For the past couple months, we have been dealing with a very troubling attitude from Z. He wants to be in control and every attempt we make to show him he's not, he shows us how much he doesn't like it with all the ire and contempt you'd expect from a strong-willed 3-year-old boy...plus some.
I should've known there would be issues of control from the countless nights I had to spend bouncing up and down on the exercise ball , holding Z tight to my chest as he struggled to show me he was not going to sleep. Then we hit this honeymoon phase when he was about 10 months to 15 months where he would comply with just about every request I made...don't touch that, hands off...he immediately did what I said. We were amazed that we had such a little obedient child. I think he was already starting to pull the wool over our eyes.
When he walked at 7.5 months, that should've been a clue that this child was fiercely independent and it would be our biggest struggle and probably one of his greatest traits...once he learns to use it the right way.
Lately anything we ask him to do is met with a bold "NO!" or "I DON'T want to, I WON'T." This is usually followed by crossing his arms, lower lip protruding and devil stares. Time outs and spankings and removing a few prized possessions is occassionally a temporary fix, but I knew we were coming to a crossroads where I would have to take a stand and show him he is NOT the boss...although he likes to tell me he is, literally.
So last night, we got home from preschool about 4:15 and I gave him a choice of watching Mickey Mouse or helping me fix supper. He first chose the TV but very quickly decided he'd rather help cook. He was a great helper and so proud of himself for the things he was able to do.
When supper was ready, I made his plate up for him after he chose what fruit he wanted...I scooped out some spaghetti, cut up the peaches and plced it on the table. He climbed up there and took one look at the plate and the switch flipped. He said he didn't want to eat and promptly pushed his plate across the table and threw his fork on the floor. I told him fine, and took the plate away...then he of course said no, he did want it. Well I wasn't going to have this argument and told him his behaviour was unacceptable, then told him he could either sit at the table and eat supper with us or he could sit on the stairs in time out...and that if he could not decide I would decide for him - and my choice was time out.
In short, he couldn't decide so I started to carry him to time out and he began kicking and screaming, daddy popped his bottom and took him to the stairs. Once there, he proceeded to throw the timeout timer across the kitchen and start hitting and kicking the walls. I went to talk to him about it and he took a swing at me, so then I picked him up and popped his bottom. This all just seemed to infuriate him more and so then daddy took him to his room. More banging, throwing things so right then I made a decision...it was time for the clean sweep.
I walked in his room and began to gather up his toys. At first, he stopped crying because he was curious as to what I was doing and asked about it. I told him he no longer deserved his toys and he would have to earn them back. As he watched me remove toy after toy, stuffed animal after stuffed animal and even the big fluffy rocking horse, he held onto a stuffed "boinger" ball, layed on top of it and began to sob huge crocodile tears. I almost lost it, but I knew I had to stay firm and finish the job. Once every toy was in a closet in our bedroom, I went back in and Z told me I'd forgotten some things and HE carried them to the closet...not sure what that was about because then he ran sobbing back to his room, slammed the door and started asking for his toys back.
By this time, I was sitting on my bed crying, thinking I was damaging him for life and that I would never get this mother stuff. I started second guessing myself, like all mothers do I suspect. It's hard to discipline your children....really hard.
The only "fun" item left in Z's room was his railroad crossing bank....and when he didn't stop banging the door, I went in and took that too. I told him when he was ready to talk about his actions, he could come out of his room, but he'd need to tell mommy and daddy he was sorry.
Little sucker stayed in there for about 20 mins....he missed gymnastics. Once he finally emerged he still had a little fire in him, you could tell it was just waiting to be stoked, but he did finally apologize and for that we allowed him to have one item of his choice back. What did he pick? The silly little Frische's Big Boy figurine bank. I thought he'd learned something, but I guess it takes longer than that.
I had to go to a parent/teacher meeting at his school, so I left at 6...I'm told about 10 mins later he lost the big boy bank again....sigh. Threw a wall-eyed fit in the bathtub splashing and kicking water everywhere and just had a miserable evening.
At the meeting, which once again God was showing me he's not leaving me hanging...it was providence that I even had this meeting on the night of the clean sweep, I told his teacher of our struggles the past few months and she was shocked. She said she never saw any of that behaviour at school...that he was very well behaved and cooperative. Even though I was confused by the stark difference, she wasn't. She said if he did it in both situations, we'd have something to worry about, but since we knew he could control his emotions and actions the majority of the day it was probably a case of releasing his feelings at home.
She reassured me I was doing the right thing by giving him choices and that is exactly what they do at school. She urged me to back off the spanking because it clearly was just escalating the problem and that more creative discipline was probably going to be more effective. When I told her the story of our supper explosion, she smiled and said she could give some insight...that in a Montessori school, meal time is family style. They don't fix the children's plates. Instead, they place bowls of food on a small table and children make their own choices about what they will eat and they serve themselves, then they clear the table and wash their own dishes. So she suggested we let Z try to serve himself...that maybe he has a picture of what his plate will look like in his head and then we serve it and it's "all wrong" which causes some frustration and he doesn't know how to fix it.
Just talked to David and apparently Z earned back his big railroad crossing bank this morning for being so cooperative....maybe there's something to this...only time will tell. I guess that will require patience...oh crap!