Wednesday, November 29, 2006

11/29/06 Discipline issues

Still upset about yesterday's blowouts with Gabriel, I resolved today not to raise my voice and not to get physical at all with the boys today. That's more challenging than you'd think, since they often need to be physically removed -- or put into -- a situation.

Just to get them to wash their hands for dinner often takes threats, and follow-up action, of throwing away toys. Not even "putting" away anymore -- they have to see a toy go into the garbage. I try all the usual advice in books and magazines. I give them advance notice. I try to make it fun (though I can't always, and why should I have to?). The times they do comply without a fight, I give lots of praise and positive reinforcement. I warn them without anger that something or other will get taken away. I try to give them incentives, like that there's a new color of soap, or that we'll talk about something fun once they're sitting down to dinner.

But it always comes down to threats, shouts, throwing things away, followed by them screaming and crying, before they finally capitulate. It's exhausting and infuriating. And impossible when I'm carrying around a crying baby.

With Gabriel, it might be best to skip all the lead-up and go straight to the big guns -- make a big impact right away with the biggest consequence possible, otherwise he'll escalate up to that anyway across a long painful conflict. Tonight the boys would not stay in bed, then finally Julian was ready, but Gabriel kept bothering him and making him cry. Repeated warnings to stay in bed and leave Julian alone were laughed at while I was there, and ignored when I wasn't. Finally, I made a rare idle threat: he'd have to sleep in the garage.

This is only partly idle. We're out of rooms! Three of our bedrooms and two of our bathrooms are upstairs, and we can't go upstairs at all right now. We're living in a two-bedroom one-bathroom house, just like our house started out as in 1913. The boys are camped in the living room until next week, and they're taking baths in the giant Jacuzzi downstairs. Their bedtime noise is a definite problem for calming Katrina, too, as the bathroom is right next to our room where Dave and I and Katrina are sleeping.

So there's nowhere to put a little boy who's misbehaving to separate him from his brother. The garage is an idle threat -- but a powerful one. After one too many times I had to go into the living room to intervene, I walked Gabriel outside, barefoot and in pajamas, and took him into the garage. There I found a padded floor chair thing that stretches out to a convenient small mat. I told Gabriel to lie down there until he was ready to behave -- oh yes, without lights, and I would lock the door. That finally made enough of an impact on him that he backed down. He said he was scared, but I'm sure he was cold too. (The Bay Area is in the midst of a cold snap -- I had to scrape ice off my windshield this morning.) I don't know if I was more relieved that I got him to back down, or upset that it has to come to such extremely harsh measures to get him to back down.

But I had a nice day with Gabriel (Julian was at Tonya's since the flooring contractors were here today and he won't nap downstairs) and Katrina. After picking him up from pre-K, we grocery-shopped, where he earned himself a cookie for being so helpful and good and sweet (which he is most of the time!). Then we spent lots of time together at home, some of it with Katrina, cutting things. Gabriel cut out the picture he colored of the garbage truck, and I was cutting some felt to make Christmas stockings. I was glad to spend so much good time with him after yesterday.

Katrina bestowed upon me some darling Happy Baby Fun Time this morning -- at 3:30am. A full hour of wiggling, kicking, smiling, cooing....adorable, but why then?! She was tired too today, and slept a lot, and overall was very sweet and cute when awake. She's still congested, and I was glad (and surprised!) to pull a few inches (inches!) of snot out of her nose with the blue snotsucker thing they give you at the hospital.

I'm sure you're all tired of these photos, but I can't get enough of looking at Katrina's sweet face. That doesn't mean I can get great pictures though. I tried different angles, but didn't get any one crowning moment today (ooh, bad pun, since this is a shot of her crown):

I like this funny face though.

Katrina's funny and smiley faces are a welcome constant around here, a refreshing breath after all the turmoil of little-boy conflict and the disruption of flooring contractors. It's the closest to normal we have right now.


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