I don’t consider myself to be a softie parent, but The Mr. contends that the kids don’t push him like they push me because they know he won’t bend. I think I’m a pretty strict parent and I really don’t think I give in as much as The Mr. claims I do. We just have different parenting styles. And with his work schedule, the kids tend to spend more time with me than him. Which leads them to know how to push me.
This morning I was relaying a story to The Mr. about No. 2’s first hour-long, full tilt temper tantrum. I’ve never seen her act the way she did this morning. Maybe it’s because I’m indeed a softie.
It all started when she decided not to follow directions and thought that crying and throwing a fit would get her way. Fortunately, I was on a pretty even keel this morning and didn’t lose my head. Other mornings I would have completely lost my cool and would have done a lot of yelling.
I gave numerous opportunities to “put your shoes on and get your backpack or I’m leaving,” but, honestly, she called my bluff. Even as No. 3 (who was so confused!) and I walked out the door and LOCKED it leaving her inside to scream to her heart’s content, she still wouldn’t lament and do as she was told. Hell, I even strapped No. 3 in her car seat, started the car, closed the door and drove several feet and No. 2 STILL stood there crying and screaming and not doing what I asked. Yes, my friends, this is *my* headstrong daughter. (I would have driven around the block, but we live across the street from City Hall and the police station and I had already attracted enough attention that two police officers came outside to “check out his car’s sound system.”)
Ok, here’s a quick back story as to why she felt confident calling my I’m-leaving bluff. I’ve pulled the do-it-now-or-I’ll-leave-you trick before with all three kids and it has worked. However, there have been a number of times when we’re, say, going to go outside to play and No. 2 freaks out that she’s going to get left behind. I’ve said so many times in the last several months “Would I really leave you? No, of course not.” So, there you have it. I showed her my cards.
So this morning’s tantrum (just one day before her fifth birthday) was about the sharing bag she has for school. Since the I’m-leaving trick didn’t work and I actually had to come back in the house and put her shoes and jacket on myself and she was still given more opportunities to do what she was told and didn’t do it, she gave up her privilege of putting *anything* in the sharing bag. Man did that make things worse. I had to pick her up and carry her outside and struggle with her to get her to let go of the door handle! The car ride to take No. 3 to the sitter came complete with screaming so loud that I felt vibrations in my ears, and the following demands: “Mom! Stop the car!” and “I want this car turned around right NOW!” and “I want to put more than two things in the sharing bag!” and “I want this car turned around right NOW!” Oh, and my favorite: “I’m going to tell Miss Sandy!” Miss Sandy is her preschool teacher. I was close to laughing, actually, when she started demanding things.
And the girl who loves to go to school so much that she normally races to the top of the steps leaving me way behind had to be carried into school, had to have her hands pried off the door handles again and almost literally drug into the classroom. Once we left the house without anything in the sharing bag, I suspect she realized there would be a certain element of embarassment if she showed up to school without anything to share.
Explaining the situation to Miss Sandy, she hugged me and said “I’m so glad when parents make consequences.” I really thought, geez, this is sort of normal for our house. It’s never really trickled into the classroom like this, but it’s not like I’m new at this. I suppose other parents don’t do this kind of thing. (Miss Sandy asked if Megan could have the sharing bag again. “Yes,” I said. “But not today.”)
So, back to telling The Mr. about what happened…I told him I had considered not allowing No. 2 to go to ballet class today, but decided that since she (and us as a family) had made a commitment to her class that she should go.
“No,” he said. “Ballet is a privilege.”
Man, he was so right. I had to straighten my backbone and take this privilege away from her because I knew that the ripple from just making her not take toys in the sharing bag wouldn’t last too long. (This is the kid who says “OK, go ahead” when I threaten to throw toys away that she refuses to pick up.)
She cried, naturally, when I told her that she wasn’t going to ballet today and that she couldn’t watch TV tonight. After asking if her punishment included not going out to eat for her birthday tomorrow and wondering if she could still go trick or treating, she claimed that she really didn’t want to go to ballet. This kid just doesn’t give up! Someday, I know her fierce personality will serve her well.
So I had to lay it on thick, had to make her remember how much she loves going to ballet and how disappointed I was that I *couldn’t* let her go. She had to know that she wasn’t puncturing my thick skin today.
I’m drained, actually. I took a quick nap at lunch. I’m sure that when I pick her up from the sitter she’ll have nearly forgotten what happened this morning. I’m considering driving her by the dance studio and making her explain to her teacher why she wasn’t in class today. And then making her spend the evening in her room except for dinner.
I suppose 5 is a better age to be having this battle than at 15.