My mother was a schoolteacher. She was the type of person that had a calm sense of authority about her. She told me that when a new school year would start she was extremely strict with her students. Usually the first four or five weeks were dedicated to showing the class that she meant business. Once it was established that they needed to follow her rules, she ‘lightened up’. She then was able to allow some humor in and have a more relaxed atmosphere in the classroom. If anyone got out of line, they quickly were reminded of her stricter side and usually responded quickly to her discipline.
I have used this philosophy in my parenting. I can’t say it was always easy or pleasant being strict with my boys when they were smaller, but something inside me felt it was the right way to go. Now that they are ages 8 & 10, I am much more relaxed with them. I trust them to behave most of the time and am able to joke around with them.
Now that summer is here and our routine has changed dramatically, I’ve had to be more strict again. I realized that I need to let my boys know that the start of summer vacation is not a reason to go off the deep end. Part of me cringes knowing I have to be tough on them for a little while, but my goal is to set a standard of behavior early and then over time, let more of the fun creep back in.
For instance, as our phone rang on their first full day at home, both my boys raced to answer it. My older one reached it first and thankfully, answered politely. It was our vet and she needed to speak with me about a long-awaited medication for our very itchy bichon-poodle. Here’s the thing, I’m clearly on the phone discussing an important matter and what do my boys decide to do? Lose it completely. They went into a full-blown wrestling attack that got louder and louder by the second. I had to quickly exit all the while stepping lightly as I was afraid I was about to be tackled. Somehow I managed to get off the phone with the information I needed.
When I came back in the room, I brought with me my most serious ‘mom-stare’ and an attitude of authority. I was calm and said the following, “Let me ask you this boys. If I am on the phone, is it a time to get as loud as possible and act crazy, or do you think you need to be more quiet?” They both looked at me with sad eyes, “Be more quiet.” They knew they had crossed the line. “This is all I’m going to say to you. You are old enough that I am going to say this only one time and from this, you can determine how you want to behave in the future. The next time I get a call and you act crazy, you will both go to your rooms for as long as I tell you. It could be minutes or it could be hours.” If history has shown them anything, I follow through with what I say.
Hopefully, moving forward I will be able to take phone calls in peace. If not, I will regroup, get more serious about discipline and anticipate that the fun part of summer will be here soon.
Good luck to all of you trying to adjust to the ‘togetherness’ summer.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent