When Your Child Says “I Don’t Like You”

I’m starting a new two-year-old girl in my child care, Ms. A. She is adorable, and curious, and very excited to explore her new surroundings. But she does not like to take a nap.

The first day we spent together, she climbed out of her pack-n-play about 57 times. I lost count but I’m pretty sure it was around that much. I felt like I was in a SuperNanny episode (and so glad I could use her sleep technique).

The second day, she climbed out three times. Then she rolled around in her bed for about an hour, alternating between whining, yelling, a little crying (not serious), and giving me dirty looks but trying not to let me know she was doing so.

I heard, “I want to go home.” “I want mommy.” “I don’t like a nap.” “I want to go in Mommy’s car.” “I’m not tired.” “I need ____.” (Insert anything a toddler can think of: a drink, to potty, a toy, a book, a walk, a song, etc.)

Then she got very quiet for a while, and in a very serious voice, she let the big one rip: “I don’t like you.”

All I could do was chuckle. Not to make light of her desperation, but it was just funny to me. I forget after doing this work for eleven years that this kind of talk can be upsetting to parents.

When I reported on nap time to Ms. A’s mom she was very concerned that her daughter had used these awful words with me. I told her NOT to worry. And then I came up with my favorite quote of the week: “It’s not my job to make them like me. And that’s why they do.”

I know hearing “I don’t like you” from your child can hurt. But it’s your response that matters, not what your child said. It’s not really that they don’t like you. Really?! Don’t fall for it.

In truth, they feel safe enough with you to say that and trust that there won’t be dire consequences. They’re simply testing the boundaries. Throwing a rock in a pond to see what kind of splash they’ll get. And they’re just venting! Don’t you say stupid things to your family and friends when you’re angry?

Ms. A knew she wasn’t getting out of the crib any other way, and she was trying her last resort to get a rise out of me. I didn’t respond. I continued to sit and read the newspaper, which I’d been doing nearby enough for her to know I wasn’t gone, but also that if she climbed out I was right there to put a stop to it.

As I told her mom, we made great strides! In one day, going from a full hour of jumping out of the crib to stopping after three attempts – that’s amazing! We might even see sleep in the next couple of tries. This is real progress.

When your child says, “I don’t like you,” they’re looking for your attention. Kids will take negative attention if it’s all they can get. But remember: you’re the grownup. You need to know how to handle this child’s play better than they do.

If you’re really hurt, tell them that’s how you feel, and that you need a minute before you want to talk to them again. But there’s no reason to be hurt. And worst of all, give them a huge response. Yell, be upset, be mad, get hurt, show them how mean they are – if you want to hear “I don’t like you!” again tomorrow. And the next day, and the next day…

Your best response (unless you’re sleep-training and purposely ignoring them!) is to calmly repeat their words. “You don’t like me? Why?”

You will be amazed at the answer to that question. Just hang in there and TALK to them. It’s all your child wants. You might even end up snuggling instead of fighting.

It’s not my job to get kids to like me. It’s my job to protect them, feed them, let them explore, and teach them how to be healthy physically and mentally. I have plenty of adult friends, I don’t need two-year-old friends. So I’m the bad guy sometimes.

Kids know all this instinctively. They don’t really want to be my friend either – I’m boring. I like to sit around talking, not climb trees and have tea parties. I give them the boundaries they need and crave in a gentle but firm way. I don’t freak out when they do things that every child does just to see how I’ll react. When they get this calm consistency from me, they know they can trust me. And then they love me.

And I love them, from the moment they start kicking and screaming, to the moment they come back and give me unconditional hugs and love.

Being Consistent with Kids

It was recently pointed out to me that parents and caregivers can learn so much more about interacting with kids when they’re watching it in action. I’ve always been a supporter of this idea. I’ve always pushed for mentors and real-time training rather than having caregivers go to a class after work, when they’re burned out and foggy from a long day of being with kids, to try to absorb the fine art of classroom management skills.

I’ve supported it since I went to grad school for a teaching degree, had an 8-week student teaching practicum, and came out of it not knowing how the hell to run a classroom.

And I’ve supported it ever since I had this awesome idea to start caring for large numbers of children in my house, and suddenly there were five of them here, and I was alone with them and DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO DO.

Unfortunately most of us don’t have the time to sit around and observe people working with children for hours and hours. So, I’ll just write about it.

