Too Harsh? Too Lenient?

[deleted account] ( 18 moms have responded )

On the way home from picking my son (about to turn 9 years) up from school today, he informed me that he had studied his spelling during dismissal, and asked if he had to study again when he got home. Not being the most trusting person in the world, and knowing my son's study habits, I wasn't confident that his quick glance over the words was sufficient, so I said, "I'll think about it." In my mind, I was trying to come up with a compromise--an abbreviated exercise just to make sure he knew the words.
He responded, "I'm not going to do it. I already did it."
To which I responded, "I decide whether you will do it or not. I said we'll see."
He then exclaimed, "I'm never doing my homework at school again!" and stabbed a sharp pencil into the upholstery of our car causing the airbag sensor light on the dashboard to start blinking. (He was in the front seat because we carpool and the other kids were in the back).

I was furious, not only by his unacceptable responses, but the fact that he damaged my car and embarrassed our family with his outburst.

When we got home, I had him write a sentence with each of his spelling words about why his actions were inappropriate, what he could have done differently, and the consequences of his actions....so 3 sentences per spelling word. He has been saving for several months for an Xbox, and I told him that he would need to use that money to pay for the repairs on the car and repay any amount above the $220 he had saved.
I would also like to prohibit screen time for the next month, as he has been playing a lot more than usual and I always notice that this makes his temper flare, but my husband says that is too harsh. Thursday is his birthday, and because he was so close to purchasing the Xbox, we bought him a TV for his room--we gave him a party this weekend, but plan to surprise him with the TV by having it hung on his wall when he gets home from school. The no TV portion of the discipline would ruin that surprise, and I must admit, I want it to be a happy day. This is his last single digit birthday and I don't want it to be overshadowed by this stupid temper tantrum, but at the same time, I don't want him to think it is okay to express himself that way. He needs to learn restraint.
Do you think letting him off without taking away the screen time rights is too lenient? Am I just being sentimental and letting that get in the way of effective discipline, or is it okay to let him slide this one time?
(I will be enforcing stricter limits on screen time--we had been lax with it due to having extra company in town, and allowing him to play online with his cousins).

MOST HELPFUL POSTS

♫ Shawnn ♪♫♫ - posted on 10/31/2013

13,264

21

2015

Kelly, hon, the best thing right now is for you and J to talk. Tell him truthfully (and calmly ;-) ) how you felt about his fit, and how you are still feeling as you get the updates on the cost of the repair.

Ask if he understands how his actions were not necessarily the best choice he could have made at that point, and if he understands exactly how much you're going to have to spend to fix that. It helped with my kids (not that they were destructive, but kids are kids...LOL) if I put it into "it's 8 laptop computers" or a similar example.

Has he apologized? He needs to. He needs to ask your forgiveness. It's easy to forgive, I promise. The key is to know in your heart that this person will try to improve. J will be better as he gets older, but maybe (following Dove here) some counseling wouldn't hurt. I know dad's against it...my hubby is too, but he can talk to the school counselor to start, and it's a big help.

I know you love your boy, Kelly, and that's part of what's making this so hard for you! Been there, a billion times. I hate that "i'm the worst mom" feeling, oh so much! At one point last week, I had both boys with me at a concert ~~(can I say I LOVE that my kids are old enough that we can do adult activities and have a great time? Ok, that's done, back on topic)~~and I asked them if they could honestly tell me what they thought about their childhood. They know that I've had issues with my mom, and that I was fairly happy as a kid, as long as I didn't break the eggshells we walked on, and that it's taken me a long time to straighten that out with my mom. Both of them said "Mom, I've had a great life. You were a bitch sometimes, but I was an ass, too. I know now that you only wanted me to be the best I can, and I love you". Which really got me emotional. The kicker was when my eldest said "I'm just glad that you didn't kill me a few times, mom, with the way I acted...I probably deserved a lot worse than restriction".

They DO start to "get it"!

Have a special night, Kelly. You're also celebrating 9 years of motherhood!

♫ Shawnn ♪♫♫ - posted on 10/31/2013

13,264

21

2015

Jaquie, you should probably read more of Kelly's posts before you make the ASSumption that she is a disconnected mom, or that she's "pretending" about anything.

Have you NEVER had a point with your kids that they'd pushed the buttons so far that you didn't WANT do do things for/with them? I have.

Kelly also is a stellar parent. Generally, she's the one with the best recommendations. You apparently didn't get the part where she IS imposing consequences on him for his actions, and what exactly happened to being with.

