Advice Needed

Well, here is where you get to see just how imperfect my household is, but a little bit of reality is good for all of us, plus, I am really at a loss and could use your help:

Tonight, I caught MaryB with scissors cutting her own hair for the 4th time this month. I am not including pictures, but with the trims I have done to even things out she is starting to look quite boyish, and now once again one side is way shorter. We were getting away with headbands to mask it, but I think now we are going to have to seek professional hair styling.

Cosmetic issues aside, I am concerned by her repeated disobedience, and I think that the failure is on my part. Here is the scoop — when Peter was about two, he cut his own hair, and I got very angry. It was an unchecked natural response, and I think it scared both of us. Since that time, and as a result of other issues, I have worked hard, hard, hard on anger management. One of my techniques has been to try not to sweat the small stuff, because frankly that level of anger was out of control and scared me, may have bordered on verbally abusive, and I just don’t want to be that angry with my kids.

I worry, though, that having lost my bark, I have also lost the ability to make my kids understand when something is really serious. I give the twins the same three minute time out for minor infractions (failing to clear plate after being asked to do so), as for major ones (hitting the baby, cutting hair).

Is there a place for just plain getting angry in the moment? When there are safety violations (running into the road), I think Mom’s natural panic and response is a fairly good discipline tool. What about at other times? Is parenting supposed to be cool and under control? If so, what can we do to get their attention when it matters?

I don’t really want to yell at my kids, it is so negative without really accomplishing much, and the atmosphere of anger affects the whole household.

In a related note, during a tough post-partum period I found myself really knocking heads with my oldest daughter (age 5). I apologized, and asked for her prayers to help me get my emotions under control. There was something about her do-goody nature that really set me off at the time, and I was just mean, which is awful. Now, though, I have lost the credibility to effectively discipline her, because recently when she was really wrong about something and was sent to bed without her story she came out and said “I keep praying and praying that you will be nicer but it is just not working!” How can I help her to understand that discipline is not because Mommy is not nice but relates to privileges and responsibilities, that she cannot mouth off to me about brushing teeth and still have a cozy bedtime story?

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