wine and chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven? Then YES, I am interested in joining you.

  35. Uh, Jenna... who is that woman you described in the opening paragraphs? Because I've known you since those darlings of yours were four months old, and while I remember hanging out with a great mom who loved her babies, enjoyed her babies, and strove to find ways to make life with three babies smoother for all, I never once met Kumbaya Mom.

    I'm sure you've got your tongue in cheek there, but I question how firmly it's planted. You'll never measure up to such an idealized vision of Past You, my friend. Cut yourself some slack on the Perfect Mother thing.

    Yours in the triplet trenches...

  36. Great post and I've been reading your blog for over 3 years now and from what I see, I think you are an AMAZING mother. :)

  37. Great post and I've been reading your blog for over 3 years now and from what I see, I think you are an AMAZING mother. :)

  38. Excellent post! I'd love to read the book with you.

    Your mention of the commenter who asked how we can expect more control than we're willing to show...

    ...really hit home. Profound.

  39. So happy you are gleaning some wisdom from the Positive Discipline book. Remember that "Rome wasn't built in a day" and parenting is a process - you need to keep learning and try to stay one step ahead of the kids!

    Just have to weigh in on the playdate issue: determine what your fears are (guns? discipline if they are not behaving?) Spend some time with the parent(s) addressing those concerns ahead of the playdate and let them GO! A little bit of freedom will be good for them, good for you/Charlie and also good for the hosting family. Playdates are healthy and important part of growing up! Love,Eileen

  40. I've been meaning to pick up this book either at the library or the bookstore....but I haven't had the time. I'd love to win a copy!! Jill jones

  41. I like to read that book. Good idea for a book club.

  42. Love the post! Sums up my views on spanking perfectly! Hope the book club goes well. I did a book club read of that book when Tate was 3 -- we met 1x/week to review each chapter. I firmly believe that to be successfully and fully implemented. .. . . you have to continuously read the book and meet 1x/week until the children turn 10! Seriously - its a great book with great strategies. Its just that this parenting thing is SO HARD!! It requires constant refresher courses!

    Yours - Jessica

  43. I would love to read this with you. I struggle with our twins every day and am in awe of you being able to handle 4 kids. I find it hard to keep a cool head and reason with 5 year olds and need all the help I can get!

  44. Michelle M in TX11/30/10, 4:12 PM

    Sounds good to me. I am terrible at discipline. I understand what I am to do, but never can implement it correctly. I turn into a yeller. Ug.

  45. I'm not a spanker, and I strive for gentle discipline. My huge fault is yelling. Although it FEELS like the only way to get my kids' attention when all six are screaming/fighting/crying/laughing, I've realized that it's not.

    I like the Love & Logic parenting series and "Calm Classroom" CDs. They really focus on positive reinforcement and gentle discipline and give some good, concrete examples of how to make it work.

  46. I would love to read this book and join your little book club. I just wrote in my blog about a little yelling incident that I had with my boys, when I was a less than good mother and got a very nasty comment from a reader. I hope you are prepared for the backlash! =)

  47. I think you're marvelous. Just look at how much time you spend agonizing and thinking about how to handle all the situations the kids throw at you. They will always get under your skin now and then so don't be so hard on yourself. They're new at this thing and will learn quite nicely how to be good human beings thanks to you and Charlie. I wish my mom had been half the mom and/or kind soul you are.

  48. Thank you for such an honest and enlightening post. I too struggle with my 3 yr old's behavior and am trying to figure out what I can do to have a more positive reaction to her misdeeds. Perhaps I should see if the library has a copy of this book.

  49. Parenting is hard. I need all the help I can get.

  50. HELLO, I've been reading your blog since you started and you have ALWAYS been insane. Ohmygosh, Jen, didn't your mother ever go insane? My mother's head used to nearly spin right of her neck and her veins used to bulge she would be so irate. WE ALL DO THAT. That is NORMAL. All these books nowadays are written to make us overanalyze ourselves to death. Mothers get mad. Kids get whooped. You don't need to psychoanalyze it. It's just life.

    You are a perfectly fine crazy mother just like the rest of us.

    Now about the playdate. Thank goodness you were there to prevent William from learning about fighting with his friend, reconciling, and learning to deal with it. Whew. Kids fight at my house all. the. time. There are even tears. They get over it. I had one stampede into my kitchen and demand I call her mother. I told her, "Your mother is at the grocery store for the first time in a month without a child. You can either sit here in the kitchen with me, or you can go back outside and play." She went outside. I'm fairly certain it wasn't a life changing EVENT.

