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There is just no gentle way to do this...

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 

DS (4) became a very good swimmer this summer. Unfortunately, he also has a love for throwing things into the pool. And a huge penchant for drama.

 

So after a half a summer of being "grounded" from playing outside b/c he couldn't control himself, he has had about a month of playing outside without incident. He's been doing great the past few weeks and I was really proud of him. Until today.

 

The kids were playing nicely outside and I was getting their stuff ready for school, eating breakfast, etc. When I went out to get them into the car, they had thrown about 50 rocks into the pool! I immediately stripped DS down, got him into his swim suit and goggles and told him to get in. The water's not warm at this point, but it's manageable. He's just not cooperating. He's complaining he's cold. He's refusing to do anything. He is in the pool, cold, crying, and not getting very far. I even tried to help by pushing the ones from the deep end into the shallow water. He's hysterical.

 

It's been an hour and he's retrieved about 10 rocks. It's ridiculous. He's amping up the drama and refusing to work, even though he's already wet and cold.

 

How long does this have to go on? Do I just cancel my day and sit here til he's done? Let him off the hook? I'm screaming mad at this point and have already reacted in a way that is completely and decidedly ungentle. I am doing my best to stay calm and it's not working. I'm sitting RIGHT HERE and he's trying to "sneak" out of the pool!

 

So the consequence for throwing rocks into the pool is having to retrieve them. What's the consequence for not doing it? Throw him back into the pool? Force his head down under the water til he picks up a rock? I don't think so....

 

NOW WHAT???

post #2 of 28

Why is a four year old playing unsupervised near a pool? Could you put a cover on it? A fence around it? You are quite right, though. Forcing a crying, hysterical four year old to do an impossible job in cold water is not gentle.
 

post #3 of 28
Thread Starter 

There is a fence around it. They throw things over it/through the bars. A cover would be prohibitively expensive and not help since then I'd have to remove it to get the rocks off it. And they'd weigh it down and they'd end up in the water anyway. It's not an impossible job. He spent the whole summer diving to the bottom, even in the deep end, for toys and swimming the length of the pool. I did not make the 3 yo get in since he can't swim. His job is to take the rocks and put them back.

 

I'm losing it. I just don't know what else to do. This is a natural, logical consequence and it's STILL not getting through to him. WTF is it going to take???

 

He's in the pool. He's even in the deep end, where the water is colder (and I moved all the rocks from there to the shallow end). He just keeps saying he doesn't want to do it. And crying. Is it just a battle of wills? Is there some disorder or developmental issue that I'm failing to see here? I've posted several times about issues similar to this where timeouts, toy timeouts, etc. don't seem to work with him. But lately he has been seeming to turn a corner and his behavior has greatly improved. I guess I assumed that meant consequences might have been sinking in; maybe it just means he's a really good kid and has outgrown some of those behaviors... IDK.

 

Now he's out of the pool and I don't even know what to do. I have already been more angry than I ever want to be with him. I'm so tempted to toss him back in. I do know that he needs to know that I mean what I say and that means he won't do anything til those rocks are out of the pool. But how do I (gently) help him get it done (without doing it for him, of course)?
 

post #4 of 28

Can't you have him get them out with a pool skimmer?  Throwing a 4 year old into a cold pool is not a gentle or natural consequence, regardless of the infraction.

post #5 of 28

You can't win a battle of wills with a four year old without doing considerable damage. It's probably not the best time to "discipline" when he's hysterical and you're angry. Let him out of the pool and give your selves both time to cool off. I agree it's a problem. I would also be furious but THIS IS NOT WORKING.
 

post #6 of 28

Please know that I am not criticizing you, as I have been in this place many times. Anger creates "tunnel vision" where we focus on the infraction and need to make it right immediately and we lose sight of the "big picture". I'm sure in calmer times you know that the most important things is your relationship with your son. You cannot raise a responsible adult without communication, and that requires trust and respect. Anything you do in anger damages that trust relationship and diminishes your capacity to parent him.

post #7 of 28
Thread Starter 

I do know that. I also know that when I get so angry, I lose sight of that. I didn't want to get there this morning, and the harder I tried not to, the more I did. I am not proud of how it went. DS went to school and I told him that we would have to come up with a way to get the rest of the rocks out this afternoon. I don't know what else to do.

 

I cannot let him off the hook just because he chose to blow it up into a drama it didn't have to be. And at the same time, I am guilt-ridden, b/c his little voice is so hoarse and weak from all the shrieking and screaming and crying he did over nothing. Seriously, he would get out of the pool to warm and I let him have a break. He was perfectly calm and quiet. As soon as he even suspected he was going to have to get back in, it was all drama and screaming. Even when I just got up to try to sweep the rocks into the shallow end. Ridiculous, and maddening. And yet now I feel like I abused him b/c I was so angry.

