Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Get Off Your Duff Parenting

If you are regularly locking horns with a young child or two, my friend Rachel has a great post here that might inspire you. She has been addressing an issue or two involving John's pal, Henry.

Rachel writes:

One of our favorite family mantras, “When I Call You Come,” well it meant absolutely nothing to this child. It was more like “When I call, you ignore. And then I call. And then I call again. And then I come find you and grab you and drag you to where I say.”   
. . . we started a little thing called “follow through.” Which meant that every time Paul or I told Henry to do something, we got up off our duff and made him do it. When I call, you come. And if you don’t come, I walk over to you (immediately) and there are consequences for not coming.

The Dolins are dealing with a a few behavioral challenges of our own, most of them involving a blonde-headed spitfire named Ainsley.

What? The long-awaited girl child -- she who was to be all sugar and spice and everything nice -- she's giving us grief? Yes, this surprised us, too. In fact, that's been half the problem.

We shouldn't label our children, but, face it, we all do it. Ainsley was Easy Child. Label affixed.

But the thing about kids is this: Once you've got them good and labeled, they change. Mind you, they send you no warning of this, no helpful status change on Facebook, no text that says Ta Ta For Now; Easy Child Is Outta Here!

No, one tranquil night Nice Boy goes to bed and, unbeknownst to his parents, morphs into Hormonal Grouch in his sleep. The next morning the unsuspecting mom says, "Have a nice day!" He snarls, "You're always telling me what to do!" 

Mom scratches her head and wonders what just transpired.

So it has been with Ainsley. One day it slowly dawned on me that Easy Child almost never does what I tell her to do. Why was I so slow to grasp this glaringly obvious fact? She was flying under the radar mostly because she wasn't all up in my face about it. Unlike her older brother, John. John lets it all hang out there. Always has. By the time he was nine months old, we knew we had a tiger by the tail.

But Ainsley, well, she's a wily one. Until very recently, she wasn't prone to fits. She'd just quietly disregard any instructions not fully in line with her plans. For reasons unknown, this all changed, oh, four or five months ago. Easy Child is now Drama Queen who employs a variety of tactics to get her way.

There's negotiation:

"I wanna milkshake, Mama," Ainsley tells me in her sweetest voice ever. "And if I get one, I'll sleep in my own bed forever."

There's clarity:

"I want chocolate milk," she says.

"We'll see," I tell her.

"I don't want 'see'," she responds in her non-nonsense voice. "I want chocolate milk!"

Then there's plain old garden variety rage.

She puts on her coat and says, "I want it zip-did." And when no one jumps to do her bidding, this becomes, "I want it zip-did!  I Want It Zip-Did!  I WANT IT ZIP-DID!"
Let me tell you, she can fold those arms, jut out that chin, produce a glare, and stomp her foot.

As in any behavioral trials, dealing with this requires patience, a sense of humor, and follow through (all of which seem to run in short supply around 5:00 in Casa Dolin.) It requires, as Rachel explains, Get Off Your Duff Parenting.

Our friend Dennis used to say, "If you do the right thing long enough, you'll eventually be successful."

We hope he's right.


Anonymous said...

Isn't it interesting how we label our children and then they confound us? I think you have absolutely the right approach with not letting things slide - and then once in a while, when you're really tired, you can confound them with not getting off your duff and following through. Then they will come and investigate what's going on!

I remember reading, years ago and in the context of our adopted son's extreme behavioural issues, that children sometimes try to get their parents to act out their emotions with/for them. I have found that perspective very helpful as a parent, with both my children.

Kris said...

I responded to Rachel's post, but I had to tell you how much I loved it! and yours! And I'm totally there. Our #5 is as ornery as they come. We're all guilty, because his label was "The Baby". And now we're all reaping the "rewards" of treating him that way, and thinking that his antics were "cute". Rachel inspired me this week, and I'm trying mightily to stick to it. I'll let you know how it goes!

Tim Dolin said...

Christine - I agree that kids' emotions often have underlying motivations. John can mask fear with defiance. Sometimes it's fear of something as seemingly trivial as copying numbers he doesn't know. My heart goes out to all mothers of wounded or especially needy children. These kids require heroic patience and tremendous fortitude.

Kris - Hang in there with "the baby"! We all reap what we sow -- and there's always plenty of good thrown in there with the marginal or the bad.