Dare I say it? My child is….strong willed. Well, that’s putting it mildly. Any time I ask him to do ANYTHING, it is an epic battle of wills that feels like it may to the death….most likely his. He once was so angry that he wasn’t allowed to crawl under the pew and grab the feet of the people behind us in church that even though he was dragged out into an empty classroom with the door closed, my hubby could still hear him. My hubby was on stage with worship band playing the keyboard at the time…with an ear piece in his ear. Let’s just say I didn’t feel close to God that Sunday.
So here we are at dinner. Everyone is doing fine and I cooked. I made chicken and potatoes and veggies and everything. I sit the girls down and tell them the potatoes are French fries and we’re ready to roll. Then I grab King Toot and, of course, he is unhappy. Of course, because I asked him to do something. Never mind that he’s been begging for food for an hour. I dared to tell him we were going to sit at the table and eat. That’s when he started his high pitched shriek. It could break glass….it does break ear drums. Now, these are a few things we have learned through trial and a massive amount of error. If I ever give in, even once, and just let him scream and ignore it….it eggs him on. He will only escalate more, and more, and more, and more. He has followed me around and pushed on the back of my knees to make me fall. He has thrown things at me, hit me, etc. If I immediately address it right then, he’ll stop. The best punishment for him is isolation. We stick him in his crib and call it “a break” and tell him we’ll check on him in a few minutes to see if he’s ready to come out. If he stands up and says sorry, he has admitted defeat and we’re good to go. He has to say sorry…not just a cease in crying is enough. Trust me, I’ve tried. I mean, I’ve TRIED! But he MUST admit defeat or this battle is not done. It’s like the white surrender flag that he waves to admit that he lost this round.
It’s exhausting. Dinner tonight I spent taking a bite, trying to have a conversation with my (at that moment) sweet girls, and then jumping up to offer him a choice between saying sorry and joining us or staying in his crib. He would just stare at me and scream louder! He was not distressed….he was pissed! I had to do this no less than 10 times. He finally said sorry, I told him what I always do…that I forgive him and I love him no matter what but that it’s not an excuse to act that way. Then he proceeded to lick the ketchup up and eat nothing else and then say “done.”. By that point I was too tired to care and let him down.
It’s in these moments I always truly doubt myself. I see all these articles my friends post that all basically say the same thing. They have lovely titles, like peaceful parenting, or enjoy motherhood, or loving your kids. They all recommend something along the lines of: ‘there’s no need for conflict! Let them express their frustration, offer them choices, redirect, get on their level, and as long as you talk it out respectfully to them they will respect you.’ I feel a failure because my house is so often riddled with conflict.
But then I remind myself. I taught for several years. I did those things. I know them well in fact. I use them with my daughters with great success. But they made things worse with my son. So, so, so, so much worse. This is the first big meltdown in two days (plenty of small ones, but those only required going in once or twice). It used to be seven epic meltdowns a day…minimum. He is getting better and I am calmer in dealing with him. It comes down to this: parenting is an art…not a science. There is no magic formula that will magically transform every child. For some, if they were to use the tactics I just mentioned they would have a very different response. Parenting is an art because the materials you have been given differ. Some kids are like soft clay (like Urpling) which require gentle molding…anything harsher will crush them beyond repair. Some are like my son…titanium…and must be melted at a million trillion degrees before they will bend even a little. So I just take a deep breath, dress for battle, and remind my son at the end of each day how much I love him no matter what. Because at the end of the day, I know he will grow up to be a strong leader so I just need to give him the foundation to be a good one.