Clearly the Solution was Fire and Urine

She had collapsed in on herself and was sobbing at the table.  I patted her on the back in that awkward way which precisely conveys, “I don’t know what to do, or what to say, and I want to run from this emotional Hazmat scenario as fast as I can but I’m required by law to suffer with you.”

I waited an appropriate and painful amount of time, and then wandered over to the stove and stared into a pot of boiling water.  This is a super effective parenting strategy.  For snakes.

Two everlasting minutes later my 10-year-old ran upstairs to her room and slammed the door.  For the first time.  Category five meltdown over a new chore list?  It made no sense to me, but I’m a compassionate person.  When people lose their shit, even if they’re 10, I try to put myself in their shoes.  How would I feel if someone sat me down and gave me a list of responsibilities, had already decided my compensation and bonus structure, and none of it was negotiable?  I would feel like an employee.  Wait.  Nevermind. I could see why at her age she would feel powerless and not very motivated to cooperate.

Option 1:  Go upstairs and punish her for slamming the door, say the list is final, and tell her to get over it.

Message:  Expressing anger is bad, she should always do whatever she’s told, and her feelings aren’t important.

Result:  She resents the chore list and rebels quietly as much as possible, which is a fantastic pain in my ass that leads to more negative consequences for her and everyone is unhappy.  Awesome.

Also, what does that message look like when she’s 18?  Is that course of action preparing her to be a self-assured individual who thinks for herself, values her own opinion, and knows how to express herself?  The only thing that really needs correcting in this situation is the door slam.

Option 2:  Calmly address the door slam, and don’t make the situation worse by applying logic to her emotions.

This is a brand new tack for me.  Thank you, smart people who wrote How to Talk so Kids will Listen & How to Listen so Kids will Talk.  My first parenting book – yay!  No hurry.

Fact:  Emotions freak me out.  My typical reaction to someone feeling like their world is coming to its natural end is to interrogate them relentlessly until I have all the details, offer a reasonable solution asap, and then disappear.  As you can imagine, people find this approach very comforting and helpful.

I’m working on it okay?  It takes DECADES to become a good parent, which is the REAL reason everyone wants grandchildren.  They’re human do-overs.

Anyway, here’s what happened when I entered the valley of emotional darkness.

Me:  Hey that was a pretty good slam.  I respect it.  Doors aren’t for slamming – there’s a better way to express yourself – but I’m glad you did.  Now I understand you’re not sad.  It seems like you’re angry.  Is that right?

Btw a door slam is huge progress for a child who guards her feelings like someone is trying to steal them.

She nodded yes.

Me:  Is it because you feel like you have no say in the chore list?

Another nod.

Me:  I understand – it would upset me, too…I bet you wish you could tear that chore list into a 1,000 pieces huh?

Another nod.

Me:  And set it on fire?

She stopped crying and looked at me like I was a little bit crazy.

Anna:  Yes.

Me:  And then maybe PEE on it?

She laughed out loud and her eyes lit up.

Anna:  Yes!

Me:  Wow, you’re really angry!

Anna:  [Still laughing]:  I know!

Me:  Like super mega wicked pissed.

Anna:  Yep.

Me:  Does it help to know the list is negotiable?

Anna:  What do you mean?

Me:  The list isn’t final – I’d like to go over it together so you can give me your input.  We can make changes as we see fit and I’ll reprint the list.  Afterward you can show that list how much you hate it.

Anna:  Burn it and pee on it?

Me:  Totally.

Anna:  Okay!

She ran down the stairs and started studying the list.

The Negotiator.

The Negotiator.

We went over each line together and she made notes on a separate piece of paper outlining our modifications.  In the end there were only a handful of minor changes.  She just wanted to be part of the process.  Her attitude shifted from despair to a confident kid eager to do her part.  The situation turned from a sobbing nightmare to Fairy Tale Negotiations on the Rainbow’s Edge™ in 27 minutes.  Win!

True to my word, I let her burn the original list.

Safety third.

Safety third.

And then put the ashes in the toilet so she could pee on them.

