Sunday, March 11, 2012

Three. So F-ing Three.

This. Times a million. Every night.

Peeper has always been an easy-going, agreeable kid, but she's really testing her limits these days. I know this is normal, and it's so "three" but it's driving me nuts.

In particular, for the past couple of months, we've been doing a "ten minute tidy up," picking up toys before bath time. She's never been especially efficient at it, but I don't expect that. As long as she does the few things that I ask, and she thinks she's helping (while I'm really doing most of it, because I'm a grown up and can) I'm fine with it.

Lately, though, she says "Tidy up!" and runs into the living room like she's ready to help, but as soon as I ask her to actually do anything, she just laughs and runs off. Over and over and over.

It is absolutely infuriating and I find myself getting more and more frustrated and angry, and not responding well at all.

This is becoming a nightly thing, and ruining our otherwise pleasant evenings.

The "easy" way out would be to do away with the tidy-up time, but I really think that she needs to take some responsibility for helping to put away her toys, and I don't want her to learn that if she's a big enough jerk about it, she can get out of it.

Personally, I am a crappy housekeeper and awful about picking up after myself, so a - this nightly tidy-up with her "help" is a major part of keeping things somewhat under control, toy-mess wise (yes, she has WAY too many toy) and b - I want her to learn to be better at this than I am, so I'm trying to do better and be a good example and teach her to clean up after herself.

On at theoretical level, at least, we are all about "gentle parenting" and avoiding "punishments" and so on and so forth. (Look it up, it makes more sense than it sounds like, and it does not mean "let the kid run wild.") but when she laughs and runs off (the laughing is the worst part, it totally sets me off), I feel like I have absolutely no "leverage" to get her to cooperate.

Unfortunately, I've already learned that yelling and using inappropriate language is not effective and only makes me feel like a jerk - not to mention how she feels.

(Not such a "gentle" approach, obviously.)

Last night, I finally put her in the tub, and was trying to talk to her about it as calmly as possible, when she (standing naked in the empty tub) peed. That's fine, she's in the tub, whatever, but then she bent down and put her hand in it, and oh so gently, put it on my face. 

Are you kidding me?

I asked her "Did you just put pee-pee on my face?" and she just laughed.

I turned her bath water on and walked away. It's all I could do.

(I usually let her play in the tub alone while I'm getting her jammies, or across the hall in the office. I can hear everything, which usually includes her non-stop narration of her play. If it gets quite, I ask her if she's okay, and she knows that she has to answer or her bath is over. I've not actually had to take her out for non-answering, though.)

I emailed Shrike and vented to her and then I went back in and apologized for losing it. Then I took off my cranky pants - and panties, shirt, tank top and bra - and got in the tub with her. I calmed down, we reconnected and had a very nice time.

Tonight Shrike was home, and we tried something a little different. We set the clock for 30 minutes and told her that after things were picked up, any remaining time could be used to read her fairy tale books (which I won't read at bedtime, because they get her all riled up - right now, we're sticking to Dr. Seuss' Sleep Book, it's magic).

That sort of worked. First, I read the timer wrong and thought she was out of time. She got upset, but I told her "Sorry, that was your choice. To the tub." Then I realized we actually had time left, so I told her I'd made a mistake and she actually had time to put some things away and still have a story.

She did put away the thing I was asking her to, but then pulled out toys and books to play with while I was reading to her.

Shrike ended up taking over the story so I could get away from the situation.

I threatened to put anything that's not picked up by the end of "tidy up time" in "toy time out" but that just means that I have to go around and pick it all up during her bath or after bedtime and then listen to her cry about it all day. That does not really help me much.

It would, I suppose, be a "logical consequence," though, so I might reach that point.

I would much rather find gentle ways to encourage her to cooperate, rather than turning it into continuing to have this huge battle of wills.

I know she's testing her limits - as she should be at this age - but I don't know how to effectively set the limits, without being "Because I'm the Mama, and I'm gonna bring the smackdown," which is not the way that we want to parent.

I will admit though, that in the middle of incidents like this, I find myself both so wishing that I could spank her, but so thankful that we have agreed that we absolutely, positively will not spank her. For exactly the same reasons.

One thing I'm going to try, which I hope will help, is a responsibility (or as I read somewhere "I contribute to my family by. . . ." chart. She really got into the potty chart thing, and we've got another chart going right now, about fruits and veggies (more on that in the near future), which she likes, so maybe that would work to get her on board.

I talked to her today about how we all have our responsibilities and our jobs in the family, and asked her to identify some for each of us.

The first one she came up with for me was to "Take care of Peeper" and for Shrike was "Take care of my dogs."

For herself, oddly enough, the first thing she said was "Put my dishes up in the cabinet" - which is something that she's been balking about, although she loooooves to put the silverware away in the drawer.

It occurred to me this evening that I should have her to do the dishes first, and when I have everything else put away, if she's done with that (seriously, it's three or four trips from dishwasher to cabinet, it takes one minute, if she just does it) she can do the silverware - and if not, I will do it.

Or does that let her get out of work by being a jerk?

But since she likes that job, maybe it will work.

