Wednesday, July 18, 2007

7/18/07 "Katrina can crawl!"

"Katrina can crawl!"

So announced a very proud older brother (Julian) to all the workers at Gabriel's daycare/daycamp today.

Well, sort of crawl. It's the very bare minimum you'd call crawling, but I think she's met my criteria of moving all four limbs, before sliding to her tummy and reaching out for whatever it is she's aiming for.

Like this:

Dresses on babies don't make a lot of sense, especially on crawlers. And overly pink ones with gag-me-now cutesy sayings are so not my thing. But, I put this on Katrina today to take a photo for a thank-you note, and I have to admit, it's cute on her.

But it's also going to have to get put away, as she was kneeling/stepping on it.

Tonight Gabriel was faced with a new force: Calm Mom.

He got in trouble at dinner for scratching his fork along the table, and was escorted out of the dining room and told to sit at the kitchen counter. You know, the "natural consequence" that Positive Parenting assumes ends an encounter.

Of course, with Gabriel, it only starts there.

He got up without asking to be excused, then deflected an instruction to go sit back down by doing it so slowly that he essentially wasn't doing it. He got a warning, failed that, then ran down a countdown (defiantly declaring, "countdowns don't work on me!"). So then, The Consequence was implemented: his trains got put away.

You should have heard the hollering -- I'm sure our neighbors did. But this time, the only hollering came from him as he begged and cried for his trains: "I'M SITTING! I'M SITTING!! I'M BEING GOOD!!! NOOOO! STOP!!! STOOOOPPPP!!!!" He seemed downright rattled watching his two parents silently -- yes silently packing up his favorite toy and putting it into the garage. But as he did his utmost to get a reaction, nothing.

Naturally in Gabriel-land, things are far from over. (Take that, Positive Parenting.)

Within minutes, he had gone to the garage to rescue his trains. He was busted and escorted to his room immediately -- but he went, and with little physical force required on my part. He screamed and hurled insults, but he was actually more compliant than usual, and all I had to do was hold his hand up the stairs, instead of prying him off the banisters.

With each escalation, I'm thinking, "Oh, YEAH! Game's UP, kid!! This sh*t is working!! Cool!"

Once in his room, newly-empowered-Mom kneeled and talked to him for a few minutes. I recognized his rage and frustration, and listened to him declare indignantly how unfair it was. Following Positive Parenting instructions, I said things like, "Seems really unfair, doesn't it? Kids have to do what grownups say. I know, that makes you mad. Well, here's the way to get your trains back. Tomorrow, you...(etc)." I didn't back down, didn't draw it out, just let him express himself, reminded him what he'd done wrong, and told him I was sure he'd do it right the next time. He needed the attention and acknowledgement.

But, not done yet.

He demanded a time until he had to stay in his room, as usual trying to open the door for another fight ("No Mom, 15 minutes is TOO LONG, I'm only staying for TEN"), but I didn't react or tell him, "You stay here or ELSE..." More insults, threats and claims of disobedience as I walked downstairs. But he stayed.

We both knew: I'd won.

Hah! Yay!

Julian met up with Calm Mom yesterday too, but he crumpled almost immediately. Oh my, did he cry and hug me hard when I got him out of time-out. His attempts to imitate Gabriel's resistance are downright comical. Annoying, to be sure, but he just wasn't born with the backbone for the full-on knock-down drag-outs that his older brother can dish out. But maybe it's thanks to older brother that I'm finding new backbone too.

I've tried all this before. What's different now? I'm not sure. Nine days of migraine then getting scary sick made me stop and think a lot, about many things.

I think I'm more motivated because I know they won't respect me if I lose my temper, and that there will come a time -- not too far off -- that they will be more physically powerful than me, and I need to establish that respect now. Some nice boosts and tips from Betsy have helped, as have watching how my sister calmly deflects most indiscretions. And, of course, SuperNanny's sound bite: stay calm, you'll have more control.

Maybe it's also that I've reconciled that Positive Parenting techniques aren't necessarily mutually exclusive of more traditional methods, even if Positive Parenting thinks so. Its stance against spanking seems to assume that parents spank as a matter of course, as a first response, and that merely distracting a toddler is a comparable course of action. But few parents want to spank, and only do so when they feel there's no alternative. Positive Parenting rules it out entirely, offering alternatives that are sound, but only useful at a much lower escalation level.

So I'm not taking a whack on the bottom out of the escalation chain -- I'm just adding links to that chain before it gets to that. Knowing that the "tool," if you will, of a smart smack is still ultimately available, turns positive parenting into the first (and 2nd and 3rd and nth) line of defense, rather than the only one. That takes the pressure off. And so Calm Mom has been born.

Can I keep this up? It's only been a few days -- headache-free ones, in fact. The real test is when the inevitable migraine returns. Or I might have just hit a patch when the stars are aligned properly and the boys are just being agreeable.

Certainly Julian took his sweet pill this morning, giving everyone (even a mock-reluctant Gabriel) a hug and kiss before parting ways this morning. When Julian wants to be amiable and adorable, there's no stopping him. I just love that boy.

And speaking of no stopping, those boys are gonna learn fast to put stuff away, because here comes baby!


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