The “Fed-Up Fours” Edition

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Jamilah Lemieux: This episode contains explicit language. Welcome to Mom and Dad or Fighting Slate’s parenting podcast for Monday, June 13th. The Fuck You Force Edition. I’m Jamilah Lemieux, a writer, contributor to Slate’s Care and Feeding Parenting Column, and mother to Naima, who is nine. And we live in Los Angeles.

Elizabeth Newcamp: I’m Elizabeth Newcamp. I write the Homeschool and family travel blog that stretches I’m the mom to three littles. Henry, who’s ten, Oliver who’s eight, and Teddy who’s five. We live in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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Zak Rosen: I’m Zak Rosen. I make the Best Advice Show podcast. I live in Detroit with my family. My daughter Noah is four and my son Amy is one.

Jamilah Lemieux: Today on this show, we are tackling a letter from a dad who is fed up with his four year old. In a moment of particular frustration, he spanked her and now doesn’t know what to do. Don’t you worry, Dad. We’re here to take over. But before we get into that, we’re going to dive into our mailbag. You all had so many great recommendations to share with us this week, and we’re going to share a few of them with you. One of you writes.

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Speaker 4: Dear mom and dad, a while back, you all were talking about transitioning from little kid music to something a little bit less abrasive to grown up years. I wanted to put in a plug for a Well-curated jazz playlist. I found a few on Spotify that feature fun jazz classics that are catchy and appropriate for the littles. Not heady jazz for sure, but at least it’s not 900 versions of the wheels on the bus. Or is that just the story of my life?

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Jamilah Lemieux: Someone else writes.

Speaker 4: Hi, everyone. I’ve been meaning to write for a while to recommend my daughter’s absolute favorite podcast to you all. It’s called Stoop Kids, and we just attended a live event with the host, Melissa Victor. And it was just so fun and great. And I feel like you, your listeners would love the show.

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Jamilah Lemieux: Thank you so much for the suggestions. Have you all had a stoop, kids?

Zak Rosen: No.

Elizabeth Newcamp: I had not. No. Jeff is a big fan of jazz and I hadn’t really thought of introducing the kid. Like, sometimes it’ll be on when he’s cooking and the kids listen, but like looking for a really good playlist of that just to expand our musical repertoire.

Jamilah Lemieux: Naima goes to sleep to jazz. Oh, yeah, it’s been great. And we always start with the song Naima by John Coltrane, and she’s usually out before it goes off. But I put on the This is John Coltrane playlist on Spotify and skip the simple stuff and it’s great.

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Elizabeth Newcamp: All right. I’m going to give it a try. Amazing jazz night tonight.

Jamilah Lemieux: Well, yeah. It is great for sleep. Thank you. Letter writers, readers, listeners. Whether you have any thoughts, suggestions or recommendations of your own fellow listeners, let us know. Email us at Mama Daddy Slate.com. Or you can send us over a voice memo and you just might hear it on the show. Let’s take a quick break. And when we come back, we’ll get into today’s listener question.

Jamilah Lemieux: All right, we’re back. Shall we hear this listener question? Why not? It’s being read, as always, by the fabulous Sasha Leonhard.

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Speaker 4: Dear mom and dad, I swatted my daughters. But tonight she’s four and I’ve never used any form of corporal punishment before. I was cooking and she came in from playing outside and wanted to dip her finger in the food. I said, No, your fingers are dirty. And she did it anyway. I let that go, and I told her to wash your hands. Instead, she slowly started to dip again, looking at me as she did it. I pushed her hand away and said, No one wants your dirty hands in their food. Now please stop. And again, she slowly dipped it in. So I swatted her, but not hard. Nothing bruise worthy. But the first time I’ve ever done it.

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Speaker 4: We’re having real problems getting our daughter to listen. Sometimes it’s not that consequential, but sometimes it’s holding hands in a busy parking lot or not dragging her 11 month old brother around by his feet or just about anything. And then you’ve already happened. And I’ve been breaking down in tears, thinking about what would happen if her daycare became the next school shooting, especially if she doesn’t listen to her teachers.

Speaker 4: I keep coming back to Elizabeth’s fuck you fours, and this feels exactly like that. She has to push every boundary test, every request or demand we give her. And generally, she’s a sweet girl that loves her family and is great at sharing and making friends. And I love her so much, which is probably why I feel so guilty and this hurts so bad. And of course, this happened while my mother in law was visiting. So I’m sure I’m being completely judged as an abusive, terrible father. I don’t plan to ever do this again, but I also didn’t plan this. I just don’t know how to get her to listen, especially when things are important. More important than dipping a finger in pizza dough. I don’t know if I’m a terrible father or if my baby girl will hold on to this moment forever. I feel guilty and hurt and afraid that she will choose not to listen at the wrong time. Help sincerely fed up with the fuck you fours.

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Elizabeth Newcamp: You know this letter I it’s so speaks to my heart because we’ve all been there. Like we’ve all lost our cool. Whether you yelled or spanked or done something that you wish you hadn’t done. So I think the first thing is apologize, apologize, apologize. The problem with spanking and yelling and all of that is that it it loses the trust of your child. And what you’re trying to do here is build up the trust and be the adult when the child is being the child.

Elizabeth Newcamp: Right. And if you in turn, act like a four year old and hit them or scream at them, you are not being the adult. So I think the first thing that this town needs to do is just apologize for the spanking and explain specifically why it was wrong. You know, I lost my temper and we should not hit when we lose our temper, no matter how much. I think we have that tendency to say, but I’m worried that you won’t listen in this specific event, because all you have is they can’t hear that.

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Elizabeth Newcamp: So I think first, repair the damage, which is just I should never hit. We should never hit. I need to set a better example for you on how to be a good listener. I think also you are you are putting so much weight on the idea that this. Four year old won’t listen. In a moment of safety and in general, I think kids do listen. Like I just think of myself of how many times in parking lot behavior I ask the kids to do certain things. They mostly listen.

Elizabeth Newcamp: But the dozen times or so that I have, like there has been a car coming and I have used that, that tone of voice that can only be used in danger. Or the couple of times where I’ve given instructions like quickly and quietly, they have always listened. So I think you just have to count on that relationship being that moment and not think that, you know, your child listening in a classroom or in a dangerous situation isn’t all the same as listening about the pizza dough because you’re just putting too much pressure on yourself.

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Zak Rosen: Yeah, I just want to reiterate that is the power of modeling. The apology is just so huge and you’re going to gain so much trust from your kid by being that fallible parent and and just coming forward and saying, I’m sorry. And I think they’re also going to learn to apologize through that. And accepting an apology is also a huge part of it. Once they see that you are truly grateful for their acceptance of the apology, I think that’s a big thing, too. That’s the first thing. And I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that your kid was being kind of extra saucy while the grandparent was visiting. These kids know what they’re doing, even if they don’t consciously. So, yes, I wrote the apology and really kind of try to feel it because you’re obviously you feel terrible and just letting your daughter know that is great.

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Jamilah Lemieux: I cosigned 333 way, co-sign on the power of the apology and how important it is to like just normalizing, apologizing to your children on a regular basis and not making it a conditional apology. I’m sorry, but, you know, separating what you’ve done wrong from what they’ve done wrong so they can take in both pieces of information. As far as your child’s behavior goes, believe it or not, the words that you are saying are going to have an impact. It’s just not going to be an immediate impact.

Jamilah Lemieux: So over time, this does get better. You know, like they will get better at impulse control. And listening to your instructions and understanding that we can’t run in a parking lot, we don’t dip dirty fingers in the pizza dough. It improves, you know, it just takes time. And it’s going to take a lot of patience from you, unfortunately, which can be difficult to summon at times. But, you know, focus on talking to your child about why the thing that they’re doing is wrong, you know, and helping them to understand that. So it’s not just a matter of I’m nagging you for nagging sake or I’m denying you this great pleasure, you know, that you’d like to have just because that’s what grownups do to kids. We deny them pleasure. It’s like, no, you have to understand that the piece is not going to.

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Elizabeth Newcamp: Taste as good.

Jamilah Lemieux: And we could maybe get some germs and get somebody sick with your nasty little fingers in there. You know that that is just part of what you have to know. That doesn’t mean that they’ll never do something like that again. Also, how far away from me? You know, I’m surprised that before I got to a swat, you didn’t just grab those little fingers, because that’s something that you can do to that. It is physical, but it’s not hitting. You know, it’s like, stop the activity, take your hand and put your hand over their hand and stop them. You know, we don’t do this.

Elizabeth Newcamp: We’re just that should have been the end of the pizza making like four year olds do really well with very clear boundaries. So we were doing this fun thing together. You didn’t listen to me. We can’t do the same thing together anymore. I find the whole value of calling it the fuck you force is that I’m like, giving myself that verbal and sort of just reminder that the person I’m dealing with is not an adult and is acting very much as four year olds act. And that my expectation that they act any other way is out of place, right? So like I think I say like, wow, that’s the fuck you for is not to dismiss the behavior in that this is something we like. We’re never going to work on this. But to sort of say like it’s really normal for your four year old to push these boundaries. And so when I see it just saying like, oh, okay, I gave them a little bit too much leeway in this in this situation.

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Elizabeth Newcamp: So, you know, possible solutions is the next time we make pizza, they have their own pizza dough ball. And I can say things like, if you stick your dirty hands in there, you’re the one that’s eating that, you know? Or I just say, you know, we can’t we can’t make pizza together because you can’t listen. And that’s a safety issue because that’s the other thing, I think with kids with spanking or taking away, especially these little ones, electronics or something like that, the consequences too far removed from from what happened for them to really understand which is part of how they get this idea that like will you just. Take my joy.

