I came downstairs after my shower and the tv was still on. I had told my 7-year-old to turn it off after the previous show, and once again, she hadn’t followed directions. Without saying a word, I walked over to the tv and turned it off.
“Oh! Come onnnnnn!” she yelled.
I whipped around and said, “Did I say you could watch all the shows you wanted? Or did I tell you that you needed to turn it off when the show was over?”
She grinned her “oops, you caught me” face, and happily hummed down the hall to her bedroom.
I was livid. In my head, I heard: “She doesn’t listen to anything I say! She doesn’t respect me. She is a sneaky little liar. I’m never going to get her to follow directions. I’m going to have to constantly police the tv and other screens. Should I punish her? Maybe I need to punish her severely! Maybe I need to tell her she can’t watch the movie tonight for ‘Family Movie Night.’ But… that seems so harsh. But I need to make the punishment sting. I need to make her know that I’m serious about following rules. I need to make her listen to me!”
And it continued as I walked past her room and upstairs, glancing at that 7-year-old terrorist who was happily playing with toys: “I’m a terrible mother. How can I counsel people about their children when I can’t even control my own? Maybe this is because of the divorce…. Maybe I’ve ruined our relationship and she’s always going to hate me. If I can’t get control of her now, things are just going to get worse and worse! Dammit! Ugh! I hate children!”
I yelled for her to come talk to me upstairs, and I tried my hardest to explain to her my concerns about watching too much tv, and how it made me feel when she didn’t do as I asked. She attempted to talk with me for a few minutes, but very quickly started shutting down, rubbing her eyes, and saying she was “too stressed” to talk about this. I demanded that she stay and talk with me, so she said that when something like this happened, I needed to “use my head,” instead of punishing her.
My 7-year-old is lecturing me?!?!
I decided to let her go instead of strangling her.
Thankfully, I called my partner who talked me off the ledge. His wonderful advice? To take a deep breath and stop catastrophizing the situation.
Do you ever do this? Do you create this depressing vision of how the future is going to go to hell because of some problem you’re having in the present moment?
Does my child NEVER listen to me? Of course that’s not true.
Does my child NEVER have any self-control? Not true.
Does my child NEVER respect me? Nope, not true again.
What’s true is that my 7-year-old loves to watch tv. What’s true is that she doesn’t have fantastic self-control in every situation (and let’s be honest… mine isn’t great). What’s also true is that she rarely gets in trouble at school, helps enthusiastically with preparing dinner, loves to make me proud, and is capable of finding other things to do when the tv is off.
Do I remember those things in the moment? Not usually. So I end up working myself into a tizzy over something that’s really not so bad. Is it frustrating? Yes. The end of the world? No.
But what about the tv, you ask? Am I going to punish her?
For the time being, we’re going to keep attempting to set limits around the tv. I even turn off the power strip if I want to make it sure it stays off for a while. If we catch her watching at times when she’s not supposed to, we’ll turn the tv off and redirect her towards something else. And I’m even toying with the idea of just removing all limits on the tv. Is it possible that she’s glued to it because she thinks tv time is scarce? Who knows. All I do know is that my kid is doing alright. She loves me. I love her. And we’ll get through this phase and move on (towards the next difficult phase, I’m sure).