To Kelly: You're doing fine. J sounds like RB at that age. We never seemed to "connect", always arguing until hubby said "just don't speak to each other"...LOL...Never fear, my dear! Even tho he's out of the house now, he's over 2-3 times a week, and we are in an awesome place with our relationship. You and J will get over this But, he's also old enough for you to be honest with him about your feelings. He threw a fit, caused almost $5K of damage to your vehicle, and he knows that you're not happy about it. But you need to tell him that it was hard for you this morning to BE happy, because you don't feel that he's fully understanding the implications of what he did. I was always up front with my kids at every age (age appropriately, of course).

You will ALWAYS LOVE J. That doesn't mean that you always have to LIKE him, nor he you. When my kids and I figured that out, and learned how to talk about things, we were a lot better off. Hang in there, girl!

[deleted account]

Well....If we don't fix it, none of the airbags will deploy if we are in an accident. I don't feel safe driving around in a newer car without airbags. Maybe one of the big tank-like cars from the old days....maybe I'll just get one of those.

18 Comments

View replies by

[deleted account]

Thanks, Shawnn. He has apologized, and I believe he is truly sorry, but I just can't get past my own anger. I did tell him I forgave him, but I'm pretty sure we both know I was lying just to make him feel better....which doesn't make him feel better at all, but at least he knows I'm trying, so when he is an adult and sitting in his own psychologist's office, he can say "well, she TRIED to love me." but really that's even worse, isn't it!! Because when I think about my father trying to love me, but being unable to, the only logical explanation that comes to mind is that I am such a horrid little monstrosity of a person that even someone who is putting forth all of their best efforts to love me cannot love me! I don't want my son to feel like that--he's a really a wonderful child, if a bit temperamental.
Yet I tell him I am not trying to forgive him because *I* am the bad person, not him, he would think he's not even worth trying for--his love is not worth trying to forgive him for. Ugh. It's a huge catch 22, and even though it's all my fault, and I am 100% the bag guy here, my kid is the one who is going to get hurt for it.

I did take your advice and tried to put the amount into sums he could understand--4 years worth of annual passes to our local amusement parks. 20 xboxes. He cried.

I've been researching all weekend about how to forgive people. There is a lot of info online, but most of it says the same thing, and it's not very helpful--it says to let go of the anger. I've let go, but it is clinging to me, sucking out all of my good emotions like a leach drinking blood.
I did come across an article by a Dr.Bowers, who wrote a book called The Everything Parent's Guide to Positive Discipline, which I have not read, but the article piqued my interest, so I may go buy it today. It said that we do not always have to forgive our child in order to go on loving them. That sometimes, we can love them without forgiveness.....I don't know, there were also several articles saying this advice was bad, so I suppose I need to read the whole book.

[deleted account]

Joan, you advice is good, but J has always known the penalties for his actions in our home. Even when he was only a year old, if he left his toys out or mistreated them during a temper tantrum, I always collected them and sent them off to a local charity. If he wanted a replacement, he had to buy it himself.

While he does have a temper, until this day, he has never destroyed or damaged anything that didn't belong to him. I know he did not realize he could do THAT MUCH damage with the pencil during the short outburst, but I know he did intentionally wish to damage my car. He knew before he did it that he would have to pay for the damages, and he was willing to pay for them in order to make his point, he just didn't realize how much the damages would cost. That said, just because he is willing to pay for it--even if he did have $4,500 to give me--doesn't make it okay to damage someone else's property. I don't know if he understands this. He says he does, but I don't know.

We've come to a compromise on the dicsipline. He will pay for 10% of the repairs--$450. We gave all of his game systems & games to charity and decided that he can play video games again once he can buy his own. I think he should be able to pay his $450 and save up enough to buy an xbox over the next couple of years. We also told him we would not be purchasing our annual passes to the amusement and water parks for 2014--that will cover another $1000, and the rest we'll just let him off the hook for. So that's settled, but I'm still struggling with the forgiveness issue.

Honestly, I am upset that we will not be enjoying the parks next year--those were some of my favorite outings, and it sucks that I have to give up my enjoyment because he lost his temper. That said, I know it is partially my fault--I am raising him, and I should have taught him to better control his anger, so I suppose I deserve to miss out on the fun as much as he does.
I tried to cuddle with him last night at bed time. He begged me to cuddle for a few minutes, and I thought it might help me with the forgiveness obstacle, so I crawled into his bed and let him curl up on me. Before this (but well into my therapy) when I would curl up with him, I felt this wonderful warmth--like a connection to him, I guess. I can't describe it, but it was a very good feeling that reached down all the way inside me to my bones. But last night it was not there, it was no different than curling up with a lumpy pillow. The same when I hug him and send him off to taekwondo, or school, or any of the other times I've hugged him this week. I still hug him, but it doesn't feel the same, and he knows it. I hate that he knows it, and I'm trying my best to pretend everything is okay, but he can see right through it, and it's obvious.