So I was paying close attention today while I worked with my kids. I realize that I have developed skills over the years (long, hard years, with hundreds of distressed phone calls and emails to many different mentors who have guided me along the way) that have become second nature. If someone asks me, “Well what do you do when…” I really have to stop and think about it. I don’t know what I do consciously anymore, because my now-instinctive super-skills just kick in. (Yeah you actually do kinda hafta be a superhero to work with kids.)

But when I first started, I had no idea how to do these things and couldn’t imagine ever being able to do them at all. And spent a lot of time being upset and frustrated because I knew I was destined for failure.

Truly, the key to working with littles is consistency. Meaning what you say, and following through with it. You know nothing makes you madder than when you’re with kids and you say something and they ignore it. That’s when the fights begin.

So I should say the key is being consistent without escalating. At any point in these interchanges I could fly into a rage: “Did I NOT just tell you blah-de-blah? Do you NOT speak English? Are you IGNORING me?” and after I finish yelling I could use my body language and silence as a way to continue to send the message: I’m pissed at you. Go away.

OR I could be working really hard on being nice to the small people in my life.

And not making empty threats. If you make threats you can’t follow up on, they’ll never bother to listen to you. So I try to just be honest and tell them what’s up, what I want them to do, and why I’m annoyed when they don’t do it. It’s actually kind of simple when you get down to it.

My sons are notorious at running through the house leaving doors open, doors I’ve just closed to keep the 14-month-old from wandering into danger zones, doors that by Child Care Law are supposed to be closed and locked all day, doors that keep me sane because I know that everyone is where they should be. This morning I closed one of those doors for the third time, went to check the twins, and walked back in not thirty seconds later to find it open. I bellowed.

“SHUT!!! THE DOORS!!!!! BEHIND YOU!!!!”

Then I realized it was not one of my sons who had left it open, it was my other after-schooler, the precious little girl I’ve had in care since she was two and who worships me, and she’s about to burst into tears because I yelled at her. (Well not really. She paused and looked at me a little taken aback, but just kept on going. Yeah she knows me too well.)

I immediately apologized and told her, “But can you please shut the doors?”

And it was just one more of those countless moments when I realized that I will treat other people’s children with so much more patience, respect, and love than I will give to my own.

Ouch.

OK so back to being consistent and not losing it and hurting the feelings of the little people around you, which will only make them act out more. And by the way, not being consistent will make them act out more too. So be consistent. Here’s an example.

I’m getting everyone ready to go outside. Three kids decide to go barefoot and that’s cool with me. It’s one of the first days where it’s actually warm enough to be outside barefoot – GO FOR IT. The first three kids head out the door, and my fourth one who I thought was following suddenly decides she doesn’t want bare feet.

Now I’ve got three kids outside and I’m stuck on the porch with this one. Why do they always choose the most dangerous moments to take a stand on something? So I rush back to her and try to slam the shoes on her feet quickly. But she doesn’t want the shoes, she wants her slippers.

Me: You can’t wear slippers outside. Let’s put your shoes on.

Little Person: I waaaant my slippers.

Me: (putting on her socks) You will ruin your slippers if you wear them outside.

LP: No. Waaaannn slippers!!

Me: (trying to put the sneakers on) Slippers are for wearing inside. It’s sneakers or bare feet.

LP: (kicks me) Slippers!!!

OK remember, I’m being consistent and calm… I put the socks, slippers, and sneakers in her cubby, pick her up, and walk outside. I put her down on the driveway and ask which car she wants to play with. She chooses a car and we pull it into the driveway. She was fine, and I suspect, happy that I didn’t let her get away with it. Kids feel safe when we protect them from themselves.

I meant what I said – the slippers will not be worn outside. You can’t convince me with whining, thrashing, or kicking. But the ending is key too, when I just let it go rather than harping on it. Holding grudges is toxic in day care – you will spend the entire day seething. So just move on. We got outside, she was OK with it, that’s the result I wanted, so let’s move on. No need to hold it against her, we’re onto the next thing now.

Later it was naptime and Miss M doesn’t like going to nap so the stalling begins. Miss C was in her crib and Miss M started pushing against side of it. They were both laughing delightedly at this game but it’s a pack-n-play and the meshy side is being dangerously stretched and I can just hear the tearing sound in my head… So I tell Miss M, “Oh no, we don’t do that because it will rip! Someone might get hurt!”

Miss D, whose diaper I’m changing, says, “Hurt?”

