Sunday, April 13, 2008

Weekend Parenting

Its been a difficult weekend filled with parenting part-time children. Dancing Baby Girl was with us as was one of Kendra's friends. Both of them posed parenting problems from different angles.
DBG is exhibiting some unpleasant mannerisms reflective of her parent's discipline style. It takes us most of the weekend to get through to her that we don't behave towards one another in our house like that, and then it is time to take her home. She screams at us in very directive ways rather than making requests of us. If we say no to her she starts screaming arguments with us which dissolve into throwing toys, trying to hit, kick or scratch us and finally her storming up to her room screaming at the top of her lungs. We keep reiterating to her that we speak to one another with respect and that if she wants something from us, help or a privilege, she needs to ask us in a nice voice. I point out to her that we do not yell at her and that we speak to her with nice words and a calm voice. It is quite a battle to get her back on track, but once we turn that corner she is back to the sweet child she used to be, saying "please" and "thank you", and looking at us when she speaks to us. Once we have reestablished some basic guidlelines she is capable of negotiating choices, accepting limits, and interacting in a reciprocal fashion.
I know she is just parroting what she hears and what is directed to her at home, but it is so frustrating. It is so hard to watch the years of hard work we put in building up her self-concept, giving her the social skills to navigate well in the world, helping her redirect her anger and aggression into acceptable displays of emotion, all dissolve under someone else's parenting style. Being the weekend parent is really tough. We want to see her and be with her, but her behavior is deteriorating to such an extent that she is exhausting us. We need to continue to insist on keeping our household rules and standards of behavior, but it is getting harder and harder to bring her back in line with our expectations. It is obvious that they use elevated voices and very assertive and directive speech when they want her to do something and the rest of the time they just let her run wild, since it is easier to let her have her way than to redirect her very strong will and put up with her uncontained temper. I imagine their household is a battle ground a lot of the time since DBG is very, very strong willed and redirecting her without breaking her spirit requires an immense amount of patience and very proactive parenting.
It breaks my heart that she feels very unlistened to and the only way she knows to get attention is to yell and scream. I do what I can to speak with her mother about parenting style but it is a fine tightrope I walk. She could at any time decide that I am too interfering and not let me see DBG. I cannot be percieved as a threat so I have to mentor at a very subdued level.
None of this reaches the level of abuse, it is just classic uniformed parenting. But it breaks my heart to watch DBG change in these ways.
Now onto my other part-time parenting dilemna. One of Kendra's friends is spending lots of time at our house, like 3 nights in a row this weekend. She is a nice girl and she and Kendra get along well, but I am trying to determine how to draw the line. This kid is moving from guest to part-time child, yet with no shift in my relationship to her. I want to be supportive of her mother who is dealing with classic single parent dilemnas, but I also don't want to be a doormat and to make my house into a convenient dorm. I have to balance Kendra's sensibilities, my desire to be a help to this family, and the needs of our own household. It is a delicate balancing act.
Part-time parenting is a big-time drag.

No comments: