It’s amazing how this perfect little being comes into your life. Ten finger. Ten toes. Eyes that steal your heart and lips that breath the most alluring sweetness. They’re enchanting. We live for them. Yet they try every bit of patience we have within us.
Sometimes it’s direct defiance. In the past it’s been easy to say that Selah and Jacob are inherently good on their own. It’s humbling when people assume that our parenting has formed these perfect little people. Well, they’re still young to be sure. Plenty of time to shock us. And, they just are well behaved for the most part. Yet still. They have their ways of testing the limits.
At 19 months, Lucas pushes me more than Selah or Jacob ever have. He’s the one who’s going to test all of my parenting. Now, I’ve never read any books on how to ‘deal with a strong willed child’. I don’t really feel like it’s prudent to label my child as such. Not that I judge anyone else for it. I just don’t like defining anyone with such few words. Are we not all, as individuals, much more complex? Trust me, I think about it. I just try to avoid it.
I have my own way of discipline. No books really. My instinct has always told me to diffuse the anger. To hold both of the child’s hands gently yet firmly to calm them. To make and hold eye contact, and using a quiet low voice, say things like “This is not ok. Acting like this is not appropriate because….Etc. It is my job to teach you to be respectful. I cannot let you act like this. If you want to tell me something then be calm and talk in a normal voice.” Now I tend to just keep talking in a soothing voice until the child calms. I’ll often even ‘help them breath’ by telling them to copy me and breathing deeply while maintaining eye contact. It seems to work. I will notsay things like, “It’s ok. Poor baby…” I do NOT offer bribes. I do make it clear that if they don’t choose to calm they will have to have some time in bed or time out to calm on their own. With most children it works wonders as they begin to listen and calm down. And yet what they are hearing is not affirming their actions, and it’s not escalating into a full blown power struggle.
Last Tuesday I’m convinced that I heard no less than 3 hours total of intermittent screaming of “No! No! No!”. Sometimes I wonder how he even breaths! Lucas gets completely hysterical, major meltdown. Eyes bulging out and veins popping in his little head. His cheeks flushed, his tiny fists clenched while snot and tears mingle together to cover every bit of his face turning him into a child I’m not quite sure I know. And YES, my 19 month old was being defiant. He was screaming no because he was not getting what he wanted. Namely, to open the oven, the knife drawer and the refrigerator. He was not injured, hungry or in a dirty diaper. He was PISSED.
After several minutes or talking to him, he went to the crib to be alone. Several times. We went around in circles in this disastrous waltz of defiance. It burned up all my reserves or patience and by the end of the day I was ready to stick my head in the oven. When time came to buckle them all in to the car, I breathed a sigh of relief. Only 5 minutes and Travis would be in the car. I wouldn’t be so out numbered. And can you believe how brilliant a toddler can be? I had no more than backed the car out of the drive way to go down the hill and he starts squealing “Popi! Choo Choo!” Now, if that child is smart enough to know that the only reason we EVER turn that way out of the driveway is to go pick up his father… certainly he understands enough when I’m talking to him.
Of course, everything was joy and roses once Popi was in the car. I wonder if he believes me when I say we had a tough day because some alter-egos in the form of angels take over their bodies when we get him in the evening. I can’t blame him for wondering what what I mean by a “tough day”. This night was no exception.
So you can imagine why I felt the slightest bit justified the next morning when Popi made the acquaintance of ‘Lucas the Terrible’ over breakfast, and was compelled to put him in his crib after a long bout of ‘No’s’. After about 5 minutes in the crib the screaming from the bedroom stopped, so we headed in for the ‘follow up’ to talk to him. Travis went in first and said “Can I hold you now?”. That little stinker yelled “no!” and ran to the other side of the crib where I stood. So, I offered my arms and got the same response. Then he actually ran to the back of the crib against the wall. Literally he turned his back to us, trying to peek out of the corner of his eye to see what our response would be. I’m not sure what he was imagining. We simply said. “Lucas, it’s your choice to have a bad attitude, but that means you’re choosing to stay alone.” And there we left him for a few more minutes… and that’s how that day went, too.
So now afew days later, the two step with the ‘tude has slowed to a waltz. I haven’t seen “The Terrible” rear it’s head in a few days. It’s interesting how they can all be so different, yet they all know how to find that last bit of patience you have and stomp all over it…best way to teach us to have more, right?