when choices don't work - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 11 Old 08-26-2011, 08:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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So, how do you deal when offering choices just doesn't work?

 

My 6 year old seems to think that he can make his own rules.  Let's take bedtime tonight for an example.  He gets one cd to listen to as he falls asleep (a story cd).  He came downstairs after it was over to ask for another one...

 

Me:  You had one cd to listen to as you fell asleep.  You can now listen to it again, or you can have quiet to fall asleep to.

Him:  I want a new cd.

Me:  Your choices are same again, or quiet.  A new cd is not a choice.  Which would you like.

(edit out the 10 minute screamfest for a different cd, which included me just leaving a few times -- but then he gets loud and since his two brothers were already asleep i went back in)

 

Repeat a few times, til I finally threatened him with having to stay home and make up the sleep he is missing while I took his brothers to Grandma's house tomorrow.

 

Whenever we get into a conflict like that, he just has a scream fest and will not choose one of the choices I give him.  Once I offer the choices, I feel I need to stick to my guns or he'll walk all over me.  (If I let him have a billion new cds, he'll nEVER go to sleep...  so this is a newer rule, but he's a basket case when he stays up all night listening to cds so that had to change).  But... the choice thing never goes well with him...when I give him a, b, or c...its always d, e or f...

 

Advice?

thanks!!

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#2 of 11 Old 08-26-2011, 09:40 PM
 
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Boy, we are in the middle of this literally right now. My son JUST did that same thing 5 minutes ago (he is 8).

 

At first I gave him an extension on his bedtime because he draws in bed and he is so passionately involved in his drawing, he doesn't want to stop. I wanted to let him finish his drawing. And I do want to always encourage his art. (he draws every night). But then I thought about it. I realized No, his art doesn't get to reign supreme over all else. He is going to be exhausted (again) tomorrow, he is out here bugging us every 5 minutes with questions on how to spell this or that word (for the comic he's drawing), and we're not getting any peace. His art is valuable, his creativity is valuable, but it's not something that we can just let run roughshod over the rest of the house and the two of us (parents). So I marched up there and said "you have only 15 minutes more to finish up; do NOT start a new drawing or anything you can't finish by 11:30. Your art is valuable and important but it's not without limits."

 

End of story. And yes, he WAS screaming. But I just stayed firm. I walked in there and said this screaming and tantruming (because he had only 15 minutes left and couldn't find this or that art supply in that short a time) has got to stop. Put everything away now and turn out the lights if you can't handle your 15 minute extension. At which point he got suddenly calm & in control, and quiet again, and said he could work peacefully until lights-out.

 

But I think it's important that I had that realization. His art doesn't get to go on endlessly, and everyone else has to pick up the slack with lack of peace-time, grownup time, etc. It's a matter of setting boundaries. And considering his bedtime is 10:00 and he has 1 hour to draw (usually) with lights out at 11:00, I'd say he has it pretty good. (We are homeschoolers if you haven't guessed.) He knows his bedtime; it's been written down and is always in plain sight. At age 8 I expect him to learn to plan for it and allow enough time. He can't just start a project 5 minutes before lights out and then scream because he can't finish it.

 

I guess I was venting a little there...you asked for advice. In a nutshell, hold your ground. It's not like your son is deprived. He gets a CD and that's good. He doesn't get to have unlimited CDs because, as you said, it doesn't work for him. So you set a limit. Best of luck. It is hard.

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#3 of 11 Old 08-26-2011, 10:21 PM
 
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If it is something that they won't let go of, then that choice disappears the next time.  So because he did not follow the 1 cd rule & threw a fit over wanting another cd then tomorrow he gets no cd.  If he throws a fit tomorrow night he does not get another cd until he goes to bed in a nice manner.  Then if he goes to bed in a nice manner you can reward him with a cd that night.

 

He's pushing the boundries & needs to have a firm expectation on what happens if he pushes this boundry.  It will come to a point where all you'll have to do is say do we need to take the cd's away & he'll quit.

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#4 of 11 Old 08-27-2011, 03:35 AM
 
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Just wondering, does he really understand that the change in the rules is about him needing to get a good night's sleep? It kind of sounds like he is feeling like you are being controlling and he is fighting against that. I would talk to him at a time that is not near bed time about how you feel as a parent he needs to get a good night's sleep and that listening to cd's all night is leading to having bad days, then ask him what he thinks is a solution, because huge tantrums isn't helping you all get a good night's sleep either.

With my kids, choices don't always work either, but when I can make my kids see we have a problem, and I ask them to help solve it, things go better. It does mean that I have had to bend and try things a different way than I wanted, but at those times I let the kids know that if their plan didn't work, we would have to find another solution.