Elizabeth Newcamp: You know, like parents are the people that do this as opposed to saying, like, do you realize that? No, the reason I have to do this is X and because you’re not listening. This is the natural the natural consequence. I think, too, though, again, the apology. But it’s temporary stimulus. Totally right. They do learn they do get to be better listeners, not perfect listeners, but better listeners. And sometimes also as a parent, we have to be okay with I’m not a perfect parent. I made a mistake. I apologized. And we’re all going to move forward from this moment because there’s just so many moments where you’re human, too, and your emotions get you know, you’re thinking all this stuff in your head and it just gets completely overwhelming. So also allowing yourself the ability to move forward and do better next time.

Zak Rosen: And one last thing, as we kind of explain to our kids why they can’t do the thing, just demonstrating, why it’s not an arbitrary rule or setting forth. You could like later on show your daughter a video about like, you know, an age appropriate video about like how bacteria is formed or how germs spread just to really, like, make it, you know, turn it into a learning moment. And just, again, just to be like, see, it’s not like I want you to have fun, but I don’t want, you know, bacteria to spread in our food. And here’s a cool video about it. Yeah.

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Elizabeth Newcamp: Order a couple of those petri dishes, the air plates off of Amazon and let your kids push their fingers into them. If you haven’t done that at home, you can get a plate. It’s totally disgusting, but it’ll get your kids to wash their hands.

Jamilah Lemieux: I well fed up. We hope that this helps. And everyone else. Do you have someone you want us to yell at? Some problem you want us to solve? Email us that mom and dad is Slate.com.

Jamilah Lemieux: And with that, it’s time for some recommendations. Zach, what do you have for us this week?

Zak Rosen: Many mornings of the week, no. We’ll have a toaster waffle. And I’m usually the one controlling the syrup. The maple syrup. I’m the one who pours it because, you know, my thinking is like, oh, she pours it still just pour the whole thing. And then today I don’t even know why. I decided today was the day, but I was like, No, you can pour it today. And just I just said, Don’t pour too much. And sure enough, she poured a moderate amount of syrup and I felt like I was giving my daughter power today in a way, she hasn’t had it before. And I realized that I don’t need to try to control everything. This girl has learned some things she doesn’t. She doesn’t want to waffle swimming in syrup. I was so proud, and it just seemed like a metaphor for something about, you know, me not needing to hold on so tight and her being able to make decisions for herself. So I recommend letting your kids to, depending on their age, determine how much syrup they should put on their breakfast.

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Elizabeth Newcamp: I love it. We want to hear your syrup story if I have like a very homeschooling recommendation. But this time of year, I, I feel like people ask me a lot like what we want to keep up with math or we want to keep up with this. What can we do? And we for the summer have been using Beast Academy math, which is this really cool math program that uses comic books. And so the guide book is sort of this full color comic book, and it focuses more on that executive functioning.

Elizabeth Newcamp: That works really well with my middle child who has ADHD and is just fine tuning some of those skills that he has. Like he’s good at addition and subtraction, but has a really hard time when it’s applied and word problems and kind of seeing how all that goes together. And this is a really nice way to focus that and I’m really enjoying it because he likes to sit down and read it. There is a practice book, but I’m really liking there’s a puzzle book that kind of has brainteasers and is a bit more fun than kind of the practice book. I think they’re real gold here are these what they called Guide Book, which is a full color comic book about math?

Jamilah Lemieux: Well, I have a book recommendation. It’s called America Goddam Violence, Black Women and the Struggle for Justice is by Trevor Lenzi. It came out in April and it’s just an incredible comprehensive look at how racism and misogyny and capitalism impacts black women and girls.

Jamilah Lemieux: You know, I think that in general, broad conversations about racism often times focus on the experiences of men and boys. There’s, you know, so much talk about black life centers around police violence, which is something that we identify primarily with men and boys. And there’s just so much that black women and girls are up against in the world around us. And I think this book just as a really great job at analyzing those sources of violence and offering a way forward. So really brilliant book I posted on my Instagram the other day. I can’t stop telling people about it. America Goddam by the Lovely Trevor Lindsey Great.

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Zak Rosen: I feel like your piece on Chappelle, Dave Chappelle’s Big Lie from Vanity Fair. Is kind of adjacent reading to this.

Jamilah Lemieux: Thank you. I would. Yes, thank you. I would say so. I appreciate that. And with that, that is our show. But don’t you worry, we’ll be back in your feeds on Thursday. So make sure you subscribe and don’t miss it. And if you rely on this show for parenting advice, consider signing up for Slate Plus. It’s the best way to support the show. Members will never hear another ad on this or any other Slate podcast. All you have to do is sign up at Slate.com, slash mom and dad, but again at Slate.com, slash mom and dad. Bless this episode of Mom and Dad or Fighting is produced by Jasmine Ellis, Kristie Taiwo-Makanjuola and Rosemary Belson. Olivia Newcamp and Zak Rosen.

Elizabeth Newcamp: All of you.

Jamilah Lemieux: Thank you for listening.