“Yes!” I tell her. “Hurt! We don’t want that to happen.”

Miss M is happily ignoring my attempt to reason with Miss D and is still pushing on the crib. Miss C is getting scared. Remember, I’m being calm and consistent. I put my arm around Miss M and hug her to me, pulling her away from the crib. I finish what I’m doing with Miss D, and bring Miss M over for her diaper change. Consistent. I said stop, you didn’t stop, now I’m going to help you stop. That doesn’t mean I have to yell at you, but I will stop you. Trust me. I mean what I say.

And there’s the magic. Eventually, they WILL trust you.

Sometimes it still breaks my heart to do this work with children. I want them to be happy and have every little thing their hearts desire too. The twins were looking for a doll and as I passed it to Miss C, Miss D tried to grab it, and began to cry so hard when I gave it back to Miss C. That sound was killing me but I told her, “I was giving this to Miss C, it’s her turn now.”

That’s hard to do. (And even harder to do when it’s your own child who’s crying, but that’s another story.)

Miss D might have been upset, but how do you think Miss C felt when her sister grabbed her toy away? And then, more powerfully – life lesson coming here – how do you think she felt when someone stuck up for her?

Miss D got over it. We all have to learn that we don’t get to grab and be first and get what we want all the time (I spend a lot of time singing, “You can’t always get what you want…” to my little ones). The younger you start teaching this, the better off those kids will be.

I know I sound like somebody’s cranky old uncle, railing against “these kids today!” I once taught a parenting class and asked if anybody watched Supernanny, and wasn’t she great? And one mom said to me, “I don’t really like her.” I asked why, and she said, “Because she’s mean?” As if it was stupid of me not to have noticed.

Clear, direct, and firm does not equal mean. It means structure and boundaries, and that’s what kids crave. I’m so grateful that I’ve finally become the provider they need me to be. When Older Son was in care we had a provider we called the Nazi. She was a wonderful woman and a good provider, but she was Tough. Met you at the door, hello goodbye, fine day, see ya later. But did he nap? Did he eat? “Yep. Just assume it’s all normal unless I tell you otherwise.”

Yeah, she was a little scary. But that kind of structure is what kids crave. This woman knew exactly what everyone needed (including herself and her family) and if the rules were strict and it made us a little uncomfortable, so be it. I really admired her for it.

And guess what? Eight long, agonizing years later, I’m getting there. And it feels SOOOOO good.

Whaddya Mean, SuperNanny’s Over?

It figures. Just my luck. The boys and I got totally into watching SuperNanny together, and we just logged on to watch last night. The link says “Watch the series finale!” SERIES finale? Not SEASON finale?

AUUUUUUUGH! SuperNanny’s done. I can’t believe it. Older actually said, “What am I gonna do when I have kids?” I told him he could buy her book or watch the DVDs. (Or whatever they’re doing by the time he has kids, instant streaming directly into your brain?) And then they decided that she should train a replacement and keep the show going.

I said, “Um, maybe I could help you?” Could that be a possibility? I am considered a professional in some circles.

Anywho, it’s been an interesting ride for SuperNanny, and interesting for me to watch. Her critics say she’s too mean, too rigid, too simplistic. But many of us who work with kids know she’s got it.

This strikes a nerve with me because in my line of work, you come across a lot of people who have strong opinions on how we should work with children, but they’ve usually never worked with children.

You don’t have to take every bit of advice she gives. I don’t use her version of timeouts, which are key to her system. But I’m in a different situation when I’m working with five kids from different families. Having peers in a non-home environment is different (and I’m not Mom).

But her overall practices are dead-on. She exemplifies what I teach in my parenting classes: the 4 C’s. Stay calm, be clear, have consistent boundaries, use natural consequences.

Children under the age of ten need “simplistic.” They don’t have the rationalizing skills of adults. I love it when I see parents trying to be logical with two-year-olds. “Honey, you need to put your coat on because it’s cold outside. See? The thermometer says 36 degrees.” UGH. Hey kid. Put your coat on. Period.

I think what people consider as “mean” is her excellent way of showing how to use your tone of voice. She does sound mean when she puts that voice on. But she’s being clear and consistent. I mean business. No more arguing, I’m done, this is The Way It Is. Having a tantrum at this point is a waste of your breath. But if you insist, go right ahead. I’ll be over here staying calm. When a child hears a sweet and wishy-washy tone, they know they’ve got an angle. They just have to keep testing until they find it – and they will. And then you’re on the path to negotiating with a toddler for the next half hour.