  51. Oh, and if you want to spend hours laughing at how completely stupid people get about this whole "positive and gentle discipline", go look at the forum on it on mothering.com and read posts of kids spitting and kicking and hitting and biting their mothers, and oh gosh, WHAT SHOULD THEY DO? Cuz God forbid they DISCIPLINE little Billy. He might be scarred for life if his mother beats his ASS for biting her. It kills me.

  52. I half-joke with people that I was praying to God for patience with my 5 and 3-year-olds, then I realized that He was answering my prayers with opportunities to exercise it! I don't know if it their age, the switch from Stay-At-Home-Mom status to Full-Time-Working-Mom-Who-Spends-More-Time-Commuting-Each-Day-Than-She-Does-With-Her-Kids status, or simply the phases of the moon...but there truly is a behavior/discipline conundrum. I do know it is comforting that as bleak and weak as I feel as a mom, I'm really not alone. Thanks for your raw, honest post. And thanks for the book tip. If I don't win it, I'll definitely add it to my Christmas list!!

  53. We try to stick with Love and Logic parenting strategies here, but I've had moments (read:days, weeks, and sometimes entire months) like the ones you describe when everything seems to get out of control no matter what I do. I'll find a copy of Positive Discipline and join in on the book club. Never hurts to add to my parenting arsenal, right?

  54. I'd love to read more about this! I have a 5 year old too, and twins behind her. And I find myself yelling way too much. Would like to have a better idea on what to do.

  55. I could definitely benefit from reading that book.

    I go back and forth on the spanking issue. My major gripe with the anti-spanking argument is this - parents who don't want to spank, but then do it in a moment of anger claim that spanking always equals lashing out in anger. In contrast, I know parents who consider spanking to be a valid discipline option. They warn their children, then calmly spank them when they overstep the boundaries, just as non-emotionally as some parents administer a timeout. Just because parents have found themselves spanking out of anger does not mean that spanking always has to equal an out-of-control parent. That being said, I want spanking to be at the absolute bottom of my discipline list. I just don't know what else to do some days. *sigh* I wish I had more parenting tools in my bag. So yes, please enter me in your book drawing, even if I refuse to jump on the spanking = child abuse bandwagon.

    And for what it's worth, I too consider babyhood to be SO much easier than, well, pretty much anything that comes afterwards. Especially when my babies were nursing, the answer was pretty simple and readily available. My older girls test my patience, push my boundaries, and challenge my creativity in ways that I never expected. On the other hand, they make me laugh, say things that stop me in my tracks, and melt my heart in ways that they never did as infants.


  56. I would love to get a copy of the book...I'm currently having quite a few issues with my 5 year old and am definitely looking for ideas!

  57. Sarah (AKA: Crunchy Conservative), I'm right there with you because I don't entirely agree spanking = child abuse. But, I do think that there are better ways of handling almost all situations. I'm seeing it, more and more, that our kids are starting to smack each other and how can I tell them, "DON'T HIT!" when they see that I do?? Same goes for the whole, "DON'T SHOUT!" and yet, I'm screaming at the top of my lungs. Great Role Modeling, MOM!

    Michele (AKA: Crazy Chicken Lady), I'm really not trying to overanalyze this. But at the end of most days, I feel like a pile of dung for my own poor behavior. I'm supposed to be setting the example. OF COURSE my mother absolutely flipped out every so often how could she not with six children born in seven years?! But I'll guarantee you that if she had things to do over again, she'd try to do them differently. I know this because she is hooked on SuperNanny and was VERY bothered by a spanking that I gave to Carolyn when we were in SC last year.

    MY goal is to stop screaming as much as I do, to stop making idle threats and to stop head butting with a six year old. Two six-year-olds, to be exact. William is fine. It's the GIRLS who are driving me nuts and I never expected that their eye rolling and sass talking would start this young. GOD HELP ME.

    I don't want to beat them in to submission, which it almost feels like I need to do. There's got to be a better way so I'm desperately looking to find it.

    And if I don't ... well ... I'll be locked up.

