Parenting the Honey Badger

The language in this video is not suitable for sensitive ears. It is also hilarious.

If you don’t feel like watching the whole video, here’s the relevant line:

I feel like I write about my kids’ behavior problems once they’re over, and it tends to give the entirely false impression that I know what I’m doing. Because hey! It’s over! We solved this or that crisis/annoyance/danger. I really should stop doing that. Like everyone else, I’m improvising.

I should preface this by saying that we are a very low-punishment, low-bribery, “unconditional parenting” household. That said, there are times when we do resort for those kinds of measures. Physical violence earns a time-out, if only to emphasize the seriousness of the offense. I also am not above bribery/rewards for things where there is absolutely no intrinsic value for the kids. For example, I recently had to take Silas, Petra, and Noah with me to a doctor’s appointment. Nobody, kid or adult, likes hanging out in the doctor’s office. I made up a list of fun things we could do (going to the froyo store, going to a movie, going to the library, and going to the playground). I told them that, each time they misbehaved, I would cross one item off the list. They were 100% perfect, and we had a super fun week of activities.

But with Silas, at least, I always can punish or bribe if I feel like I need to. If I put him in time out, he makes the connection with his behavior and makes a real effort to not do whatever thing put him there.

Petra is not like that. At all.

She does this thing where she’ll pull Silas’ hair, and then look at me very sweetly and say, “Now you put me in time out!” She skips very blithely in to her timeout spot. So…I do…and once she’s in there, she cries and fusses to be let out, but as soon as she’s out, she’ll do it again, still with the weird near-request to be put in time-out. I’ve tried making the time-outs a bit longer, so maybe the point of “this is not fun” will get through to her. I’ve tried switching the time out location (because maybe she liked being in the spot I had been using?). I’ve tried taking away privileges instead of putting her in timeout. She’s like the friggin honey badger. Nothing works.

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My dad says, “It’s one of those apple and tree things,” by which he means, she doesn’t just look like me. I was probably exactly this kind of kid, which caused my parents to resort to extreme measures. I finally understand why they once punished me by not letting me read. My mom tried to explain it to my granny by saying, “There’s nothing else that matters to her!” Petra wouldn’t be phased by that at all, because she’s just getting into books.

I’m at a bit of a loss. We’re lucky that she’s generally a pretty good kid, and not especially given to violence or other unacceptable behavior. But oh, it is exhausting. The latest one is bedtime. When Silas was having a hard time with bed, we let him earn a family movie night by going to bed without fussing for a certain number of nights. Now Petra is in a rough bedtime phase, and I’m about to lose my mind.

This morning, I told her about how Silas earned a movie night by not fussing at bed time (P doesn’t really like movies that much). “Is there something that you might like to earn by having five no-fussing bedtimes?”

“Maybe we go to the children’s museum?” she said.

“Okay, that sounds great.” I said. “Can we start the no-fussing bed times tonight?”

“Hm. Maybe tomorrow.”

::head desk::

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