The way we’re taught to raise kids today, boundaries are a bad thing. “We don’t say no because she doesn’t like that.” “If I don’t let him do that I’ll crush his spirit.” (That was me – seriously. I said I thought I would crush my son’s spirit. You may laugh and mock me now.) In my world – today, after I figured out I wasn’t crushing spirits – boundaries mean love. They mean protection and safety in a scary, scary world.

Anyone who was a teenager while growing up knows that we hated our parents for the boundaries they gave us, but didn’t you feel deep down that they were showing how much they loved you? And didn’t you have that friend who said they wished their parents cared enough to do the same?

SuperNanny gave the parents boundaries as well. It is “una-sep-table” to scream at your child. (Get it? Do you see now that you’re teaching your kids how to behave?) If someone complains her system is too “rigid,” I say it’s predictable. Children need to know what’s coming; they not only crave routine but they thrive under it. They need predictability and boundaries in order to feel safe, and when they feel safe, then they can begin to learn and grow.

Ultimately SuperNanny’s goal was putting aside the bad behavior and helping parents and kids connect. Let’s be done with this nonsense so we can enjoy each other’s company. She always brought some fun or game or field trip to the table, and forced those uptight / cranky / stressed out parents to loosen up and enjoy their kids. I loved that.

Parenting is not easy. I don’t understand what people expect when they have a child – that it’s all going to be sunshine and roses? It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The biggest commitment I’ve ever made. Think about it – by having a child you are committing yourself to the care and responsiblity of ANOTHER HUMAN BEING. Not a car or a house or a job or a dog, but a PERSON. It’s not to be taken lightly.

It fills your life – it gives you meaning – it makes your life wonderful. There are beautiful, precious, unbelievable moments where it feels like your heart is literally about to burst through your chest because your physical body can’t contain the joy you feel.

And on the other end of that, the pain and anger can burn so strongly that you see red.

So in those moments, it’s up to us to take control. Realize that no matter how far this child has pushed you, they still need your love and protection. If you give in to your urge to scream, smack, and dominate them, you’ve damaged your relationship and lost a little more respect in their eyes. As Michael J. Bradley says:

“Your defining act of love for your child will not be the 2:00 AM feedings, the sleepless, fretful night spent beside him in the hospital, or the second job you took to pay for college. Your zenith will occur in the face of a withering blast of frightening rage from your adolescent, in allowing no rage from yourself in response. Your finest moment may well be your darkest. And you will be a parent.”

Being a parent forces you to change. It forces you to look at who you are. This is never easy. That’s where SuperNanny came in. Ultimately, she didn’t change the kids’ behavior nearly as much as the parents.

It did seem a little odd to me that she didn’t have her own children, and the explanation for the end of the show (besides low ratings) is that she wants to have her own family. So I hope she is blessed with lovely babies and I know they’re going to be awesome people. Critics be damned.

Don’t Feel Bad When Your Crying Baby Makes You Crazy

Someone came to my blog with this thought the other day: “can’t cope with baby crying makes me angry then feel guilty”

Oh, sweetie. Don’t feel bad, we’ve all been there. Know that unless you are somehow abusing that child for crying, you’re fine. And, like everything in parenting: this too shall pass.

And that when my baby’s crying used to make me insane, I would go downstairs and beat up the washing machine. (Sorry, Dave.)

Know that a baby’s cry is DESIGNED to bother us. They are helpless, and their cry is their way of getting us to take care of them. There is scientific proof that when a baby cries, our pulse and heart rate increase. I know it’s true, I can feel it all the time. To this day if there’s a baby crying in my house it gets me totally agitated. And that’s what the sound is supposed to do. It’s so you’ll go running over and help that little baby. Mother nature knows self-preservation.

When I had my babies my mother used to say, “You check them and if they’re fed, changed, burped, and they don’t have a pin sticking in them – they’re fine.” (She had me back in the olden days when diapers had pins, apparently.) She told me stories of her friend who would put the baby in her crib and go outside and walk in circles around the house until the baby would stop crying because she couldn’t stand the noise.

I thought, Who were these cretins who raised us!? We don’t let our babies cry! We rock and soothe and calm them lovingly until they drift off into peaceful baby slumbers.

