I need some overall guidance on how to handle some of my son's behaviors... I am feeling not so competent at this parenting thing today.
1. Name calling - preschool-ish name calling such as "hot dog face" or "banana apple head"...the worst is usually "meanie"...
- I have basically been disregarding whatever he is saying. Sometimes he says it in a jesting mood just because he thinks it is silly. Other times he is using the names as weapons, when he is angry or trying to be hurtful. Should my reaction be the same regardless of the intention? Because the words he is generally using are not "negative" words in and of themselves (inanimate objects rather than curses), does that make the need to address the behavior less? Can he mentally process the delineation that "G-rated" words are only okay when being silly but not okay when being hurtful?
2. Explosive reactions - kicking, screaming, crying, name calling in reaction to a decision different than what he wants...although sometimes it is limited to whining, pouting, "you never let me...." behavior...
- We have been through tantrums...the one's, the two's, and the three's. Each stage has been different, all have been handled very similarly: validation of feelings, ensure that my first decision is my last decision (assessing whether I believe it is something worth fighting over before I make the decision, so there is no waffling....), but in the end, just allowing the feelings to run their course. The four's seem worse - more explosive, longer lasting. I have been basically sticking to the previous reaction to tantrums, but it doesn't seem to help...
2. Repetition - repeating the same sentence over and over again until I verbally respond...
- This is usually a statement that I avoiding acknowledging because it will lead to the previously aforementioned explosive reactions. It is like he is trying to get me to say no so he can explode and kick and scream and yell and cry... Part of me doesn't want to believe that he is baiting me. Is that likely? Or, am I just projecting the idea of provocation onto him?
I feel like he is a teenager stuck in a 4-year-old's body: constantly struggling for power, temperamental, argumentative, on an emotional roller coaster (happy and excited one minute, surly and difficult to get along with the next). I am having a hard time not being drawn in when the above behaviors are occurring and explode myself (they usually occur in conjunction with each other to some extent). I want to do better, but I don't know what to do... I try to choose my battles, but lately it seems like I am always having to "talk" to him about his behavior, and I am sure he feels that way too. I try to encourage the acceptable behavior, compliment and acknowledge when he is being nice or helpful, but it seems so rare and it seems like the positive reinforcement is being drowned out by everything else.
I am struggling with more than this, but at the moment, this is all I can formulate into semi-coherent thoughts. I am writing this on the heel of a very frustrating evening containing various combinations of the above issues for 2.5 hours which was followed by a 45-minute long crying session (after I eliminated the 15-minute playtime before bedtime routine due to the continued behavior after several warnings...) before his body/mind finally gave out and he went to sleep...
I haven't had an opportunity to check out the library for the previously suggested books, but I really need to share and get some insight on my evening. I have to be doing something wrong...
I picked him up this evening and could immediately tell he was tired. He had played all day - hard apparently - and I know that contributed a lot to this evenings behaviors and emotions. However, after more than two extremely long hours of being yelled at, I am nearing my boiling point and have no idea what to do. It started with:
Micah: Where are we going to eat?
Micah: I don't want to eat at home; I want to go out to eat.
Me: I am sorry, but Nana and Papa are going to be in town tomorrow. I am sure they are going to want to go out to eat then, so we cannot go today.
Micah: <screaming, crying, kicking the seat in front of him> ...BUT I WANT TO GO OUT TO EAT!!! I DON'T WANT TO EAT AT HOME!
Etc, etc, etc. the entire way home. I am really proud of myself that I didn't explode and yell back at him. I calmly explained several ways that I completely understood he was disappointed, but that we were going home to eat. So, we get home, and he doesn't want to get out of the car. No calm talking, no reasoning, no hugs, no understanding allowed - all basically engages additional explosive behavior - he wants to stay in there, pouting/sulking/crying/screaming...so I unhook his harness so he can get out when he wants, leave the door to the car and the kitchen open (he is in the garage which is attached to the kitchen). Less than a minute later, he walks in continuing to scream, cry, etc., etc.
I move along with my evening as though he is standing there perfectly calm and begin to have a conversation with him about dinner. I can tell that immediate gratification is in order, so I ask if he would rather have pasta or soup (offering a limited number of options is good, right?!?). So, he picks the pasta. I begin to cook our dinner. (He is still screaming and crying). I get about halfway cooking dinner (no going back now....), and he decides, NO, he doesn't WANT pasta, he wants soup. At this point, I feel I have a decision to make. I can either: A - stop cooking the pasta, throw it away, and cook his second choice (this doesn't seem to be the right response because it is wasting money, and what I get halfway through cooking the soup and he decides THAT is not what he wants?!? Which is completely plausible...)....B - continue cooking the pasta and cook the soup too (this doesn't seem like an appropriate response because I do NOT cook two dinners, and I do not want him to think it is okay - for today or any other day - because I can't afford it financially and I can't afford to spend the time on cooking two meals).....C - continue cooking the pasta, and serve it for dinner. I chose option C. Which, of course, does nothing for the screaming and crying.
