Thursday, August 03, 2006

Calling His Bluff

Lately, Zach is emerging as a child who will cut off his nose to spite his face. This is not an uncommon pattern in a two-year-old, masters of manipulation that they are. Yesteday morning, he arrives in a funk. Nothing that happens is right. He flops around dramatically, he throws himself to the floor with great fanfare, he fusses, he pouts. (He pouts beautifully, this boy. He is a beautiful child. He is so adorable that his pouts are worthy of framing. He is a beautiful child, and man, does he work it!) Whatever his internal workings this morning, the external is one giant pose. Each and every negative action he takes, he is playing to the audience, done with one eye on my reaction. Which is unforthcoming. After giving him a welcoming cuddle, I utterly ignore the flopping and flailing, invite him to join our activities (making a garage from a clementine box), and otherwise treat him as if he isn't behaving abominably. He will have nothing of it. "Here, Zach. You can have the green paint brush." "Nooooo!" More floppage on the dining room floor. I survey his prone figure, being sure not to make contact with that lustrous green eye, peeping up from under his arm, fringed by those ridiculously long lashes. "You know what, sweetie?" I announce cheerfully. "I think you must be tired. Off to bed with you for a little-lie down." It's 9:15 a.m. He has been in my house for about six minutes. I have had about enough of this. (I told you I wasn't patient. Of course, I am PMS-ing. In mid-cycle, I can put up with it for EIGHT minutes.) Even though nap time isn't officially for another four hours, I trundle the child upstairs. When I put him in bed, he rolls over with a big dramatic flop and buries his face in the pillow. Three minutes later, I return. He is wailing. "Hello, Zach. Are you ready to join us now?" "Noooo!" "You want to stay in bed?" He rolls over, presents me with his back. I let my shrug sound in my voice. "Okay, if that's what you want. But since you want to be up here, you can stop that silly yelling." I have a brief - and very satisfying - flash of his astounded face as I pull the door closed. There is silence behind it. Dumbfounded silence, I am sure. In Zach's world, I was supposed to coax. I was supposed to wheedle. I was supposed to sit on the side of the bed, stroke his back and speak soothing words of reason. While he ranted and roared and made me really, really work to get him to play. I will not do any of that, for innumerable reasons, an entire post all on their own. Let's just say I have too much self-respect to allow myself to be so blatantly manipulated. I know he wants to join the others; he knows he wants to join the others. He can be the one to tell me this. I stand outside the bedroom door, and wait. Let a couple of minutes pass. (Emma, Haley, and Adam are home with me today; the children downstairs are well attended.) When I open the door the second time, "Hello, Zach. You ready to join us now?", the answer is a calm, if snuffly, "Yes." Victory is mine.

~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P


Blogger Mama of 2 said...

VICTORY -- how sweet. I think the way you handled it all was stellar! I need to take a few pages from your book -- perhaps you would think of publishing one for us all.

I look forward to reading more here at your blog.

8/03/2006 08:36:00 a.m.  
Blogger Kelli in the Mirror said...

SO familiar. I have Zach's long-lost twin at my house, apparently!

Good for you! :)

8/03/2006 08:58:00 a.m.  
Blogger Peter said...

Victory is sooo sweet. Last night was better for us at the Old Blue House but I am getting a little taste of the strugle some parents face at bed time. I will have them towing the line by tonight and the weather is supposed to break. That will put us back on our routine. I apprrciated and employed a modified version of you suggestion yesterday. Thanks

8/03/2006 08:58:00 a.m.  
Blogger bubandpie said...

Child-management, INTJ-style. Love it. My mom and my husband were both raised by INTJ fathers, and when they're on their game, all it takes is the LOOK to quell all misbehaviour. It's a good thing I married an INTJ, because my emotional strings get pulled wayyy too easily (and those big green eyes with the long fringe of lashes - deadly!).

8/03/2006 09:00:00 a.m.  
Blogger Mamacita Tina said...

Hail the conquering hero!

I'm a firm believer in ignoring unwanted behaviors. When Ian gets whiny, my all time favorite behavior, I walk away without saying a word. Sometimes a quick distraction works too, "Look Ian, your
garbage truck is ready to pick up the trash." If he plays immediately, great! Otherwise, I'm out of there.

8/03/2006 09:04:00 a.m.  
Blogger Alli said...

Hmmm...bubandpie, I'm ENFP and do this with my toddler all the time. Maybe it's my inner INTJ coming out to play.

Go Mary! Self-respect and limits are a fabulous combination.

8/03/2006 11:27:00 a.m.  
Blogger Granny said...

Yep. I'm the world champion of walking away and it's continued now that they're older.

8/03/2006 12:13:00 p.m.  
Blogger twoboysmom said...

Whoo Hooo! You go girl! You are a childcare diva.

8/03/2006 12:43:00 p.m.  
Blogger KTP said...

a) what language are those people speaking above? Is that some Canadian thing?
b) Mary, you crack me up. I am inspired by your stories. Thus, I have been ignoring my toddler's daily Whine Session, (while making sure he is fine, of course) and I am hoping it will come to fruition.
c) I know you can't, but I really wish you could post pictures. I'm just sayin.

8/03/2006 01:01:00 p.m.  
Blogger stefanierj said...

Meyers-Briggs notwithstanding, I think we can all agree that Mary's just the master. Of the universe.