Laura, Mama to Mya 7/02, Ian 6/07 and Anna 8/09
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#5 of 11 Old 08-27-2011, 05:19 AM - Thread Starter
 
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OTmama -- I've tried that approach but he doesn't follow through.  Like, if I'd asked him for a solution - he would have said just one more cd and then he'd go to sleep.  But, we'd have had the same discussion as soon as the cd was over.  Maybe I'll try having the discussion with him this morning and we'll write down what he'd LIKE to happen for bedtime (within reason) and then move forward holding him to that plan.  (He has quiet time during the day with books on cd, and he's REALLY started to like them... I SHOULD have known letting him listen at bedtime was a bad idea but it seemed so harmless when it started...  but, his fall asleep time went from 8 to after 10 REALLY quickly! without changing his get up in the morning time)

 

Maybe he's just not a kid that can make choices in the moment... 

 

Carrie - Promise??? :)  He is ALL about pushing boundaries right now.  He used to be a bit happier go lucky but always stubborn.  Now...  he's just TESTING TESTING TESTING.  I hope its just the age... because its driving me crazy!!  (Although thinking about it... I'm just a few weeks past the  the sick all the time part of pregnancy so maybe he's just reacting to my relaxed standards...  now there's one bit of hindsight I could have used in advance!!!)

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#6 of 11 Old 08-27-2011, 01:32 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CarrieMF View Post

If it is something that they won't let go of, then that choice disappears the next time.  So because he did not follow the 1 cd rule & threw a fit over wanting another cd then tomorrow he gets no cd.  If he throws a fit tomorrow night he does not get another cd until he goes to bed in a nice manner.  Then if he goes to bed in a nice manner you can reward him with a cd that night.

 

He's pushing the boundries & needs to have a firm expectation on what happens if he pushes this boundry.  It will come to a point where all you'll have to do is say do we need to take the cd's away & he'll quit.

agree.  This is what I do, too.  

 

 


DS (6.06), DD (10.08), DD (05.11).

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#7 of 11 Old 08-27-2011, 03:16 PM
 
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Wow. Just reading this, it dawned on me that "the problem" might not actually be the CDs....it's your ability to trust him to keep his word! Seriously. I think that when we are trying to solve problems, it's important that we really identify what the problem IS.  :-)

 

So when problem-solving, you might say "I have a need to believe you will keep your promises. I need to trust you. I am a fair mama; the reason I don't let you listen to one more CD is because when you promise to listen to only ONE, you yell and scream instead of keeping your promise. That is the problem. What do you suppose is a good solution?"

 

I have done this with my son. I told him frankly (like, when we drive by a playground and he asks to stop and play there)...."We don't have enough time for a big playground visit. We DO have time to stop for twenty minutes and swing on the swings, but you usually don't leave the playground when I ask without a fight, so that's why we can't stop."  "Oh but mama! I can, I promise! I will quit after 20 minutes!"  "OK, this can be a test. Let's do it, and if you DO leave after just 20 minutes like you said, that will tell me that we can make more quick stops like this in the future."  In situations like this he HAS risen to the occasion. He sees that his past refusal to leave when I ask is making me unwilling to stop, and it gives him a chance to "make it right." And when we do this, I warn him after 15 minutes "We're leaving in 5 minutes; remember you were going to show me how well you leave the playground."

 

 

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by happy1nluv View Post

OTmama -- I've tried that approach but he doesn't follow through.  Like, if I'd asked him for a solution - he would have said just one more cd and then he'd go to sleep.  But, we'd have had the same discussion as soon as the cd was over.

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#8 of 11 Old 08-27-2011, 11:48 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NellieKatz View Post
In a nutshell, hold your ground. It's not like your son is deprived. He gets a CD and that's good. He doesn't get to have unlimited CDs because, as you said, it doesn't work for him. So you set a limit. Best of luck. It is hard.


I was just going to say that maybe it's not that choices don't work, it's just that he isn't happy about the choices (listen to the same disc again, or don't listen) and so he lobbies for another choice (a different CD instead of the same one.)  You did as NellieKatz mentioned and "held your ground," not agreeing to a different CD.  That's your limit.  You heard his case and didn't change your limit.

 

What came next was his expression of feelings about that, about his inability to effect change despite his effort.

 

The ten minute screamfest is probably a combination of a last-ditch effort to change things to go his way in case the screaming "works," and an off-loading of all the feelings related to not being able to make a desired outcome happen.  (Most likely more of the latter, the grieving & venting, rather than the attempt to persuade.)

 

My advice would be to hang in there, mama!

