Upset with myself and the situation. I must be doing something wrong. It doesn't seem to matter how patient, explanatory, playful I am. My son does not take me seriously until I've totally had it, and then I yell, and he just thinks I'm being mean to him and can't remember why I'm angry.
Today, brushing his teeth before bed he clenches his teeth, pushes the toothbrush away with his tongue, spits at me - all while laughing. (This has been a daily struggle since he got teeth!) He thinks it's so funny to give me a hard time. Finally I throw the toothbrush in the sink and say, "Fine, your teeth can just fall out then!" Bad for so many reasons, I know. He screams and cries, scared that his teeth will fall out, but doesn't want to try to brush them himself or let me finish brushing them. He will not brush his teeth himself - ever.
We go to his room for bed with him still whining/crying and he starts playing with toys. So I picked him up away from the toys with a terse "it's not play time, it's bed time",, put him in bed, and he starts screaming that I'm being mean to him, and "be nice to me" . A little too forcefully (yelling, finger pointing ) I tell him that it is his actions that caused this situation and I am not trying to be mean to him. He crawled to the other end of the bed and tried to hide under his pillow and blanket saying he was scared of me! ? I feel terrible! I stopped yelling and tried to hold him, but he still wanted to run from me!
I finally ended the drama by telling him my side of the story in 3rd person from the beginning. . . "once upon a time there was a little boy who didn't like having his teeth brushed. . ." Then I helped him tell the story of what happened in 3rd person from his point of view. From his story, it seems that he thinks I am mean any time he doesn't get what he wants, and any time I raise my voice, I am scary.
We ended it by deciding that I would give him 1 warning, then give him a time out. That way I would not give him 10 warnings and be at the end of my patience with him. I don't know what else to do. I tucked him in, and he laughed at our "tuck in" games and seemed OK.
But my son was hiding from me out of fear and I feel horrible. I'm afraid I've done some damage to our relationship. Please be brutally honest. I need to hear other perspectives on what I'm doing that's causing this and how I can fix it. He really does not take me seriously until I explode. But then, he is so flooded with emotion, that he forgets why I exploded and just thinks I'm being mean for no reason.
Thanks for reading.
Life is strange and wonderful. Me , DP , DS (3/09) , 3 and 4
Sounds to me like you handled this particular situation fine - if it makes you feel any better I think he was playing you with the scared business . My DD totally tries to turn it around on me like that when she knows she's irritated me or DH. DH falls for it every time.
In general I think the best thing is to avoid the power struggle in the first place. Does he really need to brush his teeth every night right now if it's going to be a battle? Or maybe brush right after dinner so you can follow it up with something fun - "go brush your teeth and then we can play for ten more minutes" or whatever. OR try the "waiting for the bus" thing where you just detach and wait for him to do what you asked (it's from the book How to Talk to Kids Will Listen, which has a lot of great ideas).
-Ecstatic mommy to amazing DD, 2/07 :
It is not easy to try and solve the pile of unsolved problems ' in the moment '. Out of the moment , when you have a good connection with your son try and collaborate with him and solve problems. check out Ross Greene's cps approach , the latest edition of his books or his website for how the model works. It is not easy , but their is learning on the way. The focus is really on him sharing his concerns and perspectives - go slow here , maybe we have to drill down to get a good idea of his concerns and only then we put our concerns on the table, define the problem and then invite him to problem solve and find a mutually , realistic and doable solution. We need to review how our solution is working . The process is messy and not easy, but plenty skills are learned by doing the process
I ask one time, then a reminder (because yes, my child will forget or get distracted between her bedroom and the bathroom) then I do it for her or stand over her till it gets done. I don't get loud or engage in dramatics. I think when you give a child a ten chances or sometimes fifteen and sometimes five, they have no idea when you're serious so they just wait till you start yelling, and then if they can engage in the dramatics, even better.
I seriously doubt he was worried his teeth would fall out (how many times have you had this discussion? And is he afraid in the beginning when you start telling him to brush his teeth?). I also seriously doubt he was "afraid" of you, but it sure got you to back off.
I'm also not a big believer in Mom the Ever Patient Saint, Playful Parenting (Mom as Entertaining Monkey), or long explanations for small children. I try to keep my cool but I think it helps for kids to know mom is getting impatient, this business of messing around is not going to fly. A bit of playfulness is fine, but I'm not going to turn into a monkey or clown to convince my child to do something she already needs to do and it also seems a bit tricky. I believe in being direct. Brush your teeth so you don't get cavities, cavities hurt. I think we start out way too early trying to bring kids around to the idea of doing what we want instead of just saying directly: here is what needs to happen, this is why. The clowning sounds exhausting and in my experience, kids don't fall for it They know when they're being played. I DO like explanations, but they have to be brief. Even a four year old who seems so smart and grown up is only hearing so much of what you're saying.
Sometimes it's easy to get into these patterns and it's hard to break them, especially for a child, so it's up to you. Just refuse to engage with the drama and yelling. It sounds like the tooth brushing thing is a major, daily (twice, at least, I'd guess) battle. I think you have three options and they are options he can understand: 1. you can behave and let me help you, 2. you can do it yourself and do a good job, 3. fine, don't brush your teeth but say goodbye to anything with sugar, anything acidic, etc - and here's a big long list of foods you can no longer eat. His teeth will not fall out if he doesn't brush his teeth and he won't have a vitamin deficiency if he skips fruit for a few days. I will not battle over this stuff, you can't really "win" in a battle of wills and MAKING him do it...well, he's already figured out he can spit at you and fight you and there's not a whole lot you can do. The spitting would put me over the EDGE. The spitting and laughing means he's already figured out you are out of tricks, so it's time for a new approach. It also tells me he likes engaging you in these kinds of blow ups so stop giving him the pay off of blowing up. It is HARD but when he starts that, I'd just remove myself and say, I'll talk to you when you can be calm and respectful but I don't help people who spit at me.
He may be shocked enough to comply pretty quickly and then it might get worse, or he might push back even harder at first but don't give up. HE is quite comfortable in this pattern and getting a lot of pay off from it, it's up to you to refuse to engage in it anymore.
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