8/03/2006 03:49:00 p.m.  
Blogger appleseed said...

OMG! Mary once again I had to stop and wonder at your awesomeness and get down on my knees in thanks that I found this wise woman that generously doles out great advice for free!!! Indeed I am trying to soak it all up be fore my little pirate turns 2 and I will need these tactics!
Thank you, Mary for making sure our playbooks are full before we might need them!

8/03/2006 07:26:00 p.m.  
Blogger LoryKC said...

I'm so glad I'm not the only one who is satisfied with those astounded looks!

Of course, I still come here for wisdom and at least 40-50% of the time, the astounded look is mine...but I am learning! ;)

8/03/2006 10:02:00 p.m.  
Blogger Sassy Student said...

you deserve the finest muffins and bagels in all the land for that victory!

8/04/2006 08:15:00 a.m.  
Blogger Mary P. said...

mama of 2: Hello and Welcome! That book suggestions keeps getting put out there, and who knows? 'Twould be fun to get PAID for all the writing I do!!

kep: There are gazillions of them, I'm sure. I know very few two-year-olds who don't do this, at least once in a while.

Peter: They can make life ... ah... eventful, can't they? Glad to hear things are calming down over there. One night light that is quite enough! Little monkeys.

bubandpie: I've never considered parenting from that perspective, but of course your character and personality affect how you respond and interact. I'm equally sure there's been a parenting book written on it. :-)

Zach's big green eyes will get him places in life, that's for sure. I just want to help ensure he has some character to go along with all the prettiness!

Mamacita Tina: I loathe whining. Just loathe it. It's like fingernails down a chalkboard. Brrr... As my aunt once astutely observed, when you really can't stand something, it's easy to be 100% consistent in your response to it!

Alli: I think the letters help you determine what your natural incinations are. They don't preclude you using other techniques: you'd probably just have to being reacting more consciously and less instinctively.

Me, I'm right on the I/E borderline. I've taken this three times, twice with professionals, and come out at different spots with those first two. The other three are rock-solid consistent. Curious, huh? The most recent was a good ten years ago. Maybe I should do it again??

Granny: Interestingly, while I am excellent at this when they're toddlers, I didn't manage it so well with my first as a teen. When she went through her angst, I was right there, guiding, helping, struggling with her. Sometimes that's great, but sometimes it just makes you the butt of a lot of anger, and puts you in the position of being responsible for their moods. Not good. I learned me lesson with her, though, and now am much better at knowing when to just drop my end of the rope and let them sort it through on their own!

twoboysmom: You know what? More often than not, I actually enjoy these tussles. I love the rolling up of the emotional sleeves and getting into it. Even while I'm standing on the landing listening to the bellows of outrage, I know - "it may take another 20 minutes of me sticking my head in every three minutes, but you are going to get this by the time we're through." Ha. :-)

a) Canadian thing? Now you're cracking me up. Nope, it's Myers-Briggs. It would take too long to explain, but you'll get a gazillion hits if you google it. Essentially it's a personality classification system based (I think) on Jungian principles.

b) Thank you. I hope it works! (If it's happening at the same time every day, there's probably a physical reason, she muses to herself.)

c) The best I can do are blurred shots and rear views. Sorry I can't show you those lustrous eyes of his! In that so-handsome little face. Put that face on the box, and this kid would sell a tonne of breakfast cereal - or just about anything else, I'm sure.

Stefanie: Now that's just silly.

Thank you. :D

Appleseed: Gracious. Thank you, but do get up, please. You'll hurt your knees. This is one of the nice things about parenting in communities: seeing what someone else does, trying out this, rejecting that, modifying the other, until you have a system that works for you and your child. I learned from my mum, my aunt, some of my clients, now you're learning something from me. There are probably people learning from you, too. Isn't it great?

Lorykc: Love those looks? Some days, those astounded looks affirm me as a parent! Yes, I do love them. :-) We're all learning, all the time. I love it!

Sassy: Well, thank you. When may I expect delivery? Morning glory muffins and cheddar jalapeno bagels, thanks. :-)

8/04/2006 10:49:00 a.m.  
Blogger Kristen said...

Man. I need you over here. You could take Bryce's terrifying intensity and whip that right into shape.

I need you to clone yourself and send her to me. You don't mind, do you?

8/04/2006 03:31:00 p.m.  
Anonymous kyra said...

you are a star!!!

8/04/2006 09:14:00 p.m.  
Blogger AverageMom said...

Very, very familiar story. I keep telling the Terrors "Mummy has been at this game a LOT longer than you. Give it up." So far, I'm winning, but the teen years are still ahead.

8/05/2006 02:45:00 a.m.  
Blogger kittenpie said...

Heh. We are just starting to move into the kind of tantrums that I figure are ignore-treatable. She seems to have realized that she's two and she should get on programme.

8/05/2006 10:30:00 a.m.  
Anonymous Jennifer said...

(sigh) I'm dealing with THE VERY SAME THING here at my house. Except, Jordan is definitely proving (on some occasions) that his will his stronger than mine. I cave only when I begin to feel like I'm the world's worst mommy. (okay, when does that NOT happen?) It's so tiring and frustrating to have daily battles with him over every. single. little. thing. I say 'white' he says 'black'. I say 'outside' he says 'inside'. Any tips? Do charts really work as well as people say they do? Help!

8/07/2006 06:13:00 p.m.  

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