The thrill of revenge.

The thrill of revenge.

I probably could have stopped at the pyro shenanigans, but I’m inappropriate like that sometimes.

We moved on to a spelling dance-off, and then she ran upstairs to make sure she got everything on the chore list done before bed.  Peace was restored, the chore chart will be seamlessly implemented, and we both went to bed happy.

Turns out that honoring emotion is actually totally LOGICAL.  Who knew?

Have you ever solved a problem with fire?  Urine?  How about urine that’s on fire?

Comments

  1. Be my mommyyyyyyy! < that was weird.

    Take two: Love this post, Molly! It made me laugh. And btw? You're a cool mom. You're awesome for thinking of the message behind your reaction. THAT is good parenting.

    I want to burn stuff and then pee on the ashes!

    • Hahahaha Beth! Thanks so much lady – I appreciate that so much! Parenting is a total freakshow. No one ever tells you how much overthinking it requires : )

    • I swear to God my comment was going to be, “Will you be my mom?”

      I need to come take lessons from you. Usually in my house, he slams his door, I slam mine, and then my closet door, and then I sit on the floor in my closet eating hot tamales until I calm down. I like fire better. But both ways are hot (tamales, never mind)…I’m on a roll today.

  2. This is so good. Especially this: It takes DECADES to become a good parent, which is the REAL reason everyone wants grandchildren. They’re human do-overs.

  3. Fire and urine, huh? I gotta remember this when dealing with my daughter.

  4. Lol, what a great approach to parenting. You and Beth should get together and write a parenting book! 🙂

  5. OMGGGG! You are bloody amazing. Yes, this was worth blogging and singing from the roof tops about. This is worth framing, actually. Can you tell I “get it”? Amazing. i love that book. They should be given the Nobel prize for gifts to parenting, when it exists. Awesome 🙂

    • Thank you SO much!!!! I totally agree – those authors totally deserve that award. We should invent it! I loved your post about the original FB photo – I commented there : )

  6. You rock, woman, I mean, totally rock. I love the way you turn a really crappy situation around and make it work for you and the little one. We as parents just need to stop sometimes and THINK, not react. Maybe all humans need to do that more…not just parents. Thank you again for rocking!!

    • Thanks so much LuAnne! Do you have a blog? I totally agree – we could all stand to think more an react less, in any relationship. Hell even with strangers! I do my best, but I surely have my moments of being Princess Reactsalot…Those don’t make the paper because they’re boring hahaha.

  7. Love this! You are putting all of us old school moms to shame, you realize this, don’t you?

    • No way! And just to be clear, I’m not saying option #1 isn’t the proper response. Sometimes it is, and for some kids it is. I’m personally on a quest to get my daughter to talk to me about her feelings, situations with friends, etc. She’s not one to express emotion, so in her case, I didn’t want to shut her down for expressing anger for the first time since 2007. If she was a mouthy kid that was always clamoring, I probably would have handled that differently : )

  8. I spend an inexplicable amount of time talking about how horrible I think people are as parents. I always say I’m not a kid person, but the truth is that I’m just not a PARENT person. I dislike or disagree with a LOT of parenting styles. Provided I acknowledge that styles change person to person and based on each individual child, I still find it all a bit annoying.

    THAT SAID, I am in love with the way you handled this. It addresses what she did wrong without punishing her and making her resentful. It puts her into the chore process without feeling dictated to do something. I really REALLY appreciate that.

    Kudos.

    • Your About Page is awesome-I followed and look forward to reading more : ) Thanks so much for the compliment on this post! And girrrrl I totally get it. Some parents drive me up the wall also. So do some kids, ha!

  9. THAT was THE coolest parent-kid negotiation tactic. Ever!
    As long as she doesn’t tell anyone at school that you let her burn something then pee on it… 😉

    • Oh you know that was the first thing out of her mouth when she stepped foot in the school! In the carpool lane I explained that we live in the south and that she may not want to share that info, but then I said oh whatever, who am I hiding from? Is the PTA gonna take away my birthday? Who cares! I’m waiting for the phone call…

  10. I just posted on cooking with a blowtorch. Parenting with one is a gamechanger. gotta get a fresh tank!

    http://foodandwinehedonist.com/2015/01/26/now-were-cooking-with-fire/

    • Hahaha – that would definitely change things. And I think I would get a call from social services : ) Thanks for sharing your post – I’ll go check it out!

  11. And that is why you were meant to be a mum and I was not. And to think I describe myself as CREATIVE … *sigh*

  12. I wish my mam had let me burn stuff and pee on it 😉 That was such a cool approach to the problem!
    Incidentally, I’ve just written a rather different post on pee 🙂

  13. It’s about time you posted! If you’d post more, I’d probably harass you on other forums less. Probably. I’ve always thought you were a great mom, fantastic, really. I’d love you to be my mommy, and I don’t think it’s creepy like Beth does! Lol. I actually started to read that book you recommended a long time ago and it was pretty good. I got far enough in to realize that it’s a parenting book though and I swore that I’d never read a parenting book. THat’s what beer is for. Kudos to you for letting her piss on the old list, Molly. You’re gold, baby! Gold!

    • Oh that’s right! I DID read one other parenting book – the Love Languages for kids! But beer works, too haha! Thanks for the kudos Don – I’m doing my best to overthink everything. Sometimes it works out okay : ) I’m heading over to Don of all Trades right now to catch up – woot!

      • Ha! You know that I love you above all other bloggers, but shhhh, don’t share that. They can be so catty!

        No need to visit my blog, dear. There tain’t been a new post there in many moons. I probably had no business giving you a hard time for not posting, now that I think about it. Lol.

      • I was just about to say oh hell to the no Mr. December 21st hahaha! But I get it. I’ll let you slide. But now you’re up – we all need a Don post! And your biased secret is safe with me : )

  14. Um, where was this post when me and my kid started the new year with a meltdown of *ALL* the meltdowns ever melted down in the history of young folks’ meltdowns???? Afterward, I came to a similar conclusion–sans fire and pee though–might have to include them next time. Great post.

    • Hahahaha – OMG kids will wear a parent OUT. You’re still standing so good for you – you win! I highly recommend fire and urine – they’re the unsung heroes of drama extinguishing : )

  15. BohoChickKy says:

    I love this! I plan on eventually printing it and giving it to my grown children along with other great parenting lessons. High five to you! Good job, Mom.

    • Hooray – thanks so much! Is it bad that I’m envying the fact that your children are grown?

      • BohoChickKy says:

        No, not at all. I remember feeling that way at times. Lots of times! It’s definitely a struggle but with the great job you’re doing, you’re creating your own rewards.

  16. I LOVE this! Fire and urine. Must remember that for when have kids.
    (Found you via Linda/expat eye – I was intrigued by her commen that she liked your toilet post).

    • Hahaha – yay you’re in the toilet humor club! I just discovered your blog right back! I love owls and making lists also. We’re going to be fast friends : ) Welcome!

  17. I was going to ream you out for not posting for three months and then expecting all of us to come crawling back on our bellies but then you started off with the serious subject of a child in distress so I had to back off.

    I’m going to steal this idea. I’ve got a 13-year old who hasn’t resorted to door-slamming but I’ve also got an 8-year old who probably will. Thanks for the tip. If I had your address I’d send you $1.

    • Yay it’s Mark! Thank for you not reaming me about not posting. Trust that there’s nothing you could say that could come close to the self-flogging that has been happening in my head. Life and holidays kicked my ass this year, but things have settled back down and I’m back on track : ) I’m heading over to your blog next. Great to hear from you! Good luck with your girls – man they’re tough!

  18. I’ve had urine that felt like fire, but that’s totally different and was cleared up with antibiotics. That said, I absolutely loved this post, Molly. While you taught your daughter the value of communicating and gave her a sense of ownership in the new chore list, you also taught her how humor can help put perspective on things — a truly important life skill, in my opinion.

