Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Going Rogue - Parenting Edition

Posted by Mandy at 6:48 AM
Sarah Palin did it politically... I'm doing it as a necessity to survive my current 3 year old.

My little Samuel is a force to be reckoned with. I don't know if I've gotten more exhausted lax with him, if I made a wrong turn somewhere at 2, if this is just his personality, or if this is God's twisted way of preparing me for dealing with foster kids. Whatever it is, I am determined to win this battle! It seems my usual parenting techniques may not be enough to Shock and Awe these behaviors out of the little man.

The main issue lately is screaming... for extended periods of time. Lots and lots of screaming. The secondary issue is his draw to torturing the people that share this house with him. Mainly the other two little people. He may choose to simply annoy the crap out of them by "almost" hitting them over and over again, or sometimes he's been known to walk up and give one of them a good wack in the knee cap for no apparent reason. (Thanks for the lessons in humanity Tanya Harding.)

So, I decided to tackle these issues once and for all. Not accepting "he's three" as an appropriate cause of his meanie-head-ness, I dug into my parenting tool-box and pulld out some new ideas. I have no idea if they'll really work, but it beats turning his little booty black and blue.

For solution number one I'd like to thank Kevin Leman. I went through his video series "Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours" MANY years ago, and remembered a seemingly INSANE piece of advice he gave. It was specific to your kids interrupting or crying and whining while you're on the phone. Dear God.. yes.. please help me. Never had one that insisted on making my phone conversations so miserable. It goes like this at our house lately:
 *phone rings* "Hello?" "Oh hey! How are you? Sure.. let me see if I have any boarding slots available for those dates.."

"Mommmmeee... mommmeeee.... I want a candy. Mommeeee.. can I have candy?"

*me giving him "the look" and shooing him away.*

"MOMMMEEE!!! I want some candy!!!"

*Let fit throwing begin

This started about a year ago. I know it's all my fault. A client would call, and the worst part of working from home would begin. A whining child in the background. Utter humiliation begins.. now. I discovered that if I gave Sam SOMETHING he'd be quiet long enough for me to complete a 4 minute conversation without having to apologize over and over again for my child's misbehavior. So, enter the Dum Dum sucker. We happened to have a pack when this started... so I taught him if you cry when the phone rings, I give you candy. THAT. WAS. STUPID.

Now I'm trying hard to un-do what I did to myself. Enter Dr. Leman's insane advice.

"If your child insists on interrupting and whining every time you are on the phone, and you know you're not on the phone too much, put them out the front door." SAY WHAT?! I'd never do something like that.. that's nutty!

Yeah well, funny how time changes you. I sooo did that the other day. Thankfully I was on the phone with a friend when he started in on a MAJOR whiney/tantrum tangent. I told her to please not judge me.. seriously... as I dealt with him. I told him in my Mrs. Brady voice, "Samuel, I'm on the phone and you need to be quiet. If you cannot be quiet, I will put you outside and lock the door so that I can hear." He raised an eyebrow to his mother's new found looney-toon state of mind and of course, had to try this one out. He nearly instantly screamed, "BUT I-WANT-CANDY!!!"

I felt like a total idiot, but I grabbed him up and walked him to the door, opened it, walked him out, shut the door, and locked it. Yes, I locked my 3 year old out on the front porch. I had to shake my head at myself.. "This is freaking crazy! What am I doing?! Kevin Leman is a lunatic!"

I purposely finished my conversation quickly so I could bring him back in to finish this amazing lesson in life. I opened the door and there he stood, tears streaming down his face.. still all red from anger. I grabbed his hand and walked him back inside and explained the entire scenario to him again. Basically "You scream, I'm on the phone, you go outside. End of story." He said several times, "You put me outside!" Umm.. yes.. I sure did. Now stop being a whiney butt all the time. (and no, I didn't tell him he was a whiney butt to his face.. I am absolutely a two-faced kind of mom.)

