Freaky Friday

After a quiet period, a lot happened today. First I’ve been witnessing the power of saying nothing in some new ways. “I can’t do anything else until this kitchen gets cleaned up,” I said this morning intending to do it myself as usual. Fenner looked at the two fry pans on the stove that Jerry had used earlier to make them pancakes. “I didn’t get these out, so why should I have to clean them?” I couldn’t think of a constructive response to that so I said nothing. She looked at me and then said, “Ellen, you wash this one, and I’ll wash the other one.” And they did! While Fenner was washing she said, “Mom, it still feels like week one. Every week feels like week one now!” Again I didn’t have a quick response. Ellen chimed in. “I don’t think so. They’re teaching us stuff now. Now we know how to make pancakes.” Interesting. Fenner feels it more somehow, this big shift to more independence. I think it feels more scary to her. Thank goodness we’re doing it now when she has lots of time to get used to it and build her confidence! Five years from now would’ve been too late.

Later Ellen spilled cereal all over the floor and left it there. Saying nothing, I tried to hand her the dust pan. “No, mom,” she said and walked away. I offered it to her again. “No.” I left it on the table next to her and walked away. “No, mom!” she said loudly, and then a minute later I heard a quiet, “Oh, fine,” as she headed to the kitchen.

The next incident involved a small cup of water Charlotte had left on the dining room table. Fenner knocked it over. I heard her say, “It’s not mine!” and then Jerry, “I don’t care whose it is, you knocked it over!” his face was full of anger and Fenner was looking at him, her cheeks flushed. I quickly grabbed a paper towel and said, “The water spilled,” and handed her the towel. Then I took Jerry’s hand and lead him into the kitchen. He was almost shaking with anger. “Ok, you’re scaring her. You’re even scaring me a little.” He didn’t like that at all. We went outside and talked some more. “She should know, if you make a mess you have to clean it up!” “Ok. And I can also understand how she feels –that she didn’t leave the water on the table. … A little empathy goes a long way while you let her know she still has to clean it up.” He agreed, but I could tell it still bugged him. “Do you remember what this week is about?” “Remind me.” “We’re supposed to pay attention to how we feel when they misbehave.” “I’m angry.” “Yeah, that was a power move. She’s trying to get something she needs, but she’s going about it in the wrong way. So we take note and use that information for next week.” I kept going. “And that was a classic overreaction on your part. There’s something going on there that you need to work through.” He agreed, but still seemed a bit reluctant. “Remember what Vicki said — Fenner’s probably thinking, ‘There must be something wrong with me that I can make my dad that angry over a little cup of water.’” “Yeah … ok.”

I’m glad I stepped in, but I do wonder – when you see your spouse overreacting with the kids, what’s the best way to handle that? Do you stay out of it? Intervene? What’s the most constructive approach? I’m not sure….

Soon after it was time to go into town. Jerry, Ellen, and I were waiting in the car. Fenner had just gone in to get something and Charlotte came out and sat in Fenner’s favorite seat. “Uh-oh,” said Jerry. Fenner came back out. “Charlotte! I was sitting there! Can you please sit in the back?” “You always get to sit here.” “Charlotte! Please?! … I have to sit there! … I’m going to step on your foot until you move!” Charlotte didn’t move. Fenner got in and started hitting her. I couldn’t watch, but I know it was hard enough to make the seat wiggle. “Don’t hit me!” “I’m going to hit you until you move!” And she started whacking Charlotte over the head. Jerry pursed his lips and turned toward Fenner. I touched his arm and whispered, “Don’t feed the weed … we’re going to address this.” He was fuming. By this time Charlotte had succumbed and moved to the back seat in tears. “She doesn’t even care,” whispered Jerry. “She’s sitting there are she doesn’t even care that she just hit Charlotte over the head! I have had it up to here with the way she treats her.” “It will get better,” I said, “but not by doing what we’ve always done – the scolding and the lecturing – that’s how we got here. … And something to think about is what you believe about someone who does what Fenner just did. What do you believe about a person who does that?” “I don’t know.” He wasn’t in the right state of mind to tackle that right then. Maybe later.

We started on our way and I told everyone the story about how when I was really little, before I could talk, my sister Sloane used to hit me on the head until I cried and then tell our mom that I fell down. “That’s mean!” said Fenner. “What part is mean? Hitting her on the head or lying about it?” prompted Jerry. “Both!” said Fenner. “Yeah, I agree,” said Jerry, “both things are wrong.”

Explore posts in the same categories: Week 4: Four Mistaken Goals of Behavior

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