Joanne - posted on 11/01/2013

54

0

15

Hi Kelly, Oh my gosh, the damage done by your son makes me wonder if he had been destructive before. And it sounds like he has a temper as well. The first rule I find is workable is to state to your children not just the rules of the house but also the penalties if one would break the rules. We as adults know the penalties of driving too fast (you get a speeding ticket). Or we know if we don't pay our bills on time, we get a bad credit score or late fees. So we have prediction and we know the penalties. This should apply to children too. Your son needs to be told that if he ever damages anything, he'll have to pay for the replacement or the repair. Once a parent makes a rule, he must implement any penalties because otherwise, the child may think you'll give in again and repeat the same action. However, if you penalize your son without him knowing what that penalty was going to be then it creates instability because he has no prediction. Be as it may, I agree with you not to mess up his birthday. I would have a calm talk with him and explain to him that damaging the car seat was not okay as now mommy needs to pay for the repair which in doing so takes money away for the family and him. I believe that if he knew he would have to pay for his damages, he might not have damaged the car seat. Don't know your son but I found that most children will respond well with knowing the penalty that goes with bad behavior. They tend to stop themselves before committed the act. There's a new website that gives free parenting tips. They also have a Parenting Help Blog where you can ask questions. http://www.truekidsstories.org

Enna - posted on 10/31/2013

521

10

204

I would make him pay what he can (and since he's 9 that $220 probably took a long time), then pay for the rest yourself. He will feel the burn the next time his friends are talking about their Xbox's. I don't think he needs additional punishment. Especially because you are SO mad at him, and he knows it. Having that is a punishment too.
I have been furiously angry with my child before, and it is very painful. Just because you're mad it him it doesn't mean you don't love him. (even if you don't feel like it right now). You are human, and part of being human is getting mad. And he does deserve it. He may only be 9, but he is old enough to know that what he did was unacceptable. If your husband had thrown a temper tantrum and done that you'd be mad at him too, even if he's a little better equipped to pay to fix it. Think of this as an opportunity to show your son how to deal with being mad without breaking something.
That is a lot of money. Is it time to start thinking about trading in the car for a new/different one?
And give yourself a break. You are not a bad mother for getting mad about this.

Dove - posted on 10/31/2013

11,903

0

1350

Aw... Kelly. :( ♥ You know I wish I had the magic answers for you and J.

As always... Shawnn is a heck of a lot more eloquent (and experienced) than I am.

♥ you!

[deleted account]

Ugh. Today is his birthday. I bought his favorite pancakes and bacon for breakfast, (The shake and pour pancake batter--he likes it because it reminds him of camping), and I didn't even want to make them for him. I did make them, and I tried to be cheery about it, and I even said "Happy Birthday" to him as I gave them to him, but he could tell I was pretending, and I could tell he was trying to be nice and not let me know he was hurt.

He's off to school now. I have a conference at 10am then I am supposed to bring cookies and have lunch with him. I don't feel like going. I feel like such a horrible, horrible mother--a horrible person all together.

I know I'm flawed--we all are, I get that--but I've really screwed myself over with the feelings thing. J & I were both better off with me being a sociopath. I thought I'd be happier if I could tap into that part of life that lets us love people, but apparently, you can't have love and happy without sad and angry, and the happy is not worth the pain the sad and angry causes. Before, at least I could "look" happy, now when I'm sad and angry, it is hard to hide those emotions--and that's hurting my kid. He was better off before, with a detached mom. I thought kids needed a mother who could connect on an emotional level, but maybe I was wrong. My poor child. He really deserves better.

Jaquie - posted on 10/31/2013

6

0

0

Your son needs to learn and know you won't fix all his accidents. I would make him at least pay some, come up with a amount that makes him wait a little longer for his Xbox. Maybe like 50$ 75$. If you just tell him it was wrong and he sees your fixing it and that's it....he'll know he can get away with more. You don't have to ruin his birthday, still can be a good day but he does need to take responsibility for what he did and how he acted.

[deleted account]

Okay, I spoke to my psychologist and we came to the conclusion that in order to get over my anger with my son, I need to forgive him. Apparently, I am holding a "grudge" against him, and really for no reason. We're not poor, we've got the money to fix the stupid car (though we're not rich either, it's still a significant expense!). I am just SOOOO ANGERED that he would do something like that, and I can't get past it.
I barely spoke to him today--I couldn't say any more than the bare essential. I didn't ask him about his day--I know it was a special day at school, they got an ice cream and movie party to celebrate meeting their reading goals, but we haven't talked. I didn't offer to help him with his homework, I just told him to do it and walked away. I don't even want to look at him.
It is a beautiful day outside. He is in the yard playing on his playset and I know I should go join him. This is the last day of him being 8 years old. It is supposed to be a special week (I like to make the days leading up to his birthday special because he has to share with Halloween and people are too busy). So I went out to play with him, but all I could do was glare at him, and he said "Mom, you don't have to be here." so I went back in and called the doc.