 

I think you set a limit, held the limit, and then your son has feelings about coming into contact with the limit & not being able to change it.  The last piece for you is accepting the fact of those feelings & supporting him in his process.  It might help if you think of it that way, with the tantrum reflecting his inner struggle and his own process, rather than it being something "personal" or directed at you.  If it is really triggering, with lots of "He shouldn't be doing this" and "I shouldn't let him get away with this" thoughts coming up, it might help to repeat to yourself thoughts such as, "He can have his feelings," and "There are no bad feelings.  Feelings are only 'bad' when they are not expressed."  I also find myself experiencing anew, or re-realizing, that this is a process, and that "accepting it as it is" is a way of facilitating process, or allowing change.  (Despite the fact that I "know" this, I seem to have to re-learn it as I can get very stuck.)

 

 

Peripherally, I agree with OTMomma that his behavior could contain an element of resisting what feels controlling.  If you wanted to, you could reflect on your limits & your beliefs about the situation, and could explore the differences between what you are okay with offering to him and what you are worried about happening (I am not sure whether he can listen to the same CD indefinitely or just twice or what, and how that would differ in time from him listening to 2, 3 or 4 different story CDs, if he can listen to CD #1 over again 2, 3 or 4 times, for instance.  But maybe he can't replay it multiple times?  Or maybe that just hasn't been a problem because he only has wanted different stories and hasn't tried to repeat indefinitely?)

 

Anyway, I could see how that particular rule might seem arbitrary and controlling (you can listen multiple times but only to the same CD each time, versus you can listen to a few CDs), and that he could be reacting to it.

 

So that's one thing, but even so, that's still essentially about feelings in response to a limit.  And I think it is possible for parents to be sometimes arbitrary & simply to exert their power in some ways without it being automatically harmful, if they are open about acknowledging what's happening at that time.  A component of that, for me, is acknowledging what is happening (that I am insisting on an issue because I've decided to do so, and I am exerting my parental power), and then allowing & acknowledging feelings in response to that fact without making them "wrong" or taking them personally.  (If I'm doing all of this then I tend to stay in touch with my reasons, which means I'm less likely to "abuse" my power or enforce kneejerk limits.)

 

So, even if you didn't feel like revisiting your limits & the choices you're offering and even if you didn't want to change anything, you'd still be back at the point of holding a limit & then acknowledging/allowing the feelings in response.

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#9 of 11 Old 08-28-2011, 01:57 PM
 
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I take away the choices and go with what I prefer if my dd refuses to choose.  I usually warn her that this is what I will do and I empathize with her feelings but try to avoid getting sucked into argument.  At this point I really know when to let my dd have space to be angry and when she needs me to stay and help her process things. 

 

If it is something that creates a fight each time I remove it as a choice for a while.  I usually talk to my dd about it in the morning when we are outside of the time of conflict and tell her that if it continues to cause us such anger towards each other we will have to cut it out of our lives.  I haven't had to do this often, but there are some things that are just too much trouble to keep as a choice. 

 

As an aside, I have noticed that listening to books on tape seems to perk my dd up at night instead of helping her wind down.  I let her listen to them during the day but switched to letting her have a half hour at night to read to herself in bed before lights out.  I don't extend the time on school nights and she has no problem with that, the fights are just gone.  When she was younger she would just look at a bunch of picture books then fall asleep, but she slowly moved to reading them and I think it has really helped her enjoy reading. 

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#10 of 11 Old 08-29-2011, 02:46 AM
 
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Hi,

 

I am for trying to solve the problem out of the moment , brainstorming solutions and coming back to the drawing board when they don't work. 

 

using collaborative problem solving we need to find the info about the kids concerns -   another CD is a solution to a concern , not his concerns 

 

what are his concerns ?  tentative suggestions - not tired , too stimulated  , look for more 

 

it could be that his biological clock needs resetting - speak to your pdoc about the natural substance - melatonin

 

mindfulness , medidation , learning to soothe yourself to sleep  is very helpful too.

 

when problem solving focuses on solutions, or duelling solutions against each other , it is more about bartering

 

if we forget about solutions, take our time and focus on concerns , the kids and ours - we can come up with quite a few different solutions. In real life the first solution does not always work 

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#11 of 11 Old 08-29-2011, 07:51 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Well, I talked to him outside the moment and he told me he just needed a note to remind him that he couldn't get out of bed for one more cd.  So...  I made him a nice little picture of a cd crossed out, but a potty that was fine (he can't read yet).  He hasn't asked for a cd since, although now as soon as his cd is finished, he goes and falls asleep in my bed (I can live with that ;)). 

 

NellieKatz - thats exactly it, but i've never thought of it that way.  Topic of an upcoming conversation, for sure...

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