At this point, I am mostly tuning him out, chanting over and over in my mind - "It isn't you, it's not personal, stay calm" or something to that effect over and over and over, responding to questions and statements as calmly as possible. Trying not to feed into the cycle, but not ignoring him completely. I had already allowed him to have a yogurt, but didn't feel that anything should be substituted for the main portion of his dinner. I offered a salad to go with the pasta, but he wasn't interested because he didn't WANT pasta, he wanted soup. Round and round we go until it is time to sit down to eat. I fix our plates and prepare to sit down. He decides he wants to take his meal into the living room and eat while watching a movie (this is not acceptable in our home. I do allow him to watch TV occasionally, but it is usually limited to a certain amount of time on certain days and certainly not at dinner time. - I do want to note that in the car before this whole fiasco began he had asked about watching the movie and I had agreed, because at that time there was enough time to get home, eat dinner, and watch at least part of the movie before winding down for bed). I tell him, no, we do not eat in the living room, you cannot eat your dinner in there while watching TV because it is too messy and it is not healthy (plus, dinner time is usually our talk about the day time).
Round and round we go about the items cooked for dinner, wanting to watch the movie, and wanting to eat in the living room. Finally, I had had enough - I didn't feel I should have to sit there and be yelled at constantly throughout dinner. I took him to our bedroom, placed him on the bed, and told him that once he could calm down, he could come join me for dinner. Several times he migrated back from the bedroom to the kitchen table, still screaming and crying and yelling and arguing, so I would take him back to the bedroom, explain it again, ad nauseum. He finally comes back, still whimpering and crying, but takes a bite or two of the pasta. Then starts screaming and crying and yelling, saying that he wanted salad and I wouldn't let him. I explain that I asked and he said he did not want a salad, but if he wanted one, all he had to do was ask. "YOU WON'T LET ME HAVE A SALAD!!!!!!!!!" Over and over and over and over. We go back through the same you can't be at the dinner table while you are acting that way, direct him to the bedroom or living room (which is on the way to the bedroom) to calm down advising he can return when he has calmed down.
This is nearly an hour after dinner was ready. He finally calms down enough to ask for a salad and eat some of his pasta and finish his yogurt.
Of course now that so much time has passed, bedtime is looming closer and now there is no time for the movie or any portion thereof, so then of course when he asks about the movie again, it starts all over. So, I have to go to the bathroom and really just need a sanity check after listening to over an hour and a half of screaming and crying. I go into the bathroom, close and lock the door, and just as I sit down to use the bathroom, he starts banging and kicking the door while yelling and screaming. Finally, I see that sanity is not allowed this evening, so once I was finished, I unlocked the door. He comes in hugging me, saying he was scared, etc., so I hugged and consoled and comforted, while he continued to half-cry (does this make sense? Not a full out cry, but sobbing, shuddering breaths, "whining"...).
Then, he says, I am watching the movie! He goes to turn on the TV and the movie...I turn it of and advise it was time for bed, lead him up to the bedroom. Then, I tell him to go get a book. He doesn't go to get the book, just continues the constant crying/whining/sobbing which has revamped itself because of the movie incident. Then, he says, "I AM GOING DOWNSTAIRS TO WATCH THE MOVIE!!!" So as he leaves the bedroom, I get up to follow him and lead him back to the bed, and he explodes, "YOU SAID I COULD GET A BOOK, BUT YOU WON'T LET ME!!!" "Micah, if you want a book go get one, but you cannot go downstairs to start the movie" "YOU WON'T LET ME GET A BOOK!!!!"....
I really won't get into the rest of it as it is basically more of the same - exploding anytime he doesn't hear what he wants, whether what he wants is or is not what I said. He finally started winding down and has now passed out, looking all peaceful and innocent, and here I am with my head pounding and my head spinning, wondering where in the heck I went wrong?!?
PLEASE tell me what I could have done to diffuse the situation....I don't know how many more evenings like this I can take. This one was fairly intense, they aren't always like this, sometimes they are moderate or mild, but the same underlying issues are there. I am literally in tears. They say to enjoy this time as they grow so fast, but how in the world am I supposed to enjoy this?!?
Edited by ShyDaisi - 6/27/11 at 6:29pm