    PS: You seriously think I'd let a child BITE me? Do you forget my suggestion for the tantrums that you were dealing with a few years ago coming out of Trader Joe's with the balloons?? I told you to snatch them away and POP them all and say, "YOU'RE GOING TO FIGHT OVER THESE? YOU AREN'T GOING TO HAVE THEM!" POP! POP! POP! POP!

    Yeah. I'm a real softy.

  58. I would love a copy! That would be such a good addition to our library!

  59. Randomly, huh... yay! Do I have a chance? Please please please!!!

  60. I don't think my comment was posted so I'll write it again...I've been reading your blog for over 3 years now and I think you're doing an amazing job with your kids!

  61. Remember mine are 10 months older than yours. We already went through A is for ATTITUDE. I did not beat them death, although the thought crossed my mind a hundred times a day. I did a major, major behavioral crackdown. If so much as an eyeroll or back talk occurred, I grabbed their arms and had them staring at the wall in the corner so fast, they didn't even know what hit them. Gregory was my worst offender. He stood for 1.5 hours in the corner one day before I broke him.

    "Are you sorry for your disrespectful behavior?"





    And my head was spinning around and my neck veins were bulging just like my mother. I told him if he ever treated me that way again, the world as he knows it will cease to exist.

    Two weeks of major crackdown and we nipped that one. You can do it. GO JEN! GO JEN! GO JEN!

  62. yeah, I could probably do some hard time in parts of Europe as well.

  63. Good, quick read recommended by professionals:

    Plain Talk About Spanking
    by Jordan Riak

    Good website:

  64. If I don't win this book I will have to get it from the library. We hate spanking and we say we won't do it but then we cave at some particularly stressful occurrence and feel terrible afterward.

  65. I have an almost-8, a 3.5 and a 27 month old. Needless to say, life is pretty crazy around here at times!! I'm not the patient mom I want to be. I would love to win a copy of Positive Parenting!

  66. Would love a copy - I too am in the throws of challenging parenting with my 5 1/2 yr old twin boys. It's the escalation between them that fully sets me off. Many of the parenting books seem to address the parent as if they only have one child. Definitely could use some help so I'm not yelling so much. Thanks, Maureen (jnomaxx at hotmail dot com)

  67. I have a 2 year old! Nuff said. Sign me up please!!! :) Love your blog...been reading for years.

  68. I have a 5 year old and a 3-1/2 year old, both boys. I love being a parent as much as I always dreamed I would, but on the other hand it is much more challenging than I imagined. I am normally a very calm, rational person, but these boys can get a rise out of me like no one else can. I would love a copy of a book that might create some peace between us while maintaining discipling and respect.

  69. sounds like a good book to read...i have 4 year old twins! discipline is always a challenge.

  70. I just love you, little girl. And this is not so that I would win a book, because I have it....but because everything you wrote makes perfect sense. How can we be perfect at something we've never done before, nor had schooling for? And what if our mothers were less than stellar? Then we have no perfect mother to model after......(my mom, though not the best, is a total dear and did the best she thought to do).
    I think what you did with the kids was the best thing to do. I am still an advocate for spanking in dire circumstances. *some poster of yours will twist all this around, but each to his own. We'll compare kids in 20 yrs* And they will remember that spanking...and later on you just have to say, "are you going to act crazy and make me get the blood spatula out?" and amazingly, they remember, and choose to act better, to be better. Hang in there, little girl!!!!!!
    Melody, with triplet boys, in Knoxville

  71. I've been meaning to get that book. Hopefully I have some random luck left this year.

  72. I have that book! Read it when James was younger. If I recall I was taking parenting classes and it was referenced quite a bit.

    There's another great little book that perhaps you could reference as well. In fact, you gave it to me as a gift many years ago!!

    It's "Oh the places you'll go" by Dr. Suess! It's great for all walks off life... be it career, parenting, homeschooling, etc. Marg.

  73. My son is very good at pushing buttons. He's only 3, and I am a little scared to think of what will happen as he gets older. My husband always manages to calm my worries with two pieces of advice:

    1) They push your buttons to see if you will love them despite the worst they can put you through.
    2) Wouldn't you rather deal with a rotten kid, when they are a bit more easily disciplined, than have the easy kid and rotten teenager? He's from a family of 9 kids (he's the oldest) and so far the pattern has followed suit; the wild kids are the more well-behaved teens and the quiet kids are the teens with the problems. I think I'd rather have the wild child and tame teen, thankyouvermuch. Now here's to hoping that is really the case! ;)