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Mama Drama: Why why?

Dear Mama Drama:

My son is always asking me “why?” when I ask him to do something. I get very frustrated with his constant questioning of my authority. We often end up in arguments and power struggles because of the constant “why, why, why?”

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I have friends whose children do not question them at every turn and I don’t know what I am doing wrong. I really just want my son to do what I’m asking and not question me.

~Tired of the questioning


Dear Tired:
Having your child question your directions can feel like your authority is being threatened. Parents often take this personally and respond with anger and indignation to this perceived slight. It is important, however, to remember that “why” is not always a challenging question. “Why” is also an information question.

Children are naturally curious and are interested in how things work and why we do what we do. If they don’t understand why they have to do something, it is typical for them to ask.

When your son asks you why, try explaining briefly why you need him to do whatever it is you have asked. For example, when you ask your son to wash his hands before dinner and he asks why, tell him, “We wash hands to get the germs off. This helps us to stay healthy.” Often this explanation is enough to satisfy his need for information and then he will follow the direction. If he is very curious, he may have additional questions. To keep him on track say, “I’ll be glad to answer more questions when your hands are clean.”

Sometimes your son may be asking a challenging “why” question. In this case it is important to remain calm and not take the question as a personal affront. You can treat the question as informational and answer with the facts as above. This in itself can help to keep you calm. If he continues to challenge you, set limits about completed the task asked.

For example with the hand washing situation, you could calmly say, “You are welcome to join us for dinner when your hands are clean.” Repeat this phrase as needed. Then be sure to follow through, refraining from nagging or threatening him. Have the rest of the family go ahead and eat as planned. He may join you or not. If he does, thank him for washing his hands and joining you for dinner. If not, he’ll probably be hungry later. With empathy and kindness you can respond, “I’m so sorry you are hungry. Breakfast will be available at 7 tomorrow morning for people whose hands are clean.” He may be stunned or angry by this response, but remain calm and empathetic. Following through and staying out of the power struggle with be the most effective way to change his behavior.

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to [email protected], and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! All emails and identifying information will remain confidential.

Mama Drama: Sibling Rivalry and Playtime Struggles

Dear Mama Drama,

I recently took my 6 and 8 year old daughters to a pumpkin carving contest. It is a wonderful family event that focuses more on community than competition, but the pumpkins are judged and there are winners. My 6 year old won and my 8 year old did not.  At first, the 8 year old was very supportive of her sister, but then she started crying. When we finally got to the root of the problem, she was upset that she had given her sister ideas and that her sister had won and she didn’t.

This sibling competition expresses itself frequently in negative ways in our family and I am unsure how to react or what to do about it.  Growing up most of my life as an only child, I really don’t understand and am not very sympathetic to sibling rivalry.

How can I encourage my children to be loving supportive sisters and discourage them from being self-centered and competitive?

~Seeking Harmony

Dear Seeking Harmony:

Sibling rivalry is a normal part of growing up with brothers and sisters, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have that harmony you are seeking.

Mama Drama: Bedtime Woes & Sibling Fights

Dear Mama Drama: My 13-month-old daughter used to go to bed easily. Now she stands in her crib and screams. We have a consistent, calming bedtime routine, but it doesn’t seem to be working right now.
~Exasperated

Dear Exasperated:
Your daughter may be telling you it’s to change her sleep schedule. She may not be as tired at her current bedtime as she used to be. Toddlers often shift their sleeping patterns as their activity and developmental needs change. They still need 10-13 hours of sleep on average, but may take fewer naps, need a different bed time, or need to be awakened earlier.

It may also be helpful to take a look at her schedule throughout the day. Make sure she is getting enough physical activity and that she is not over-stimulated in the hours just before bed. Warm baths, massages, wrapping up in a blanket to provide deep pressure, and quiet stories are all great additions to your nightly routine that will help her relax and be ready for sleep.

Dear Mama Drama: My seven year old twin boys were teasing each other last night when it escalated to one hitting the other multiple times in the back and the other one stabbing his brother in the head with the point of a pencil several times before I could intervene. I got them calmed down and put to bed, trying to stay calm myself. This is the first time this has happened and I am trying to figure out if this is normal or if I should be worried?
~Reeling

Dear Reeling:
Sounds like you did well to stay calm and get them calm. I suggest spending some time talking with them separately about what happened, focusing on how they were feeling at the time and helping them take responsibility for their part in the problem. Then have a conversation together where you problem solve and make a plan for future situations when they feel so upset.

