Okay I shouted. Shouted two days in a row at my three, sweet Princes. This is after months of not losing it. What happened? We went on a family holiday to Israel. And I’ve learnt that just as you get to know your real self when you go for a lovely weekend away with your spouse, so to, do you get to know the real ins and outs of your family on an idyllic holiday away. Especially when my angelic Prince No. 2 decides that it would be fun to make a wee on the side of the highway on his toy sword (it was a Burger Ranch freebie gift) and Prince No. 1. (That’s when I screamed. I couldn’t help it I just saw red, red, red.)
Mind you I lost it when they wouldn’t be quiet or keep their hands or feet to themselves as we were driving on the road to Tiberius. And when I say not quiet, I mean, screaming and screeching at the top of their lungs. This is of course after our nine-hour night flight. You know those pleasant sitting up sleeps where smiling air-hostesses wake you up for a 12am supper and a 5am breakfast.
So two days into our lovely holiday I’m wishing I was back home, or we had left the Princes at home. Charming isn’t it. And yes the words spilled into my head, ‘You’re so spoilt. This is your family holiday, a holiday to Israel that you haven’t done in the longest time.’ Needless to say the critical parent voice that popped up wasn’t helpful as my child was giving vent to a full-fledged tantrum.
So what did I do? I deserted the Princes with their very noble father to have their fries and burgers in peace whilst I, who had become a wicked witch, took myself out for a delicious goats cheese salad wrap and an equally delicious cappuccino. (The days of desperately searching for a good coffee in Israel is over!) The quiet time did me the world of good, and I came back reenergised. That was only the beginning of a solution…
That night I sat down with my calm, level-headed husband who had also lost it. We were shattered. All ideals of being good parents were gone. We were terrible, at least we felt that way. So we got the war plans out. We weren’t going to be bested by a 7, 5 and 3-year-old. We’d show them who’s in charge. So we put them to bed with bread and butter for supper.
I kid you not.
And that was only the beginning. No we didn’t tie them up or anything like that. (Although I was tempted to send them to their saintly grandparents in Johannesburg on the next flight back.) What we did do was come up with a three-point plan which I will share just in case any one else is going on holiday and finds themselves in the strange predicament of turning into a monster mom.
1. PREVENTION – We pinpointed when the kids were good – when they were eating. And we identified when they were impossible – in the car on long drives. So we decided that we’ll try limit the drives if we could. Hence this morning the Princes went wild at the park and are now swimming with their dad (and I’m having a peaceful typing morning).
Now driving we can’t avoid. We want to go places and do things so we decided that distraction was our best action plan for the long drives. We went to the hotel gift shop and bought age appropriate math books and reading/writing books that should keep them happily busy. (The Israeli ones are really good.) I would have bought story CD’s if I could have found them in English. I know you can get DVD car players but something in me just doesn’t want to go there. Maybe it’s because I’ve noticed that Prince No. 1 seems more aggressive after a long period of watching.
I’ve even written a list of car games to distract them, like I spy, sing a song from a word etc. etc. I’ll let you know what works.
2. Incentives – Positive reenforcement works. I find that Prince No. 1 who is often the ring leader (although Prince No. 2 is truly vying for that enviable position) blossoms with positive reenforcement. So this morning with CLEAR INSTRUCTIONS from his reformed parents he dressed himself, made his bed and brushed his teeth. Being the ring leader he encouraged his brothers to do likewise. And then I gave them stars to further affirm their behaviour. (I put the star charts in a traveling note-book and they each chose the prize they want.)
Clarity is very important when it comes to positive reenforcement and rewarding good behaviour. I am trying to not make it into bribery but rather to reenforce a positive behaviour that each Prince needs to work on. The main one being listening. (I did try explain self-control as a value but I think the lofty concept flew over their heads.)
3. Consequences – After all that if prevention and positive reenforcement don’t work we are moving onto consequences. Mind you it’s a bit of a fancy word for punishment, but really we want our kids to choose between the desired behaviour and the consequence. If they choose to scream and fight in the car then they’re choosing to eat bread and butter in their hotel room. It’s that simple.
Of course the main thing is that we as parents follow through. That’s my hardest challenge being clear about consequences and sticking to what I say. Disciplining is not my favourite hobby. I’d much rather be enjoying the Scottish green mountains of the Galilee. But I’ve learnt the hard way to face the shrieking music and buck up my parenting, or at least try. Maybe this way I’ll be able to relax in the majestic embrace of the Kinneret. (I’m not just being poetic – it truly is the most beautiful sight the lake Kinneret surrounded by sloping green hills and mountains. And it’s Spring, so all the flowers are blooming pinks, yellows and reds.)
Last tip – TAKE TIME OUT!!! Get babysitters, take turns with your husband or relatives to take care of the darling little ones so you can take a moment to breathe in a cup of coffee especially if you’re losing it. Or am I the only one who loses it on holiday?
Anyhow I’ll let you know if my 3 point plan works. So far, for this morning, so good. Then again we haven’t gotten into the car yet.