 

The plan is that he will have to get back in and finish the job. What else can I do, other than to hope the water will be warmer for him? The rocks are too big to fish out with the net -- it will break. I tried with the bigger net -- didn't work. Any better ideas are much appreciated!
 

post #8 of 28

My advice is to first apologize for anything you did that you feel was out of line.  When one of my parents apologized to me it grew my respect for them.  Then I would ask your child to brainstorm ways to help get the rocks out.  Tell him that throwing the rocks in there in the first place was the wrong thing to do and is not OK, but that right now the problem is how to get the rocks out.  Then you are a team trying to solve a problem.  Since it's brainstorming both come up with ideas and listen respectfully to them all even if they're weird and wild.  Good luck.

post #9 of 28

I'm so sorry you both had such a rotten start to your day. But you CAN actually back down and make a course correction without losing credibility. If the rocks are too big for the net, how realistic is it that your four year old will be able to get them out? Give yourself permission to apologize to him and tell him that you're not proud of how you reacted. Let it be OK to make mistakes. Then find another solution.

 

One way to deal with the rocks might be to remove them yourself and then have him put in an equivalent amount of time doing some other chore. Natural consequences don't always have to be the most obvious solution.

 

Good luck with this. I know it isn't easy.
 

post #10 of 28
Thread Starter 

You know, it didn't occur to me that they might be too big for him to swim with. (They're certainly very easy for him to lob over the fence!) I'll talk to him when he wakes up and hopefully he'll be able to help me come up with a better idea. He's not so good at saying much other than, "I don't know." :(
 

post #11 of 28
I would stop letting him out unsupervised until he is a little older. Even lukewarm water can be too.cold for a little four year old body so I would get the rocks out and make him carry them back where they belong. I think a bucket of balls and Frisbees might help the situation. If you are going to let him out alone I would watch from the window and make him come in immediately if he is throwing anything other than balls or Frisbees.
post #12 of 28

Is he doing this alone?  Sometimes kids think of things when they are together that they wouldn't think of alone.  (not always)

 

Hopefully, he learned that when you warn him, you are serious, and he won't assume it's an empty threat again.  Perhaps he assumed you wouldn't really send him in there.  

 

If he wouldn't get them out of the water, even after you helped him by pushing the rocks closer to the stairs, I'd have made him dry off, then sit there while you got every single rock out.  He would not have gone to play until all the rocks were out.  (and I'd have made him put each rock back in the landscaping himself)  

 

It's hard once you are mad to keep from getting more angry.  

post #13 of 28

**I realize you don't know me at all, I'm new to this forum--but I'm a Momma to two teens/young adults who has been gentle parenting for a long, long time** :)

 

First, lots of hugs--what a tough day! 

 

I would definitely NOT make him get back in there to get the rocks. While, that might seem be the most obvious natural consequence, I don't believe it to be so in this case. I second the person who posted how your son is a bit young to be playing outside alone, especially with something like this going on. Four years old is still such a wee one.

 

There is not one thing wrong with backing down and changing what you said. I have found that the kids trust and respect you because they know you will not punish them for the sake of following through when it is clearly a wrong choice.

 

As with many issues that happen with young children, direct supervision and interaction to PREVENT behaviors instead of correcting/punishing is the key. I think that is perhaps a cornerstone of gentle parenting--being present, interacting and thus avoiding many issues.

 

Personally, I would remove the rocks myself while he is at school and start afresh with him. He will be so relieved not to have to retrieve the rocks in the cold water. Go out with him when he plays outside and keep the behavior from happening again by being present to redirect quickly. These years are fleeting, I promise you.

 

(the bucket of balls or frisbees that ARE okay to throw in the pool is a GREAT idea)

 

Lots of hugs to you.

 

~

post #14 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by nextcommercial View Post

 

If he wouldn't get them out of the water, even after you helped him by pushing the rocks closer to the stairs, I'd have made him dry off, then sit there while you got every single rock out.  He would not have gone to play until all the rocks were out.  (and I'd have made him put each rock back in the landscaping himself)  

 

It's hard once you are mad to keep from getting more angry.  

 This - one time my kids destroyed our attic playspace and I was so, so angry (long story behind it) - but for once, instead of having them clean it, or clean with me and getting even angrier having to redirect them every 2 minutes, I had them sit down on the couch, facing away from each other, and just sit there while I cleaned it all up - no playing, no talking to each other, no reading, no nothing.  Just sit there and watch me, and see the impact of the giant mess you made.  It took me a good 45 minutes (I was not dragging it out, either) and it was one of the better ways I've handled something like that.  At first they thought it was a joke, but then when they realized I was serious that they had to just sit there and watch me and see the effort I had to put forth, the impact of the mess really sank in.  

