If you've read my blog for a bit, you may realize that I have run into a bit of a problem over the last couple of months.
Before I had a child, I thought I knew quite a bit about parenting. Surely my college degree in early childhood development meant I had some sort of expertise, right? I hate to admit that I was one of those people who would see children acting all kinds of crazy out in public and wonder what in the world was wrong with their parents. Oh, yes....I happily judged all of them and thought smugly to myself how different I could do things. Looking back now, I believe the Lord had a special plan for me! He knew my heart and He also knew exactly what was in store for me in the future...
When my sweet Caleb was born, people gushed over how much patience I had with him. When he fussed, I knew exactly how to calm him down. I never understood what the big deal was. I was never a patient person and then all of a sudden everyone is making comments about how easy being a mother was for me. I marveled at my mothering skills. My ego was doing fairly well, but God still had something to teach me....
All this time I just knew this was going to be a walk in the park. My awesome skills as a mother and having the smartest, most amazing son in the world was a guaranteed combination for blissful family time. I do like to imagine that God has a sense of humor at times.
I'm here to tell you that was a huge load of crap! My child was entering the dreaded "terrible two's" and I was just standing there watching. Everyone told me it was a phase and that three's are much worse. Over the past month I have sat down, stared into my husband's eyes, and admitted that I wouldn't make it through it! Ryan just laughed and gave me a hug while telling me that it was just part of life.
Have I ever told you guys that I am as stubborn as my little boy is wild??? I refused to let this be my life. After Caleb decided to act out in front of our sweet group of friends, I knew it was time to get serious. I was not going to lock myself in the house for the next two years. Two Sundays ago, I implemented an aggressive behavioral modification program. I knew that if Caleb's wild, socially inappropriate behavior would ever be controlled, it was by doing something drastic.
Caleb is pretty tough. He can bump into something, whimper for a moment, and then go back to whatever crazy thing he was doing in the first place. Seriously...tough and fearless. For the past month, we tried so many different discipline methods. Nothing made a difference! I was desperate. Caleb's the type of kid who is always on the go. From the time he wakes up until he goes to bed.....ninety miles an hour. Ryan and I decided that if anything was going to work, we'd have to tailor it to him. On Sunday, Caleb decided to throw himself around on the floor during an epic fit, scream at the top of his lungs when he didn't get his way, and then come over to hit us. Ryan gently picked him up, carried him to our designated "Time Out" chair, and sat him in it. You would have thought we threw him into a fire! He wiggled and screamed like someone was killing him! If he got out of the chair, we gently put him back. After about fifteen minutes (seriously...) he got quite. The water works just shut off and he sat with his little hands folded in his lap. We began timing for two minutes. After it was over, I asked Caleb to say he was sorry for disobeying us and he quickly said, "Sorry!" Then I asked him if he would try to act better and he said, "Yeah!" I told him he could get up and he came running over to give us hugs (all with a smile on his face).
Every single time we saw that look of defiance wash over our child, we sat in the chair. Caleb is all about the drama. When we totally ignored his outrageous behavior, he just couldn't stand it. This past week he has quickly learned that in order to gain our attention, he has to behave. We do not give him any attention when he's pitching a fit. It literally breaks his heart. He likes to put on a dramatic show and have us fuss over him. That's not happening anymore. Those days are over. If he's sitting in the time out chair and screaming, Ryan and I don't raise our voices or change our tone and we only speak to each other. When Caleb is quiet and not whining is when we will acknowledge him. This teaches him what is acceptable behavior is and what we will tolerate from him. He can choose to act out, but he will not gain anything from it.
This may not work for everyone as every child is different, but this is working well for us. Are we experts? Heavens no! We're totally learning and sharing what's happening for us. We have learned that you must be consistent. Doing it only half the time teaches a child that they may not get their way this time, but doing it again may work the next time. Caleb's the type of child that thrives off of our attention and praise. If we take that away during his tantrums, we remove the point of him doing it.
Will this work two months from now??? I sure hope so. Do we have a back up plan? You better bet we do! If Caleb chooses to continue the fit after a time out, we will eliminate what he's wanting to do. Out at dinner and he decides to pitch a fit? No problem. We have a time out in the car. Chooses to continue? We pay for our meal and leave. Period. He will realize that pitching fits is not in his best interest. Caleb will pick up on the fact that behaving well means he gets to have lots of fun. It's going to take patience and a lot of tough love, but it will pay off to have a happier child! It may take a while for us to get where we need to be, but we are doing something. Sitting around waiting it out will not work. You must teach you child and sometimes it's just plain tough.
Any of you parents going through what we have, bless your hearts! I know how hard and embarrassing it can get! If you'd like to leave a comment on this post and are going through this, I will certainly be praying with you!