While seven year olds generally have adequate vocabulary, they often don’t know how to express themselves effectively. Teaching and practicing problem solving language gives them the tools they need to successfully navigate social situations. With siblings, and particularly twins, emotions can be especially intense. Creating a peaceful problem solving structure provides a great framework for the family and is a skill they will use throughout their lives.

As a one-time incident I wouldn’t be over-the-top worried. Definitely let them know this behavior is not acceptable in any way and keep your radar up for escalating situations. Sometimes things happen too quickly to stop them, but other times we can step in to support them when the tension begins to rise and help them start communicating before the problems get bigger.

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column will be running on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions to [email protected], and your Mama Drama might be in next week’s column.

Say it to my face…book?

I consider myself to be rather in-touch with what’s going on around me. I have over 400 “friends” on my personal Facebook Account. I have a bunch of people that I email, instant message/chat, text, or call on a regular basis. I try to stay on top of what’s going on with my friends, and I try to keep them appraised of the situation here.

I call, text, or email important things to top-priority people, and most everything gets shared on my blog at one point or another. On the flip-side, I’m easy to contact. I recently got a new BlackBerry, and she rarely leaves my side. I check email, Facebook, and Twitter from my phone. MY. PHONE. My, how times have changed!

I have pretty much all the communication bases fully covered.

So, imagine my surprise one day when I discover, purely by a random course of events, that one of our closest friends is engaged.

Engaged!?

Did he tell me in the myriads of text messages we’d had going back and forth the day before? No. Did he tell me in an email? No. Did he tell me in one of the phone conversations we’d had that week? No.

A friend of a friend saw it on our friend’s Facebook relationship status.

Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the intricacies of Facebook, you can set a status that will broadcast to everyone, and you can also plug in information that is static on the site. It just sits there for everyone to see if they go to your page (Name, Hometown, Relationship Status, etc.). THIS is where he announced his engagement.

I couldn’t believe it, and because we are such close friends, I’ve given him unending grief about it, too. (His mom is on Facebook, and he claims to have told her before she saw it on there. I can only hope that’s true.)

“I had to learn this information on Facebook!?” I said to him when he finally called me. “I guess I see where I rank…”

I tried really hard to let this slide, to ignore the tenderness of my feelings, but this isn’t the first time this has happened to me.

This situation conjured up feelings from the not-so-distant past. A bunch of things like this have started happening in my circle of friends, and I’m wondering if this trend is here to stay. For example, I found out via Facebook about the birth of a close friend’s baby. Even though we’d been calling and emailing back and forth before her due-date, she opted not to send out a mass email or give us a call. She chose Facebook as her means of communication, and because I have so many friends to sort through on there, I’d missed the announcement until days had gone by. (In all fairness, it’s not her fault I have so many status updates to sort through.) I wished I would have been told directly so that I could have helped them celebrate sooner. Still, I tried to set my feelings aside and be happy to see pictures of her new little one so quickly.

We all have different “types” of friends, so I can understand finding out some of these things if the personal connection isn’t as strong. For example, I’m “friends” on Facebook with people I haven’t seen in 17 years (or longer!). I wouldn’t expect a phone call or a personal email about something that is happening to them, and vice versa. I enjoy reading Facebook statuses about what’s going on in their world.

Of course there are exceptions to these little rules I have in my head. When my dad was in a car accident last year, I put it out onto Facebook, and the overwhelming response I got from people warmed my heart. Things were happening so quickly, and I was glad to have a quick way to keep people updated.

Just the other day, in fact, one of my friends used her Twitter account to alert us about an accident in her family, and I wasn’t the least bit offended. It was a call of action, so to speak, and we rallied around her.

To me, that’s different. As devastating as an accident is, it’s in a different category than a “monumental event” like a birth, engagement, or death. When I find out something monumental about a close friend at the same time as their mother’s best friend’s daughter? I feel less important.

There. I said it.

All this being said, I think I’ve figured it out. I am just as important as I was before to my friends. People are just excited to announce the news to the whole world in the most efficient way possible. Social Media has become the Great Equalizer amongst the recipients of information. I either need to let go of my old way of seeing things or risk having my feelings hurt again and again.

Have Social Media tools like Facebook changed the face of communication, and/or do any of the old-school rules still apply? Do I need to unlearn all the “rules of communication” that are so ingrained in my psyche? And, more importantly, is there an app. for that? 😉

So, what do you think? How do you prefer to send and receive important information?