We'd only just arrived at the ticket counter to check luggage and get our boarding passes for our trip home when a woman came up to me and tapped me on the shoulder and said something. I heard it but didn't think I heard it right so I must have looked confused and that prompted her to repeat it:
"I just want to say that I think you're doing a great job with your children."
I struggled to get my mind around it. What she joking? Being sarcastic?
No, she was smiling and this seemed like a sincere compliment. I smiled back and thanked her then did a quick mental review of the last few minutes to figure out what the heck she was talking about.
We'd just finished navigating the ticket line at the airport in Las Vegas for our return flight home. We had our luggage and our kids and, like most of our excursions, it took a great deal of physical and intellectual strength to get everyone and everything through the line and up to the agent at the counter. The luggage was willing (and on wheels) but Maddy and Gwen weren't so easily maneuverable. We'd push a suitcase a few inches and then there would be a complaint from one or both of the girls about an unfairness or hardship! Honestly, I can't remember any of the specifics and it does't matter because it could have been anything. I did the best I could to deal with it. I tried calmly reasoning with both of them. Giving them plenty of easy options to make a good choice and be happy. But over and over again, they chose misery. Maddy was especially hard that morning and I finally had to pick her up and put my nose about 1/8 of an inch from hers and sternly demand that she be respectful. I told her that she didn't have to like what we said to her but she had to do it anyway and she wasn't allowed to be rude to us about it. Period.
This is the trend, lately. The girls have stopped getting mad about the foot-stomping injustices in their life (crust on sandwiches, who holds the car keys, etc) and have focused all of their rage completely upon us instead.
We've become the evil Mom and Dad who inflict these terrible injustices upon them and they don't waste any time telling us about how much they hate every minute of it. Maddy has even started telling me that she doesn't love me anymore (but I'm immune to that particular form of psychological warfare).
We've offered empathy and sympathy and acknowledged their angst in every way possible. But, in the end, we've held fast to our vow to never negotiate with terrorists.
When they were younger, we cut them some slack but those days are over because they're certainly old enough to take "no" for an answer now. And we're trying to be consistent with our insistence that they do just that. They can disagree but they have to do it respectfully and they have to ultimately accept our final decision because (call the social workers!!!)... our family isn't a democracy.
Most recently, we're helping Maddy to say "Oh, I'm so disappointed!" instead of getting red-faced angry at us every time we have to curb her behavior in any way. It's ridiculous that the smallest correction brings about the biggest huff from her. I can't help but wonder if she would be behaving this way if she was still in China, living with her birth family in rural Qinzhou. Really, I don't know the answer to this but I do wonder about it quite often. I have similar questions about what Gwen would be doing today if her birth family was able to keep her. Would she not eat rice? Weird thing to wonder, I know, but she absolutely won't eat it for us. But I digress...
As you can imagine, drama is the noun of the year in our household. Hopefully we'll save ourselves some anguish later by laying down some ground rules now.
What works with your kids? Any pointers or tips? Any good books to recommend? Please! Fresh techniques benefit everyone!
UPDATE: I listen to podcasts of my favorite morning talk-radio program and just happened across an interview with John Rosemond and really liked what he had to say. Specifically, that the advice Great Grandma gave Grandma back when Grandma had her babies was superior to the advice of most of the parenting "experts" today. I can appreciate that! I may even buy one of his books!
Speaking of books, there's one in particular that I consulted many times while Michael was growing up. It's called "Who's in Control?" by Lawrence Balter. You may have to contact the author directly to get this book since Amazon says it's out of print. I really give the book high marks though. It's funny and practical and divided into chapters that deal with issues specific to certain ages of children (so you don't have to read the whole entire book to benefit immediately from it).