But let’s be honest. How well has that worked for us? We create babies who can’t fall asleep on their own and cry and cry until we pick them up, and we create endless back and neck aches for ourselves because we’re soothing them all the time.

Not to mention the stress on you and your family when you spend a good chunk of your day attempting to soothe the baby, while food goes uncooked and clothes go unwashed and the rest of your life, in general, falls to pieces.

I also remember when Mom and I first went shopping for baby stuff together. She was wandering up and down the aisles saying, “Where are the playpens? Are these the playpens?” (Referring to the pack-n-plays.)

Oh Mother, that’s just another thoughtless, horrible, neglectful thing that we don’t do to our children anymore.

OK, I hate to say it, but… my mother was right. (Just kidding Mom!)

But back to crying. Babies cry, it’s what they do. I remember hearing, “You’ll learn to read his cries,” and thinking, are you nuts? I have no idea what this baby wants! (Except to torture me.) But it’s true. If nothing else, you can at least tell the difference between real distress and just fussy-crying.

If they’re fussy-crying and you’re losing it, put them down (crib, bouncy seat, whatever) and walk away. They’ll be OK, and you need to calm down or things will just escalate for both of you. I make it a rule not to carry around a crying baby (unless it’s real distress). Why do I want to bring that noise closer to my ear?

Sometimes we think that they need us to comfort them when honestly, they need a break too. They can get fussier from being over-handled, which is definitely something I never learned with my first. That poor kid was man-handled for months. Every time he peeped I went running over to soothe him. And he didn’t learn to fall asleep by himself until he was over a year old. My fault.

If your baby is still little (6 months or less), I would highly recommend swaddling. Harvey Karp’s Happiest Baby on the Block has a good description of it. You have to do it right – nice and tight, don’t be scared – for it to really work. I guarantee you it does. I know you’re worried about squishing their little body but think about how squished they were in your belly! That’s tight. So they’re used to that feeling, it’s comforting to them.

If your baby is crying all the time, can’t be settled, and just seems unhappy, you’ve probably already considered colic. Talk to your doctor about it. They might agree and help you out, or they might tell you that babies cry and to live with it. If the crying is bad enough to distress you, I would advise that you push your doctor. Even if they still think it’s not colic, maybe they can help you get some support.

I had one delightful, sweet, beautiful girl in my day care who, even up until she was about three years old, cried every day. When she was a baby her mother would worry and I told her, “Babies cry.” She seemed to think that was a good answer (thanks Shelb!). Miss A was just a very emotional little thing, and it’s how she dealt with her feelings. As she got older I could tell she needed this release to help her move on with her day. So when she started to get wound up, I would encourage her go in the hall and cry all she wanted. When she was done she’d come back in the room with us and literally be fresh-faced and happy. Honest.

I don’t know if you’re having trouble with the baby sleeping, but I’ll get on this tangent because I know it was my biggest weakness when my son was first born.

Would you like to know how we got him to sleep? I remember trying to put him down to cry it out and my husband and I sitting on the edge of the bed biting our nails, and after ten minutes looking at each other and saying, “I CAN’T DO THIS!” If we’d only waited five more minutes!!! So we would do one of these awesome tricks: Drive him in the car. Walk around the house pushing him in a stroller (inside the house, it was January). Walk around and bounce him in the baby sling. Stay up for hours while he fussed. Or I’d lay in bed nursing him for hours on end.

Not a pretty picture.

So having said that, I’ll admit that nowadays I do I Ferber-ize babies. When infants first come to me, I soothe them to sleep until they’re about six months old. It is easier then because they nod off while feeding and you just have to lay them down without waking them up. As they get older, I don’t have the luxury of holding one baby until they sleep when I have four other kids who need to go down for nap too. Plus once they get to be 6 months and over, I pretty much can’t hold them anymore unless I want my back out all week. It does work if you can stand the crying. Once they understand that you’re not coming back, and that when they’re in the crib with music/white noise on, lights out, binky/bear/blankie in hand, they get the cues. Ferber-izing really works after a few days (and it’s not as evil as the rumors say; check the link above for some really good information).

If you can’t stand that method, use Supernanny’s. Or stay in the room with them so they can see you and they’re not scared, but give NO response. The idea is you don’t want to engage with them. As soon as you do they’ve won and any time you’ve put in up until now is shot. No eye contact, no picking up (unless they’ve crawled out of bed), no talking, NOTHING. You can even pretend to go to sleep yourself. In fact this method is pretty close to Ferber-izing anyway.