Anyway, she also came up with the silverware, and with some prompting, remembered that she (sometimes) helps to set the table (silverware, napkins, plates if we're serving family style and I'm feeling brave), put her dirty clothes in the hamper when she takes them off (she's usually pretty good about that, but it's gotten iffy lately, too) and after trying to change the subject - "Oh Mama! Look at those pretty bottles!" (in the kitchen window) - she finally mentioned our toy tidy-up.

I think I will try making a chart with pictures for each of those things, and go from there.

And maybe I'll make charts for me and Shrike, too, (I'm already sort of using one, and really need one.) to emphasize the idea that we all have to contribute to the family, it's not just things we're making her do.

I think the main thing I need to do, though, is get a grip on myself, and find a way to not let it bother me so damn much when I ask her to do something and she just laughs and runs away.

How the hell do I do that?


  1. The main thought I had while reading this was, "Trala trala, my children are grown, trala trala!!!" Oh excuse me...

    Some thoughts:

    As I was reading it, I was about to suggest some type of sticker chart, so I think that is a great idea. I also really like the idea of having charts for everyone in the family.

    Tremendous kudos for not knocking the hell out of her on the pee pee in the face thing.

    Maybe some talk about things that are fun/funny and things feel fun/funny, but are not and not doing things that feel fun/funny, but are hurtful to other people. (feelings or physically)

    Is she old enough to "get" the toy time out thing yet?

    Don't know how this might apply, but I'm reminded of it for some reason. At one point, when my kids were a *little older than Peeper, we had a friend who had a crawling baby come visit sometimes. Before they came over, I would give my kids each a penny for every little piece of fluff, crap, and crud (that my vacuum tended to miss and that a baby would eat) that they could find on the floor. They had a lot of incentive to keep going and for maybe 10-20 cents or so, the snippets of stuff were picked up. (*Older than Peeper, but young enough for pennies to be an incentive.)

    While I was big on attachment parenting when mine were little, as you know, I didn't do the gentle parenting thing. (Actually I don't think they had come up with that yet. Attachment parenting didn't even have a name the first couple of years I was doing it. :D ) Anyway, while I know a bit about it, I am no expert on the gentle parenting concept. I do think that her age is probably a good time to set clear limits. While "bringing the smackdown" is not the direction you want to go, I do believe it is important for there to be a clear concept that Mama/Mommy ARE THE BOSS, or leader or head of the family or whatever way you want to express it. It is Mama/Mommy's responsibility in the family to make sure Peeper learns various things, including that there are rules to follow. It is Peeper's responsibility to cooperate with learning those things. And it is Mama/Mommy's responsibility to help Peeper learn to cooperate with learning those things. I wouldn't put all that on a chart, per say, but having a chart about everyone's responsibilities in the family, might make it make sense to her, if you approached some kind of Peeper level explanation of such concepts.

    I like the idea of the 30 minute thing with the reading at the end. Maybe the reading part could be moved to another area of the house. Maybe part of it be that it is not a pull things out, etc. time. Maybe sitting on the couch is required, etc.

    I was also thinking that maybe "10 Minute Clean-up" could use a new name, as you are working out a new structure, to help break old patterns.

    In other news, I saw the above cartoon a few days ago and shared it with #1. He didn't see the humor. HA!

  2. Oh, I also meant to say, you mentioned having too many toys, maybe it's a good time to weed the toys down.

    While I never effectively managed to do it myself, a lot of people swear by putting away a portion of the toys and rotating them out every few months or so, so that they are "new" again.

    Some also swear by having some toys that are only parent accessable, so there is control about when they can be brought out.

    My primary advice about all of that is to do it when Peeper is not looking. One thing I did when getting rid of things I thought they might be "done with," was to bag them up and put them in the garage or somewhere and see if they asked about them. If they didn't notice they were gone, then off they could go without any problem. If something seemed to be seriously missed, I could retrieve it.

  3. If one of my kids had put pee-pee on my face, I would have been really mad,(but I would have tried to hide it) and I think I would have said something about how hurt my feelings were and how I didn't like that at all and I didn't like being laughed at. I wouldn't have gotten in the tub. At least the kid would have seen me using my words, instead of lashing out, which I darn well would have wanted to! As far as bed-time tidy up, I used to get my kids to tidy up before supper. Then, after supper they could read a book (we had tons of library books,)or work on a non-messy craft or puzzle. Most of the time after supper was taken up with bed-time routines. Yes, I had a "mom's toy basket" for the occasional item that didn't get picked up. Yes, there was some whining about it, but only the first few times I confiscated something. Once they learned I wouldn't under any circumstances give the item back until the next day, they stopped the whining. And sometimes, I am ashamed to admit, I yelled at my kids. I could only take so much. And there were three of them, and only one of me (my hubby was often out at evening meetings.)

  4. I don't think she was putting the pee-pee there on purpose, in retrospect, but at the moment it sure felt that way!

    After posting this, I did some reading on some gentle parenting sites and got some good ideas, etc. (Including that thing I posted about how I can only expect her to do 10% WITH reminding!)

    There were a couple of good articles on setting boundaries / limits in a gentle way, which were helpful. I'll post the links if I can find them again.


What say you?