A few weeks ago, I wrote this post, kind of dictating the struggle we were going through with Penn's current stage. After I wrote it, I really became conscious of what kinds of things I would say and do to try and get Penn to cooperate when we were in a tense situation. I thought I would share with you, a few things from my arsenal that have worked (although they may not work every time).
This first strategy is something that I've been doing a lot lately. I read about this idea on a blog months ago (but I don't remember which one). I can't help but think this would be beneficial for a lot of age groups. As a matter of fact, if I were still teaching fifth grade, I could see myself saying this a lot. It's just four simple words: "Let's try that again." What I realized is that children (and adults even) sometime say the first thing that comes to their mind. When my husband asks me if I can iron his clothes for work, my whole body wants to say, "No!" But I know he needs clean, neat clothes to wear to work and as much as I hate ironing, I do it because I want him to feel confident at work. But as an adult, I usually know how to bite my tongue an think about things before I share them (as Pack has told me, rightfully so..."Kimberly, you don't always have to say EVERTHING that's on your mind.") On the same note, when I ask Penn to pick up the blueberries off the kitchen floor that fell down there while he was eating, his first instinct is to tell me "No, you can do it." Why yes I can (and probably faster and better), but that doesn't teach a lot of responsibility, does it? When I say, "Let's try that again," it really helps him rethink the situation and make the decision on his own to do the right thing. Most times, that's all it takes.
There are times when the above strategy doesn't work. My next attempt is usually this quick question. "Are you going to choose to obey Mommy or to disobey by not doing what I've asked you?" It's amazing that he's old enough to understand these words, but what also impresses me is that every single time, he wants to obey. He wants to follow the rules. Whether it's cleaning his room or going to time out when he's sent, by giving him the chance to think about consciously breaking the rules (and getting consequences), this question will usually end whatever conflict has started. It also helps to keep me cool-headed in a tense situation.
My boy still hates to clean. Really hates it. So in that situation, I have started following the advice of another friend. Anything that has not been picked up in a reasonable amount of time goes in a trash bag. The trash bag goes in the garage. After a week (or so), I'll give him another chance to take the toys out of the trash bag and put them where they belong. If they don't end up where they supposed to go the second time around, they will get trashed or donated. Penn MIGHT get his Mobigo back today...
The same friend who suggested the above strategy, also told me months ago about something else that she does when her kids are fighting over toys. It works beautifully. It's called "toy time-out." When Penn and Jude are fighting over a toy, I don't try to figure out who had it first. I take it away and put it in a "spot" until they agree to share or take turns. They will almost always choose to share rather than not have the toy at all.
When all else fails...
Penn is finally old enough to know what it means when I tell him to go to his room and lay on his bed (or if we are in public, I tell him we're going to the car to sit). I try to save this one for when nothing else seems to work because I want it to have impact. This sometimes results in him screaming, crying, growling, or whatever else he might think would let me know how he really feels. As awful as these times are, I just remind him that it's okay to be mad at mommy or mad at his behavior, but he still has to have consequences. When something doesn't go my way, I get furious. Why do we adults think it's not acceptable for kids to get upset either? After I let him get some screaming out, I tell him to stop whenever he feels like talking and we can discuss. I never prompt this, but he almost always follows the crying with, "I'm sorry for breaking the rules, Mommy." And I always forgive him (even though it's hard to let go). And then there's usually a nap around the corner...all that crying really can wear a boy out;)
It's amazing the perspective that can change with some sleep. I have even found that when I can't seem to pull it together to stay calm enough to try anything that I mentioned above, it's usually because I'm the one that needs some sleep! Keeping that in mind, really changes my outlook.
Now I'm going to put a disclaimer out there and tell you that this hasn't solved every discipline problem we've had and good parenting, is all about learning what works best for you and your family. I also hope that some of my mom friends that have struggled with not knowing how to discipline their preschoolers find something here that will work for them (or if you've tried any of these, please share your experience). Please remember, although I'm not up for a parenting debate (it's hard enough being a parent without having to defend every decision that you make), I'm always open to new advice, so please share YOUR strategies for dealing with conflicts with your kiddos also. It never hurts to share what works...it may help someone else!