He told me I need to forgive J, but I don't know how. How do you forgive a person for doing something like that?
Don't get me wrong, people have hurt me much worse in the past, but I didn't love them, so I never had to tackle the forgiveness part. I just never spoke to them again. Obviously, I can't take that route with my son.

Dove - posted on 10/30/2013

11,903

0

1350

Counseling for J would probably be a VERY good thing to try. I know your dh is anti it, but really... I haven't got anything else to suggest. I'm sorry!

And yikes about the cost. I suppose not fixing it is not an option.... ;)

[deleted account]

I'm with you, Dove. I've never understood the TV in the bedroom thing, and in fact, I didn't really have a part in buying this. J has wanted a TV and xbox in his room for over a year now, I've held out, but dh is now on J's side. Apparently, at some point I gave dh the idea that while I wasn't thrilled about the TV in his room, I was okay with it. So dh bought the TV. I know it will make J really happy, and I feel like I can control it enough to limit any ill effects, so I guess I'm okay with it.

The service department just called and told me it will be $4,800 to fix the car.

I am now beyond frustrated not only with my lack of parenting skills, my child's temper, and my idiotically fragile car, but also with my husband because he's an ass. I brought up the topic of effective discipline for J, and he said--OVER AND OVER AGAIN--"We just need to work on his temper."
WELL DUH!!!! I know that, what I do NOT know is HOW to work on it! So he says, "Well, let's work on finding out how."
Well, I'm out of options--I've read hundreds of books, thousands of articles, and spouted off to my doctors more times than I can count. I've tried all I know to try, and he refuses to see a therapist or do the reading, so I asked him, "How do you propose we find out how to deal with his temper--other than the therapist, and reading since you don't think those are viable solutions?"
"Well, we need to work on that."
How do we work on that? I can't tell you where to look because I don't know what we're looking for--we don't want books or articles, we don't want doctors, so what do we want? Where can we look?"
"I don't know, we need to work on that."
I was VERY close to slamming the damned car into a bridge pillar on the highway. BUT I COULDN'T BECAUSE IT NO LONGER HAS AIRBAGS!!!!!!!

Dove - posted on 10/29/2013

11,903

0

1350

I think you are doing fine. Personally, I'd take back the tv and get him something else for his birthday, but I'm a big believer in thinking that tv does not belong in the bedroom.

♫ Shawnn ♪♫♫ - posted on 10/29/2013

13,264

21

2015

Oh man...Unfortunately, airbag sensors are the worst...but make sure they don't run you around the block...make sure that you ask them a lot of questions regarding the repair, and show that you're "watching" them...I've seen some pretty shady techs out there.

My hubby is a certified GM Master Tech (not one of the shady ones). I get off easy on automotive anything...

Ok, I wouldn't make him pay back almost $4k, but taking that savings that he's done for the Xbox still gets your point across. Would insurance help cover costs?

Ok, now, go have a glass of wine, and BREATHE my dear! Keep me posted as well.

[deleted account]

The initial estimate from the dealership to fix the **** airbag sensor that he damaged was $3,800. It could be less, but they won't know until they open it up tomorrow. I am so livid!!!!!!! In fact, that's an understatement. I don't even think there are words to express this emotion. I don't even know what to do with myself.
I could call my therapist and yell at him, but really, what would that accomplish? Another bill--certainly don't need that!
He could never repay that amount if I made him work his little butt off for the rest of his childhood! I knew it was going to be a few hundred, I came to terms with that, but a few thousand is ridiculous.

♫ Shawnn ♪♫♫ - posted on 10/29/2013

13,264

21

2015

Kelly, enforcing stricter limits (along with stressing how blessed he is to receive the TV despite his actions in the car...point out that you did want to cut out screen time altogether, but considered all of the implications, his bday etc) plus paying for the repair should be just fine.

He does need that reminder about actions having consequences, although I know darn good and well that you are an excellent parent, so your kiddo understands that.

Heck, you did great. I'd have finished the car pool, made the kid do his 10 repetitions of each word, plus the sentences, AND taken privileges. All the while reminding them what dad and I do for them, etc (yes, I've got the whole "guilt trip" thing...LOL) But then again, my youngest is just now coming off of restriction because of his 2 grades that dropped below a C, and that restriction was only limited to "you'll be off when your grades hold at an acceptable level for more than 2 weeks. At that point, restriction will be removed, but will be doubled if your grades drop within the following month". He's trying to earn a learner's permit, but I won't let him until his grades stay solid! (my way of making him wait until he's a BIT more mature before allowing him on the roads!)

Join Circle of Moms

Sign up for Circle of Moms and be a part of this community! Membership is just one click away.

Join Circle of Moms