I’ll admit it’s easy for a day care provider to say that these methods work, because it is easier to listen to a baby cry when it’s not from your loins. But I’ve raised about twenty babies now (and even more toddlers and preschoolers who didn’t want to sleep either), and they’ve all done pretty well. They may go to sleep yelling, but they wake with happy smiles for me.

And I want to tell you, never beat yourself up for being human. The world puts a lot of pressure on us these days to be Perfect Mommies. And the world forgets that babies aren’t perfect, and they cry alot. Loudly. And no mommy, no matter how perfect she is, can tolerate that all the time, especially after that baby kept her up all night. We are not saints! But we’re expected to be the sweetest mommy there ever was, even when they are making us insane. It’s not logical. We are human and we feel upset too, and guess what – we still have needs (even if our lives have suddenly been hijacked by a very demanding 10-pound need-machine).

And, um, this isn’t the first time you will lose it on your child and then feel guilty. You should probably get used to it because it never ends. It’s just the fun of parenting! And being human, remember? Refer to this post if you’re totally depressed now.

It’s the dark side of parenting. It’s the part of parenting that all the baby books and experts and even your mommy friends don’t tell you about. They don’t tell you how much labor actually hurts, or what it feels like to be up at 3AM for the fifth (or sixtieth) night in a row, or how really, really hard it is to raise kids. They do it because, well, they want you to be happy. And who wants to make their new mommy friend depressed?

And how would you explain it anyway? Because just as you can’t explain the hard stuff, you also can’t explain the intense, completely foreign, almost cosmic* connection that you have with your baby. And how you love him so much that you ache inside.

But anyway. Babies aren’t always as sweet, calm, and content as the ads and tv shows and, basically, parenting culture, would have us believe. Sometimes they are demons, and we have to learn how to control our own response to the very strong emotions that brings up in us. As I said earlier, just walk away. At any age. Gather yourself and don’t come back until you’re calmer. You don’t want your first response to be the one your child remembers. Because they are wonderful and beautiful, they just need our love and guidance and HELP to make it through this whole growing-up thing.

So put that baby down, take a breath, brew some coffee, and go back to help them when you’ve got a better grip on yourself. Or go beat the crap out of the washing machine.

*I actually looked in the thesaurus (yes I am a total geek) to find another word there because “cosmic” felt too hippie crunchy. But the definition of cosmic was “immeasurably extended in space or time; vast,” and yeah, that’s pretty much how I feel about my kids.

Rock On, SuperNanny

SupernannyOh yeah, I’m a big fan of SuperNanny. But honestly I didn’t even know her show was still on the air until last week, when there was a commercial for it during Winter Wipeout (Older Son’s favorite show). As soon as he saw it his eyes lit up. “Mommy!?” He seemed dumbfounded and thrilled at the same time. “Can we watch that!?”

I love it. Of course we caught it the next time it was on. I couldn’t wait to see his response. He got a big kick out of watching the kids acting like animals and then being punished by her (should I be worried?). I’m sure it’s vicariously satisfying his need to take charge in the day care.

After all, he’s having to grow up surrounded by a bunch of children and he can’t do anything about it. When the noise is driving him crazy and he starts bellowing for everyone to shut up, or if he tries to take a situation in hand, I’m constantly shutting him down. That’s my job, not his, and I’m better at it.

I used to watch SuperNanny when I started the day care because I needed a lot of help and she seemed like a godsend. I’m not as harsh as she is when it comes to discipline and timeouts but we work on the same principles: address bad behavior immediately, give a consequence, and be clear and consistent about what you’re doing. And have high expectations for good behavior – children always, always rise to expectations. And fall to them, I might add, but that’s another post.

And BY THE WAY, in case you’re wondering, my house was never as bad as some of these families, even in my darkest days of care. We never had kids beating the crap out of each other. So I pointed that out to Older. “Isn’t it nice that our house isn’t like that?” He nodded.

“Aren’t you glad she doesn’t have to come here?”

“Yeah,” he chuckled. I think he grudgingly admitted that we have it pretty good here. And I’m sure part of him still wishes she would visit and put some kids in their place. Because I’m far too nice about, it in his opinion.

Here’s a funny side note while I’m on the subject of my kids growing up in day care. Younger Son brought his writing workbook home from school the other day. They have to write the Daily News, and one recent entry was about how I yelled at him. I immediately started to feel guilty (awful mother, mean, bad bad bad).

