Saturday, October 11, 2008

The key to parenting a toddler... to be more stubborn than your child.

Okay, that's a bit simplistic. But as Chickie grows and I see more of her strong will developing, I'm realizing that sticking to my guns is both vital and difficult.

It all started yesterday morning. I think that old Funky Fairy had paid Chickie a visit overnight, because she was grumpy and emotional. So when I asked her to clean up newspaper that she'd strewn across the dining room floor, she was determined not to do it.

Actually, she was willing to obey, but only if I helped her. I do often help her clean up, but I think it's also important for her to learn to do simple chores by herself. I was busy doing other things, like sweeping up a glass bowl I'd shattered, and I told her the newspaper was her job.

And thus the first shot of World War III was fired.

When Chickie repeatedly refused to pick up the paper, I told her she needed to go into her room with the door closed. That's usually akin to torture for her, but yesterday she actually wanted to be there. After a couple of minutes of non-punishment, I gave her another chance to clean up the paper.

"I don't want to! Mommy, help me!"

Next she was sentenced to her time out chair (her high chair.) I told her she'd need to stay there until she was ready to clean up the paper.

Over an hour later, she finally got down, crying, and began to angrily throw newspaper sections onto the table. She took a furious bite out of one section. Occasionally she stopped to cry and scream, but by the time she finished her task, she'd calmed down. I gave her a big hug, a tuna fish sandwich, and a nap.

That hour and fifteen minutes or so, with her in the high chair, really tested both of our limits. There was a whole lot of screaming and crying on her part, and a whole lot of calm resolve on mine. I give God credit for me not losing my temper, as that's something I've been praying will be changed in me.

At times I was choked up, hating to see her so miserable but knowing she needed to learn this lesson. At other times I was choking down laughter; an overly dramatic little girl can be very entertaining. About three quarters of the way through her imprisonment, I smelled something.

"Chickie, did you poop?"

"No," she replied. Then, overcome with emotion, the truth came out as a crying wail. "I TOOOTED (sob, sob, sob)!"

As I wondered if she'd be in that chair all day, I imagined that this conflict was a crossroads. If I stayed strong, she'd develop into a productive member of society, respecting authority and law. If I caved, she'd soon be dealing drugs to her playgroup buddies and searching the Internet for undetectable arson techniques.

I knew it wasn't quite that dramatic, but I also knew that as hard as it can be on both of us, it is vital for this sweet child to learn to obey her parents' reasonable instructions.

When all was said and done, the competitive, stubborn part of me rejoiced that I'd "won." But later in the day, I asked her to put up her toys, and she did it, without arguing or complaining. And I knew the truth.

Chickie may not have gotten her way yesterday morning. But when she cleaned up that newspaper by herself, she won.


Anonymous said...

So true. So wise. You will reap the benefits, and so will she, of these so, so wise battles you are fighting now. Good job, Mommy.

I love the picture of her sobbing little self saying, "I tooted!" That would have been one of the times I would have had trouble not laughing.

Unknown said...

A certain grandparent read this and blinked back tears. It's not that long ago that Chickie's mom was learning the same lessons.

beckiwithani said...

I bet she would've pooped if she could've pushed some out! Anything to get out of that chair!

Good to you for sticking to your guns. Take it from someone who deals with 42 seventh-graders and 16 tenth-graders every weekday: by that age, you can tell whose parents have been willing to stick out the screaming and teach some tough lessons, and whose haven't. By the age of 12 or 15, it is much, much harder to learn those lessons. And the anger that sometimes comes from undisciplined older kids when confronted with a stern voice of authority is, unfortunately, not funny. It is sometimes even frightening, as you realize how much baggage they have in them, and how incredibly difficult it is to try and help them get rid of it.

I always try to remember to thank my students' parents who are willing to stand up to their kids, to support the teachers, to not tolerate disrespect. You'll get thanked someday, too!

C. Beth said...

Sandra--Thank you so much! It's nice to hear someone who's "been there" and thinks I'm doing something right....

Dad--Aww, your comment made me blink back tears too!

Becki--I hope you're right and that I do get thanked someday. When you have a child who is somewhat strong-willed, it definitely leads to doubting your parenting ability. I'm starting to see the good results, though; I hope that continues s she grows.

Cathy said...

We, of course, had issues with you, but to be fair, God didn't give you a stong-willed child to "pay you back" - all we had to do was look wrong at you and you obeyed! But to put a very positive lean to it - she (Chickie) definitely has what it takes to be a STRONG leader some day! And you're doing great with her! Love, mom

Angela said...

You are my hero! Over an hour in the high chair? I'm not sure I could have lasted that long! I'm very impressed. Paige is the same way lately. The more difficult she gets the more I question whether or not I can handle a 2nd one.

C. Beth said...

Thanks, Mom! I think maybe Ana is the payback for Jason.... I get the feeling he was a lot more strong-willed than I was. And he's definitely a leader now! :)

Angie--Well, there were some breaks. At least twice she got out supposedly to clean up the paper, but then when she didn't follow through she was put back in. And once I changed her diaper, too. I figured if she was possibly going to be there all day long, I did still need to be willing to attend to her basic needs...didn't want to create our own little Abu Ghraib.

Becky said...

Maybe it's the full moon tomorrow, because we had one of those weekends at our house, too.

Good for you for sticking to your guns! Listening to over an hour of screaming is a huge drain on a mom's patience reserves. I also would have had a hard time not with the "I TOOOTED" comment. I laughed just reading about it.

C. Beth said...

Becky--Oh, yeah, the "I TOOOTED" definitely made me laugh but I think I managed to keep from doing it out loud. SO funny.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it funny howthey can make us feel almost schizophrenic with the emotional roller coaster they send us on? One minute we are cherishing their sweetness and they are being sooo adorable. The next . . . yeah, free to good home. Good for you for sticking with it and not losing your cool.