I am mom of two fantastic kiddos, age 4.5 and 6.5 (and don't just say "6 years old" to my son"--it is "6 and A HALF" now). They continue to truly amaze and astound me on a daily basis with their remarkable personalities. As much as I hate for them to leave behind some of my favorite ages and stages, I am absolutely enthralled by their growth and understanding. They are great individuals all on their own, but I really do attribute the principles of the -wise series in much of their growth and our parental success. Using Babywise and the core tenants of consistency and first-time obedience really helped my husband and I to parent on the same page and see amazing results in a relatively short amount of time.
On the flip side, we have had a large challenge in all of this from the day I found out I was pregnant with my first. I work full-time. I could write a whole post just on the emotions and challenges I felt during pregnancy while working. In fact, I blog (quite sporadically) about just that and other issues working moms face. There have been many times (sometimes hourly still) where I feel in despair about working...but I am learning that there are equally as many reasons to rejoice over working.
One of the biggest blessings has been the nannies and caregivers that we have had to rely upon to help us. God has brought some of the most amazing young women into our life and the lives of our children. Keeping our children at home with a caregiver has been quite difficult financially but whether you use a babysitter for date night, grandparents for a weekend, daycare, or a nanny-share I am certain you will face some of the challenges we have...as well as some of the blessings.
The most terrific benefit has been the ability to maintain consistency. I am writing from the perspective of having a consistent caregiver, but much of this success can also be applied to even a teen babysitter. However, there was a time last summer right after our current nanny started working for us where my son thought that he was hot stuff. He point blank admitted she wasn't in charge, he didn't have to respect her, and he wasn't afraid of her consequences....!!!!!!! What?? We truly have done babywise from Day 1 with him. Sometimes we were too strict in our methods. I was appalled and shocked and really had no idea where to go. My sweet little boy. Where did we go wrong?
We had some quick work to do. Here are the steps we took:
1. Evaluate freedoms and consistency.
Even after a short amount of reflection, I realized we had stopped being consistent in a lot of ways. (I know. Shocking that inconsistency was the culprit :) Summer had just started. Our new sitter had just started. We moved. My husband started a new job. Whew. We were so busy we really just left their daily routine to our sitter and assumed they were having so much fun that we wouldn't be too rigid with her. Through no fault of her own, she really did not have many rules and they played.all.day. My kids loved it. It was really about 3 months right about the time my son started Kindergarten when everything came to a halt. You see, his Kindergarten teacher had RULES. Actually, he loved her rules. He loved her and wanted to please her so badly. When he came home after lunch to lack of rules, he balked. His behavior was great at school but then he was downright rebellious at home. Consistency and too much freedom was the bulk of our problem. I know this is touchy when you have family members involved but look for ways you can pick your top 2-3 priorities. Are naps always late? Is your child always choosing the activity?
2. Establish authority and respect.
It didn't take too much brilliance to understand that my son especially did not see our sitter as an authority figure. He clearly stated as much. I tried to follow through with discipline when I got home and it had no effect. We had few issues with him in the evenings but I felt like I spent all my time trying to fix the things that had happened during the time I was gone. My husband and I did make sure that we were maintaining authority consistently, but that did not bring huge improvement at first. We really had to find ways to show the kids that they had to respect anyone charged with their care. Some of this we focused on in times of non-conflict. "How should you answer her when you don't want to get dressed?" Avoid implied consequences or setting them up to fail such as "Don't you yell at her like yesterday unless you want to lose your favorite toy!" We also had to get our sitter on board and teach her how to be authoritative not just fun. We gave her some ways to script things and reviewed what first-time obedience really means to us.
3. Re-evaluate your schedule and discipline plan.
I realized that my kids are still way too young for lack of routine. Again, probably not eye-opening in hindsight. At the time, it seemed like they had so much fun without the busyness of our school routine that we never really enforced even a loose daily schedule that summer. Granted they were only in preschool at the time, there is still a beautiful consistency even going part-time to preschool and a benefit to using daycare. Last summer they swam, went to parks, went to the library, played outside...that all sounded so good. We realized we really had to limit the number of "free play" days. Not that they had to stay home and do independent play time every single day...but there needed to be a consistent balance between more structured activities and all-day-play-every-day. We also had to do re-vamp our discipline plan. We never changed our expectations for first-time obedience but we had to equip our sitter with some ways she could effectively discipline immediately. Swiftness was the key for her. No rationalizing, no coddling...just a simple "you refused to put shoes on so we cannot do x." Again, this can be difficult when grandma refuses to give any consequences but most babysitters and nannies are very glad for instructions on how to handle disobedience. One of the things I did was literally make a list of 20-30 "consequences" she could give right on the spot. If they refused, they were given a second consequence or tell mommy about it for a final consequence. That only happened two times! They were not all logical consequences tied to the action, but that made it interesting as well. They never knew if they would be told to sit on their hands for two minutes or do 10 jumping jacks. Throwing some funny things in there were still effective. It lightened the tension and helped burn energy on all those rainy summer afternoon.
Did it work? Yes!! Almost immediately. As my kids have gotten older, success sometimes feels like it takes longer to achieve but using some of the most basic -wise principles we saw amazing results. My son stopped kicking/pushing/sneaking (I told you it was baddddd!) and went straight from difficult-all-day to happy-and-compliant all day. We stopped spending every afternoon in his room with tearful/heart-broken phone calls to my husband at work to talking about all of the things he was learning and doing with our sitter. We still have rough days and challenges but being a working mom has never been better!
By Bethany Lynch who blogs at The Graceful Mom about working full-time and ways to have grace while doing it.