    And as a firefighter, I have to say urine can be flamable if you’ve had any alcohol. So make sure to tell her that when she reaches drinking age 😉

    Well done, Molly!

    • Hahhaha Ned! Thank you so much for this lovely comment and for sharing on FB and Twitter! You’re the best : ) Also how did I not know you’re a fire fighter??? I LOVE them – I always wave at them like I’m still 8yo. True story.

  19. Hell yes. I am at the point of waiting (patiently) to be a grandma…I am substituting by being an awesome Aunty to my brothers wee kids…but ya, there are about two million things I would have done differently with my boys…

  20. I don’t have kids, but good for you for not negating what she needed to feel.

  21. lol you seem like a really cool mom!

  22. Molly, I’m in awe. The world needs more parents like you.

    As for solving problems with urine… Up to noe I’ve managed not to pull down my pants, squat and pee whenever faced with a super asshole.

  23. I’ve never solved a problem with urine, or fire… well… there was that one ti….. I don’t want to talk about it now. And the only problem I have with either urine or fire is if it’s my urine that’s on fire…

  24. We want people to validate our feelings, so it only makes sense that she wanted her feelings validated as well. To know you “got it” made it all the better for her. I think we forget this with our kids. We get so frustrated with their attitudes and so tired, we get more of a “just please do it without complaining please” attitude, but you….. you are the most awesome Mom on earth. Great job!

    • Hey thanks so much stopping by and thank you for the compliment! I just read about your “wayward affair.” Wow! I look forward to reading more of your blog : )

  25. I giggled when I read this imagining my sister who’s a fabulous mom but likes to yell a lot change her tactics. My nephew’s who are super smart and well versed at negotiation already (they are 11 and 7) would be totally stumped. 😀

    • Hahaha – I’m really lucky that I’m not a yeller by nature. But you’re right – whoever is the quietest wins : ) Thanks for joining the conversation!

  26. I only wish some day I could be as awesome as you to allow my daughter to burn and pee on something. She’s only four, but this is something to keep in mind. You post made me giggle 🙂 Love it!

    • Hey thanks! I’ve often thought fire and urine are underrated. When combined they can be very effective , modern solutions : )

    • The letter was type-written with no signature. I could have written it. And of course, my 82 year old father would naturally side with me. The suspicion (from the ‘other party’s insurers) is that we must be the elaborate liars and the youth that drove into me (with his whole insurance to lose if he admitted liability) was telling the truth. It irked me that my insurance company seemed unwilling to fight on my behalf and told me that I had no other option other than to settle 50/50.

  27. Wow, you handled it quite well! I’m not a mom yet but i know that kids can sometimes be a handful. I definitely wouldn’t think of doing it the way you did. Now this goes to my future reference!

  28. Your blog is so fabulous. I feel as if I am seeing into the future with every post you make and, quite frankly, I love it. If I’m even half as cool or as creative as you when I am a mum, I will have honestly done myself proud. Your sass is magnificent xx

    • Hi Polly! Thanks so much and nice to meet you! I look forward to reading more about you, your cat and your tea mishaps : ) Together we’ll take over something. I’m not sure what, but I’m psyched!

  29. I loved your post! How to listen is a great book but it’s through listening to people’s examples that the theory of it all seems to make sense! Am trying to move out of a month of too much yelling and it’s so nice to remember other methods really do work better. And that humour can go a LONG way. 🙂

    • Hey thanks so much! Being a parent is so hard – good grief! We do the best we can – give yourself a break : ). And yes laughter ALWAYS helps! Thanks for chiming in : )

  30. Emmm, can you adopt me please? I promise to do all the chores! 😀
    On another serious note (yes, I am serious about the adoption thing), you’ve just given me an amazing life lesson for dealing with children. I hope to become a kickass mom like yourslef one day, but I wasn’t sure how children should be “disciplined”. And the answer is, just add a pinch of humor! 🙂

  31. Reprehensible as this young woman’s sentiments are, she does not represent most Israelis and it’s ridiculous to indict Israeli society at large because of her. So where is the condemnation in Israel?

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