Younger doesn’t respond as much as Older does to yelling. You always know Older’s right there ready to battle, he’s looking for a challenge. Younger just takes it and does what you’re asking, so I assume it doesn’t bother him as much. Guess I assumed wrong.

Anyway the story was that I told him to turn off his DS because it was time to go to school, and he didn’t, so I yelled at him. At least he was very honest and gave me credit for the warning! And I stopped feeling guilty when I took a closer look at the picture he drew.

There he was on the couch holding his DS, and there I was, with a big bellowing cartoon balloon over my head, surrounded by five little green people. Yep, they were the day care kids. I just busted a gut over that one. So I asked the teacher (before she called social services on me), could you tell that I had a good reason to be impatient?! Wouldn’t you be impatient, or slightly terrified, if the little green people had you surrounded?

There were more little green people they just got cut "oof"

Me, yelling at my son, surrounded by the little green people

But re-visiting SuperNanny has me patting us all on the back. I’m so, so, thankful for the happy family that I have – one in which we have fun and make a mess and respect each other and get mad but work it out in healthy ways. And I’m so proud of me and my husband for working hard at this, and taking it seriously, and doing a pretty good job. And proud of my boys for growing into really decent, enjoyable people (who don’t beat the crap out of anybody).

Anger is OK

I spend a lot of time teaching kids that anger is OK. I never really learned how to handle it in a healthy way growing up. (I don’t blame you for this, Mom. You did an awesome job.) But in those days the way you raised kids was to be polite and submissive.

Today we are trying to teach kids that anger is a normal emotion, it’s OK to have it, and how to manage it in healthy ways. But that doesn’t always help when it’s MY anger I’m dealing with.

As a provider I learned quickly that ranting, raving, and yelling basically accomplish nothing when it comes to working with kids. At best it gets their attention. At worst, it creates kids who walk around ranting at everybody else.

I do have a yelling voice and I use it as sparingly as possible. I save it for times of real danger, like a child walking toward the street, or something that’s just totally unacceptable, like Susie slamming Joey to the ground.

So when I’m angry I choose my response carefully, knowing that my tone of voice is crucial in these moments. For example, this morning the girls were jumping on the couch and they broke my boys’ collectible Harry Potter DVD box set. (It was a pretty awesome Hogwarts chest. I think I can fix it.) I wanted to say, “I TOLD YOU NOT TO BREAK TOYS A THOUSAND TIMES AND NOW I’M REALLY P.O’D!!! AAAAAAGGGGGHHHHH!”

But I kept that inside.

What I did say was, “I am really so upset because you broke something that belongs to my boys. They’re going to be upset too.” And I made them wait to go outside while I attempted to fix it. (Couldn’t. Need tools, believe it or not.)

Anyway in that situation I couldn’t really blame the jumping girls because it was Older Son and/or Younger Son who left the box on the couch. But I showed them I was angry and upset without losing it on them. Miss A even said she was sorry and she didn’t do it!

Later on in the yard I had to use my “I mean business” tone. This is probably the best tone of voice you can ever have as a provider. SuperNanny does a great exercise where she has parents stand in front of a mirror and practice this tone. It means, this is my answer and my answer is final. Don’t even bother negotiating because it won’t work. And most of the time, the kids know it.

I was using that voice because Miss D was splashing other kids in the pool. Nobody liked it. That hose water is really cold. So I told her in my nice provider voice, “Please don’t splash people!” She did it again. Once more, nicely. On her third splash, I took her out of the pool and set her down.

Now we switch to the I Mean Business voice: “Miss D, I took you out of the pool because you wouldn’t stop splashing people.”

She was OK with it. She rode on the bouncy horse for a few minutes while I went back to what I was doing. After about five minutes I said cheerily, “Miss D, you can go back in the pool but no more splashing!” She looked at me and kept riding that horse, but went back to the pool later. And guess what – no splashing!

I used a quick, easy, simple consequence and then touched base with her. That’s all it takes. We moved on without anyone having hurt feelings – I expressed myself, protected the other kids, and she got the message without feeling shamed. Beautiful.

What I have found is that expressing anger in these ways lets kids know you’re disappointed in them, but you still love them, and you expect better next time. There is no need to scare or upset them to get your point across. In fact she probably trusts me more for it.

And when I get really angry, I’ll go back inside and slam a door or two. My husband loves that.