At the age of three, one of our boys is our "spirited" child. He's not naughty, or even high energy, he's just very curious, strong-willed, and non-conforming. He reminds us a little of Dennis the Menace. In one day, he gets into more trouble than most kids get in a month. Usually it's innocent trouble.
He's curious, and often asks himself questions like: what will happen if I flush my brother's underwear down the toilet? What will happen when I put a cookie in the microwave and turn it on for five minutes? What will happen when I empty a bottle full of glue on the floor (in a corner where mom won't see it until it dries)? What will happen when I bring a fist full of frogs into the house, and don't tell mom for an hour?
We have more rules in this house than ever before. Rules that we never had to even consider before our little turkey was born. Each rule was put in place after an incident occurred.
We now have rules like:
- You may not take all your clothes off and run through a restaurant toward the bathroom.
- You may not push open random doors in the library (especially an emergency exit that will sound an alarm).
- You may not climb into the bin of toys at Wal Mart when mom is price comparing five feet away.
- You may not squeeze into the museum exhibit and wave at mom from behind the plexi-glass.*
- And, under NO circumstances, can you throw anything in the house--especially a toy car at the plasma television, simply because you don't like the cartoon on the screen. The last rule was put in place just a week ago after our television had to be replaced.
The other problem is that he has a twin brother, and he tends to treat his brother with the attitude of: "You're either with me--or I'm against you." This often leaves his brother in tears.
This past week, after a series of mishaps, including the plasma television, we decided it was time to buckle down on discipline.
One of his worst punishments is being put in his room on a time out. On Monday he had five timeouts before lunch. After lunch he bit his sister in the leg (this one surprised us, because he's usually not hurtful and has never been a biter). When his sister came to me crying, I called for our little turkey and he came into the room with big green eyes saying: "But I don't want a time out!"
After apologizing, that's exactly where he went. As I ushered him into his room he said: "But I'll listen and obey! I'll listen and obey."
I said: "You'll have to listen and obey the next time, buddy."
All the hard work of disciplining has started to pay off. We took an uneventful trip to Wal Mart, where he agreed to stay in the cart--and actually did it! No bin diving this time!
But last night, disciplining him broke my heart...
He and his twin brother don't like their door to be closed at bedtime. I've told them that if they stay in their room, then I won't have to close the door. So we went through their nightly routine. We brushed teeth, put on pajamas, read two books, and said prayers. I told them goodnight and then went downstairs to work.
Ten minutes later I was back upstairs checking on everyone...and I found the little turkey with his feet in the bathroom sink! He said he was washing the toothpaste off his feet...and the toothpaste wasn't in the bathroom.
I put him in his room, found the toothpaste in his brother's hands, and removed the toothbrushes from their floor.
That's when I told them they had lost their privilege and I had to close the bedroom door. They cried and begged, but I had to hold my ground.
I closed the door and immediately heard the little turkey say: "Let's throw toys at the door!" Followed by a bang.
Remember, one of the rules is no throwing in the house.
I popped open the door (my mommy face in place) and my little turkey's eyes grew large. I reminded him of the rule, put him in his bed, and gave a stern lecture about listening and obeying. His brother huddled under the covers, big blue eyes blinking away tears, and said: "Mommy, I scared with the door closed."
First crack in my heart.
But as much as I hated to hear him say that, I said: "I have to close the door. You have to learn."
I closed the door and waited for a moment. There was a slight rustle and then I heard my little turkey say to his twin brother: "Don't be scared. I'll stay with you."
That's when my heart broke all the way. I peeked back into their room and sure enough, my little turkey was comforting his brother. I looked at him and said: "Tomorrow you can try again."
And he said: "I know. I listen and obey later."
Being a mommy is tough. Really tough. But if I've learned anything, I've learned that if I can follow through on the discipline now, the rewards will come later. My little turkey needs to learn how to be disciplined in the small battles now, because when he's older, the battles he'll face will only get harder.
Today is a new day, with no mistakes in it. I'm cheering my little turkey on to great things.
Your turn: Do you have any fun parenting stories? If you're not a parent, what kind of trouble did you get into as a child? Any "spirited" children out there?
*The museum escapade just happened last week. I'll share the story on an upcoming blog. Needless to say, it was interesting...