I'm not an easy-going mum, and I know it. There are many things that I am strict about with my kids because I don't want them to grow up being unappreciative and self-centred.
To be fair, there are some things that I am easy with, and I let the kids have their way. However, there are other things that are non-negotiable and when the kids cross these lines, they have to face the consequences.
One of the things that I've talked about with my almost-seven-year-old, Phoebie, is that I have zero tolerance for bad attitude. I will not tolerate it if she rolls her eyes at me or any of her elders, or if she talks in a rude manner. These things have happened before and she knows what the consequences are.
So just the other night, things started to snowball and eventually erupted.
Phoebie was told to hurry up and get dressed after her shower, and as I walked past her room, I could see her rolling her eyes as I finished my sentence. She probably thought I didn't see it, so i kept quiet and went to help my son with his bedtime routine.
We had a little time before bed, so I told Phoebie that we would go through her chinese spelling words one more time. I had told her about this before she headed to the shower, so it wasn't something unexpected.
Just as we got to the fourth or fifth word (out of 10 words and phrases), she started to get distracted and wanted to ask me something.
"Mama, did you know that this thing…" Phoebie started.
"Let's finish the chinese spelling first. We can talk about this after we are done," I told her.
She turned back to her paper and then it happened. She rolled her eyes, and I caught her doing it.
"Did you just roll your eyes at me? Well, if you don't want me to go through the Chinese spelling with you, it's fine. I have a lot of other things to do," I said. With that, I put the list down, got up and left the room where Phoebie was.
Phoebie must have been shocked that I saw what she did and my reaction probably caught her by surprise. She stayed seated for a long time, quiet.
"This is not the only time you rolled your eyes at me. When I asked you to quickly get dressed, you rolled your eyes at me too. You think I didn't see that?" I said, fuming.
Phoebie broke down. She sat at the same spot, crying. While she did that, I continued with whatever else I had to do for the night.
HusBenKoh came home in the midst of the crying and shouting. I told him to leave her where she was and that she could decide what she wanted to do, since she wasn't happy when I gave her instructions.
We could have called it a night early, but because of what happened, everything dragged on.
Phoebie didn't apologise for her bad attitude and only came to me when I mentioned how she now has to be told to apologise instead of doing it on her own. I told her this was not something I expected from her because from a younger age, she knew when she had to apologise.
By the time I finally sat down to talk to her again, it was way past her bedtime. I knew she wouldn't have enough sleep but the pep talk was necessary.
"Do you know what makes me so mad?" I asked Phoebie.
"I rolled my eyes at you," Phoebie answered between sobs.
"Yes! You rolled your eyes at me when I asked you to quickly get dressed and you rolled your eyes at me when I asked you to focus on what you had to finish first. Why do you think I asked you to get dressed quickly?" I said.
"It is so that you won't catch a cold. You just came out of the shower, and you needed to wear your clothes. If I didn't care, you can take your own sweet time to get dressed, but if you catch a cold, YOU are the one who will suffer."
"I can also choose not to go through your chinese spelling with you. After all, whether you do well or do badly, the results are yours and not mine. You are the one going to school, sitting for the test, not me. But my job as your mummy is to help you to prepare. I told you many times before, I don't even need you to get full marks, I just need you to try your best."
"If you don't like me reminding you to get dressed and to help you with your revision, I can leave you alone. That's not a problem to me. In fact, better yet, you can take the bus to school and back home by yourself."
"It's fine that you don't thank me every day for the things that I do for you, but I will not tolerate it when you show me bad attitude and roll your eyes at me," I said, all in one breath.
Phoebie started to apologise again, tears rolling down her cheeks. She knew how mad I was, and I knew how regretful she felt.
We were both exhausted.
"Do you think I like being angry? Being angry is very tiring," I told her.
"Do you enjoy crying?" I asked her.
She shook her head.
"Crying is tiring too, isn't it?" I said. "I remember feeling so tired after crying a lot when I was your age."
"What's going to happen from now onwards?" I asked her.
"I will listen to instructions, and I will stop showing bad attitude and I will stop rolling my eyes at you when you ask me to do something. I'm sorry, Mama. I need a hug from you," Phoebie said, all worn out from what happened.
I gestured her to lie on my lap, and within two minutes, she was fast asleep. I gently put her on her bed, and left her room. Mentally and physically drained, I told HusBenKoh that I was off to bed.
I don't like getting angry at my kids, and I find the whole process of doing pep talks extremely exhausting. Still, my stand is clear.
Zero tolerance for bad attitude.