Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tough love

Andy threw a mother of all tantrums yesterday. It started with the underpants. I told him on his way to school that if he didn't have any accidents in his underpants, that I'd take him to the burrito store after school to celebrate.

Andy: The burrito store?
Me: Yes. If you stay dry -- no pee or poops in your underpants all day, we can go to the burrito store.
Andy: And can we eat there?
Me: Yes.
Andy: I love the burrito store.

So when I picked him up, sure enough, he'd been dry all day. They put him into a pull-up before nap that he was still in, but he'd been dry all morning. So true to my word, I took him to Chipotle. It was early, like 5:15, when we got there and we were ahead of the dinner rush. He started acting obnoxious, saying he didn't want this or that in his whiney voice and yelling at me if I disagreed. I explained, as I have been lately, that it's not okay to act like that. And that if he kept it up, we would leave. I probably gave him three or four chances to act right and when he didn't, I grabbed a to-go bag, packed up our stuff in Meg's stroller and headed out, dragging Andy by the wrist.

He was PISSED. Seriously. He started screaming full scale once he realized I was serious. I tried loading him into the car, but he was wigging out, jumping out of his seat, trying to hit me and throwing his earphones into the back seat. I was failing at everything so I threatened him with spanking; I NEVER do that, but it was in the parking lot with lots of traffic and a baby in a stroller and I was feeling anxious that it was dangerous. When he still didn't act right, I pulled him out, swatted him on the behind (not hard really) and finally got his attention long enough to get him into his car seat. He started screaming for his earphones, which he had thrown, and I ignored him all the way home and he screamed. It was 15 minutes of torture listening to him breathlessly scream. It was funny it was so awful.

I finally got him home and tried to herd him into his room and he was still freaking out, screaming and jumping around. By then, Meg woke up and started crying that she was hungry so I tried to placate Andy as best I could while I tended to her. I banished him to his room, where he refused to stay, screaming and closing and opening the door. When I said he couldn't leave his room, he flopped around on the threshold for a while. The whole episode probably lasted about an hour. It was pretty ugly and, at moments, pretty funny. He finally calmed down, we talked about how it wasn't okay to act like that and then had a nice dinner together. He then took a bath and went to bed, exhausted, and was asleep by about 7:30. He woke up about 1 a.m. and wanted to get in bed with me. I told him no and left him. He then woke up about 6:30, called for me. When I didn't come, he put himself back to sleep. He's been waking up a lot in the night, partially looking for attention, and I really need to put an end to that, too.

I swear, this motherhood stuff is tough sometimes. Really tough. On the one hand, I think he's acting out. He's got a lot of new stuff going on and he's competing with a new baby. I've tried to be sympathetic, but my tactics so far haven't made much of a difference so I'm trying tough love. If he starts whining at home (and by whining, I mean pretty obnoxious stuff that ends up with him yelling at me), I send him to his room or to time out. I'm done negotiating with the terrorist.

What was great though was after all that drama, he woke up a refreshed and happy kid. We talked again about how it's not okay to act like the way he did and then he peacefully went to school -- no drama about not going, no screaming about not wanting this or that for breakfast. I hope this is making a difference because, damn, this discipline stuff is hard.

On another note, his school has started posting the kids' "art" online. Check out Andy's here. Talk about a gifted artist.


  1. Oh, man, that sounds so incredibly tough. When I did my student teaching, I always said I was great at the teaching part but sucked at the discipline part--I think it is by far the hardest thing to do and to keep your cool while doing it requires a lot of patience. It sounds like you have a good plan in place about handling the whining--and if that doesn't work, you could always sell him to the circus. (What? Is that wrong?)

  2. Oh Katherine. Joy. just joy. So sorry that happened. I know what you mean about the tough love thing. I sometimes feel like I am a bit tough on George but hey. Give an inch and they take a mile. OK, not always but? Of course George did tell me the other day when I said I was going out to run errands (Mary was asleep)- ok, mom, I like dad better anyway... nice. Thank goodness, I still see the love bug that he is MOST of the time. We are in the throws of quitting napping and OH VEY. getting emotional at night on that one...

    Hugs to all, and especially to you. I HATE those meltdowns. sounds like yours was BAD. REAL bad.


  3. "Oy Vey" sounds about right for this one. I feel (have personally felt!) your pain -- but it sounds like even though it was a tough afternoon, you did the absolute right thing. Henry is a tough kid for me. Using the description "strong willed" doesn't come close to this kid! There are many times when I recall the old Bill Cosby line "I brought you in to this world and I can take you out"!!! And don't beat yourself up over the swat thing - - it happens. I hate to admit it - - but with Henry, sometimes it was the only thing that would snap him out of his rage long enough for me to take other more reasonable actions (like putting him in his room or trying to decide what it was that was meaningful enough to take away from him so that my message was clear). Remember he is 3. Far from the age of reason and he is now learning that manipulation by behavior is either gonna work for him or NOT. This works best if your reaction is swift and concise - - exactly what you did by leaving the restaurant. Exactly what you did by following through all the way home and in to his room. If you had relented - - what would that message have been? Now that Henry is nine - - I wish I could say that we never find ourselves in the same situations. (You don't know how much I wish). Now I can reason with him a little longer. But the bottom line is that sometimes I still need to take swift action and help him from himself. Oh, wait - - I think I remember that I had to do that with Shannon until the time that she left for college - - Oh, crap. 10 more years...

  4. I think you've definitely got things in perspective. Andy, besides having a bad case of Being Three, also has a new sister to adjust to, and all that comes with it. You are helping him by making your expectations clear and by setting and enforcing them. Hang in there, and remember, tomorrow is another day.

  5. Chris3:00 PM

    Yup. Hard to do. I don't know how many times I've left a cart at the grocery store or paid for a half-eaten dinner because a screaming child was screwing it up for everyone around us. But it seems to be paying off. Just last week the lady who runs SACC (where my kids are after school) thanked me for raising children who listen to adults. I waited for the punchline for a minute before I realized she was serious. As hard as it is, pick your tolerance level and stick with it. It'll pay off.