 

I agree with PP, I'd find something floatable that he can chuck into the pool - ping pong balls and/or wiffle balles, maybe?  It sounds like a lot of fun, what he's doing, he's just using a bad material for it.  He could easily gather ping pong of wiffle balls with the skimmer, under your supervision, when he's done chucking.

post #15 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by The4OfUs View Post

 This - one time my kids destroyed our attic playspace and I was so, so angry (long story behind it) - but for once, instead of having them clean it, or clean with me and getting even angrier having to redirect them every 2 minutes, I had them sit down on the couch, facing away from each other, and just sit there while I cleaned it all up - no playing, no talking to each other, no reading, no nothing.  Just sit there and watch me, and see the impact of the giant mess you made.  It took me a good 45 minutes (I was not dragging it out, either) and it was one of the better ways I've handled something like that.  At first they thought it was a joke, but then when they realized I was serious that they had to just sit there and watch me and see the effort I had to put forth, the impact of the mess really sank in.  

I agree with PP, I'd find something floatable that he can chuck into the pool - ping pong balls and/or wiffle balles, maybe?  It sounds like a lot of fun, what he's doing, he's just using a bad material for it.  He could easily gather ping pong of wiffle balls with the skimmer, under your supervision, when he's done chucking.

I like that because the ultimate lesson they need to learn is how their actions impact others. If you hassle them to do it, they can turn themselves into victims and feel wronged, but by having to sit and watch how it impacts you, they can't make themselves feel like victims. They have to face the fact that they caused a great deal of trouble. Sometimes punishing kids gives them an out to not take emotional responsibility for their wrongdoing. They learn through the emotional work, not the physical work.
post #16 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by The4OfUs View Post

 This - one time my kids destroyed our attic playspace and I was so, so angry (long story behind it) - but for once, instead of having them clean it, or clean with me and getting even angrier having to redirect them every 2 minutes, I had them sit down on the couch, facing away from each other, and just sit there while I cleaned it all up - no playing, no talking to each other, no reading, no nothing.  Just sit there and watch me, and see the impact of the giant mess you made.  It took me a good 45 minutes (I was not dragging it out, either) and it was one of the better ways I've handled something like that.  At first they thought it was a joke, but then when they realized I was serious that they had to just sit there and watch me and see the effort I had to put forth, the impact of the mess really sank in. 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mamazee View Post


I like that because the ultimate lesson they need to learn is how their actions impact others. If you hassle them to do it, they can turn themselves into victims and feel wronged, but by having to sit and watch how it impacts you, they can't make themselves feel like victims. They have to face the fact that they caused a great deal of trouble. Sometimes punishing kids gives them an out to not take emotional responsibility for their wrongdoing. They learn through the emotional work, not the physical work.

 

I'm not the OP but ... this is so incredibly insightful and useful.  Thanks mamas.  Out of sheer frustration, I've had DD sit and watch me clean up a really big mess once or twice, but I thought I was taking the "easy way out" (vs making her do it).  It never occurred to me this might be a viable parenting strategy!

post #17 of 28
Thread Starter 

I agree. It was VERY helpful. I'm not sure if the message got through, but ultimately what happened was yesterday I put on my swimsuit and DH's goggles (I don't have any, b/c I don't swim) and spent over an hour fishing ALL the rocks out. I was wrong in my OP -- it was way more than 50. There were 50 pebbles alone (at least, I didn't count) and then a couple dozen bigger rocks.

 

So, consequences (for both of us):

I was so tired after diving all afternoon (and fighting a panic attack, b/c I do NOT like going under water and haven't been swimming in ages) that I couldn't do bedtime. I just didn't have it in me to hang out with each kid for however long they needed to settle. So DH did the majority, I helped with getting teeth brushed, and then I bowed out and got the laundry done that would have been done in the afternoon if I hadn't had to go diving. The younger one acted traumatized, the culprit didn't seem to care much.

 

Today, before they could eat lunch, culprit had to collect the rocks from the side of the pool and replace them where they had been. Nicely. He seemed to have a pretty good time with that, but at least he did it quickly. Since I had to be out there with them, lunch was delayed.

 

They haven't been allowed to play outside all week. This morning it got to them and they went nuts on each other.

 

Not really the impact I'd hoped for. They don't understand why they have cabin fever or even that they do. But hopefully they (and I) will recover and not have any lingering emotional scars. And on the other hand, it seems like maybe they didn't learn a thing... IDK. I'm just glad this week is OVER.

post #18 of 28

hug2.gifEveryone has weeks like that! 
 

post #19 of 28

Mama, that age.....is.....HARD.  It sounds like your kids are kind of like my kids were at that age and yeah, I am JUST NOW, at 8 and 6 years old, finally feeling a little bit more normalcy, a little bit like I can leave them alone for a while and not come back to things completely trashed, not worry about leaving a sharpie somewhere for fear of it being wielded all over the house.  They're still VERY ENERGETIC and inquisitive and like to examine and experiment, but they have SOME sense of pausing and thinking about outcomes at this point.

 

That age, 3, 4, 5, was emotionally EXHAUSTING for me.  6, 7, and now 8?  Better.  Not ideal, but better.  And keeps getting better, more quickly.

 

Keep on keepin' on.  hug2.gif

post #20 of 28

Just another hug2.giffor you OP.  You sound pretty exhausted. 

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