We all know how positive parenting works: Your 6-year-old is screaming that you’re a bad mama, that you always ruin his fun, and that, no, he will not clean up his toys because his brothers made the mess and he hates you.
Positive parenting tells us to get down on his level, make a frowny face, and say, “Wow. You sound really mad. Can you tell me why you’re so mad, mad, mad?” Or something else, like, “You sound like you have big feelings. Can you tell me what those big feelings are, and how I can help you with them?” Or finally, “Oh wow, you sound like you need a hug!” This all when your kid is screaming in your face.
There’s just one problem with positive parenting: You totally want to kill them.
Positive parenting asks you to keep a mildly concerned frowny face when you want to make a face like Medusa, head snakes and all. Because this is war, baby. Some little bratbox with a bad attitude just called you a bad mama. You spent all day doing laundry, mopping floors, reading Dr. Seuss, and delicately picking snot out of someone’s hair so it wouldn’t pull and make them scream. You did this all on a mixture of lukewarm coffee and leftover Eggo waffle scraps. If you aren’t a good mama, what the fuck else are you supposed to do, accomplish this all while whistling “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from Mary fucking Poppins? No, you are not a bad mama. Button pushed. Initiate litany of chores you’ve done today.
But no, you’re a positive parent. You didn’t do these things so you could make your child feel guilty about them afterward. You don’t want them to think they owe you anything. You are unselfish. You do these things of your own free will. You are the Madonna, the Mary-not-the-cone-bra one.
Then he says you ruin his fun. His fun? His fun? You spent all day doing said housework, plus organizing arts and crafts time, complete with scissors and glue, both of which require strict supervision, taking you away from your housework. Then when they were finished you broke out the glitter. The glitter. Craft herpes, the thing that never leaves the house. They will go to college, and you will find glitter under the kitchen table. But you glitter anyway, because you love them. And after all that happy shit, you read them three books then play a game of checkers you let them win.
But you do not rant this at them. You do not remind them of all the fun they had thanks to you (and a trip to the playground). Ranting is bad and wrong, and they will not hear you anyway, the experts say. Instead you take deep breaths. You say, “Honey, why don’t you take some deep breaths with me?” And when they scream that they don’t want to take deep breaths, you take them alone and refrain from wringing their skinny little neck.
And still they stomp their feet and scream that they will not clean up their toys. Bitch, I brought those toys into this house, and I can take them out. There are too many of them anyway. You would know. You spend approximately half your waking life picking up toys, sorting toys, leaning over to get toys, and digging out toys from behind the couch. All you’re asking is for them to pick up some freaking Hot Wheels. You pick up more than that from the living room floor in 10 seconds. If you weren’t so damn tired of leaning over to pick up shit, you’d do this yourself and forgo the tantrum.
But you do not take their toys. They are your child’s possessions and hence sacrosanct — no more can you Goodwill them than they can Goodwill your jewelry. You can’t take the toys away. You can’t bitch about how often you pick them up. Instead, you put on a concerned frowny face and say, “I see you don’t want to pick up your toys. I don’t like to pick up either. Let’s see who can pick up the most the fastest! Ready, set, go!” Or you say, “Let’s sing the cleanup song together.” Then you sing some made-up shit to the tune of “Frère Jacques.” Either way, you’re on your knees picking up. Damn it.
Positive parenting works. It helps validate children as real people. It respects their feelings. It says they are as important as adults. But for every positive parenting moment, there’s an inner monologue that has more to do with disowning and driving to Vegas than love and marshmallows. Unless you’re a Zen Buddhist, it’s almost impossible to weather a tantrum without wanting to smack your child. The sign of a loving, positive parent? You don’t. But that doesn’t mean you don’t think about it.