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Love Bomb

As soon as our second child started getting around (scooting on her tushie just like her mommy did), we realized we needed some help. Our son had never gone through the terrible twos, and like all first-time parents, we congratulated ourselves on what a good job we’d done. When he was five, a year after his sister was born, we realized we needed help. All of a sudden he started to throw these amazing out-of-body fits. His pediatrician, always a voice of reason in our lives, took the news calmly. “He didn’t have terrible twos, did he?” he asked. “Kids who don’t have terrible twos get awful fives.”
Especially if their adorable little sister is scooting around destroying his artwork, taking his mommy’s attention, and pulling his hair. Not to mention crashing his block towers, which is standard fare for little sisters.
So I started to devour parenting books. Many local parents swear by Becoming the Parent You Want To Be (by locals Janis Keyser and Laura Davis), but it wasn’t my cup of tea. The thing about parenting books is that you can’t follow them all — you have to choose the ones that speak to you and the way you view your role as a parent. So I know that I have many great homeschooling friends who love Attachment Parenting, but again, it wasn’t right for us. The family bed just didn’t work in our house!
The book that made sense to me was Positive Discipline by Jane Nelson. Even better than the original is Positive Discipline for Preschoolers, which offers great real-world advice on being the kind of parent I want to be: kind but firm, trusted but respected, someone my kids would actually listen to.
OK, I know, I know: I failed that listening thing. But at least I’m trying! It’s good enough that sometimes they listen to me, and I can hear a chorus of angels singing down from on high.
But seriously, I found that Jane Nelson’s no-nonsense approach worked for me and for our family. It was like getting a license not to get angry at my angry little boy.
Nelson loves family meetings. One of her reasons for having them is to give everyone in the family “a sense of belonging and significance.” We started incorporating our family meeting into our Friday night Shabbat celebration, which is the nod toward our children’s Jewish heritage that they get every week regardless of whether we’ve celebrated a holiday recently or sent them to Hebrew school. Much of the time the meetings went well.
For about the last…eh…year or so, they’ve been pretty miserable. My husband would see the candles on the table and groan at me sotto voce. “Oh, no, it’s Shabbat. Another horrible Friday night.” It was as if, for a long time, the ritual and the meeting seemed to intensify everything that hadn’t been going right.
A few months ago I got to interview Jane Nelson for Growing Up in Santa Cruz. She asked if we did family meetings, and I said we did. And I admitted that they hadn’t been going so well. “Stick with it,” she said. “Make sure it’s a supportive atmosphere.”
That reminded me of a technique we occasionally use called “love bombing.” If the kids have been really, really awful, we’ll give them a day or maybe even a few where we don’t correct anything they do wrong, where we love and hug and kiss them constantly, and try to do pretty much every wacky suggestion they come up with. You might think this would lead to them taking advantage of us, but it seems to do the opposite. It seems to reset that ticking time-bomb in our relationship back to somewhere less volatile.
So for the last two weeks, I’ve been love-bombing our family meetings. It’s been all happy, happy and rah, rah. And it’s working. There have been no fits, no stomping from the table. We actually got to talk to each other. We have all had a “sense of belonging and significance.” Hurrah to love bombing. May it live forever.

Posted in Parenting.

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