The next time he started in while I was on the phone, I gave him the warning (Supernanny would be so proud!) that he was about to get booted out the door again, and he quickly sucked that bottom lip in and got quiet.

"Holy crap.. that crazy stunt worked?!" Yep.. it did work. I've only had to put him outside once more since then.. he decided to test me on it I suppose. I even used this method the other day with my 6 year old just b/c he was being generally psychotic in the house. "I'm putting you outside if you keep doing that.. we don't act like that in the house." He thought I was a lunatic as well once it was over with.. but it worked.

I really thought that being put outside would be a REWARD to my kids. They love going outside! But, I guess being shoved out there against your will is a different experience than they long for.

As far as how I'll get him to stop inflicting general torture on everyone in the house... well.. that's a tough one. He mainly does this when he's angry, sleepy, or bored. He can be mad at me and take it out on Carter... this happens often. Mommy won't let me climb up the curtains so I'm going to stab you in the foot with my play kitchen fork.

I'm trying to keep my cool and my Martha Stewart tone when dealing with him,
 "Samuel, I know you're angry. I can tell because you keep trying to tear my eyes out of their sockets and claw your way to my femur bone... but that is unacceptable behavior. You're going to have to go back to time out.. again."

This doesn't seem to phase him much. I even turned a blind eye to my attachment parenting beliefs and gave him a smack on the rear the other day... my point was "See! That HURTS! Stop hitting everyone!" Okay.. so I lost it a bit but really hoped he'd see what he was doing. Nope... I knew that wouldn't work. Back to time outs.

I do remember my other two going through some seriously long phases like these, and I don't know if anything I did actually extinguished the behaviors, or if they outgrew them, or a combination of the two. It does give me hope, however, to know that they're no longer walking around big fat whiney heads, crying over everything and smacking me in defiance. There is a light at the end of the tunnel..

On a side note, Samuel is also one of the sweetest darn kids ever. He is MOSTLY a very loving little guy.. which is why his Jeckle and Hyde mood swings take me so off guard. I assumed you'd find more use and humor in my battles with Mr. Strong-Willed than my talking about what a perfect child I have. So, there you go.. for your entertainment.


Reagan on Tuesday, 29 June, 2010 said...

OMG I so needed this today! Funny but to the heart. I too am a "two-faced mom" :)

My daughter does the on the phone stuff often. Today I'm putting her outside if she does it (though in the back yard since our front door is by a somewhat busy street.


Whitney on Tuesday, 29 June, 2010 said...

Wow - I don't know how you moms do it. Kudos - and keep up the good work. I'm glad that trick worked. Hopefully you'll find other good techniques to deal with bad behavior.

Mandy on Tuesday, 29 June, 2010 said...

lol Whitney.. trust me.. we moms have no idea what we're doing most of the time. ;) We just hope for the best in the end!

Nina @ Momma Go Round on Tuesday, 29 June, 2010 said...

Ok, so you totally make me feel better about being a two-faced mom myself. While I love my little "angel", sometimes I swear he is possesed by the screaming monster.

Mine's only 15 months, but I totally understand the non-stop screaming and whinning. I try to blame it on teething, but sometimes it's too much!

Hang in there....I'm sure I will asking you for advice soon!

Mandy on Tuesday, 29 June, 2010 said...

lol Nina! Mine started right about 15 months... it came and went for a time and then it hit full force. You'll make it through... just be ready to start covering gray hairs if you haven't had to already ;)

Mommy Spirit on Tuesday, 29 June, 2010 said...

I loved this post. My little one (at 22 months) has temper tantrums frequently, and yes, wanting the phone is one reason for the many tantrums I deal with in a day. Funny...you give him candy to make him quiet...I give my little one another phone or my blue tooth to make him quiet. I got payback when he lost my blue tooth on me. Then I knew I had to find a new "discipline" technique and stop rewarding him. I've definitely gotta try your new approach!

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