Benjamin has been driving me insane as of late and driving his father to fury. It's been screaming match central and I'm telling you I was not prepared for this to come until he was fifteen at least. I have been desperate and longing to find an answer that didn't include beating my child into submission, grounding him for life, or taping his mouth shut until he was twenty.
I must say the ladies at my parenting board have really come through for me. I got some sage advice, and some really helpful TOOLS for adjusting my perspective and redirecting his frustration into positive empowerment. It's early days but so far, so good.
I have successfully managed to reign in and diffuse a total of five tantrum potential incidents in the last 48 hours, and here are a just a few of the tales:
Yesterday I picked Benjamin up from school and everything was fine, he was happy, smiley, chatty then quite suddenly he snapped "arrrrrrg Stop talking to me!" And I thought; ooooh there is that teenager 'tude the ladies were talking about! And so I thought WWAGMD (what would a good mama do)? And I said calmly "Mommy, I need a little bit of quiet time now, if that's okay." And he repeated calmly and sincerely. I nodded (inwardly shocked that tis had not resulted in much eye rolling and lip smacking). And a few steps later he growled; "I just wish I could walk to school and home by myself!"
My instinct was to guffaw at the absurdity of the request and say "no way! Not safe!" but I thought about the no...was this really a good time to use the almighty irretractable no? Maybe I was only saying no because it was inconvenient to say yes and make those accomodations, maybe I am only saying no because I am not being creative enough to say yes. So I thought of a compromise that I could live with, and I said "Can I talk?" And he laughed and said with a tsk; "Yes, mommy!" So I said, "How about tomorrow you get a head a start and I'll walk with Emily about ten steps behind you? That way you can feel alone, but if you need me, I'm not that far."
He liked it. Then he asked, quite nicely, for some more quiet time.
So today he started walking and I let him go ahead of me and we got about three blocks and he started slowing down, so I walked to him and put out my hand and he grabbed it and he said quietly "It's just, I started feeling lonely." So I gave his hand a squeeze and said "I'm glad I wasn't far away." and he leaned his cheek on my hand and said, "Me, too."
Then I said, "How about when we get to the edge of the school building you can walk to the door alone?" (it's about six meters) and he lit up "That's a great idea, Mommy!"
And he gave me a big hug and a kiss and kissed his sister, and off he went as I stood at the corner.
Tonight was another success tale. I aksed him if he wanted to learn to tie his shoes and he stomped and threw himself backwards onto the floor in a heap and began to shout "Noooo, I'll never ever know how to do that. I'm not ever going to be able to do that, stop asking me that!" At first I would have been so shocked and so angry that he was being so resistant. I would have escalated.
But instead I took a deep breath and imagined myself at the age of 15 my mom asking me questions I didn't know the answer to "Do you like this boy? Whose religion will you practice if you marry him? What do you want to study at University? What will you be when you grow up? Why do you like those people?" I remembered the frustration and angst in my heart at those times and how I wished I could crawl in a hole and die from embarassment at my lack of self-awareness and life knowledge and my total inability to control anything, even basic decisions in my life. I became filled with empathy for Benjamin and instead of jerking him up and taking him to his room, I held him and whispered close; "You didn't used to be able to draw a face and now you can, can't you?"
"yes" he answered apprehensively.
"And last year you didn't know how to write words, but now you do. And you used to color outside of the lines all the time and now you almost never do, right?"
"So don't you think you'll learn to tie your shoes some day, too?"
"well," I said, "If you don't want to today, that's okay. I'll ask again another time."
And that was it. No flailing, no yelling...NO ESCALATION!
And two night in a row he has gone to bed happy and cuddly and without tears and without gimmicks.
Jamie is cautiously optimistic, and worries he is the most patient father on the face of the earth. He is unsure, but he has to admit these are tangible results.
Benjamin is really growing up and he really is turning out to be a fantastic kid.