Saturday, March 20, 2010

Battle Zones

I asked our pediatrician about discipline at Will's 18 month check. She encouraged me to find my own discipline style based on what feels comfortable to me and M, and then to be consistent. She also said to pick my battles and not make everything a Really Big Deal.

It got me thinking about my Battle Zones, things I am willing to go to the mat with Will on. I really don't care what he wears, whether he has a banana or apple, if he wears the same jammies to bed three nights in a row, or if he wants to wear his boots on a 60 degree, sunny day. I am willing to let him make those calls and am not going to argue with an 18 month old that easy to pull on shoes would be so much easier than those darn boots.

But I do have things that are very important to me. Meal times are an example. I know our lives will get more and more busy in the future as we start doing activities and sports, but the nights that we are all home, I want us eating dinners together. It is something that my own family did every single night and it is something that M and I have done every night since we started living together. Most nights, Will is good about sitting in his chair at the table with us. Occasionally, however, he will be "all done" long before we are (as in, before I've taken my first bite). We have had a few meals where he is basically fighting us the entire meal, alternatively saying "All done" and "Down, please" and then getting really toddlerish about it before we are finally done. M and I end up practically shouting over him to "talk" to each other and choking our dinners down quickly. As M has pointed out on nights like those (and they are rare), we might as well just let him get down and play so we can at least enjoy our meal together. I refuse to consider it. I worry that if we give in to him on the nights that he doesn't want to sit with us, then eventually, he will not ever want to sit with us and family meals will be a thing of the past. Of course, we can't expect Emma to sit at the table if Will never does. So, that's a battle zone to me. I have others, too, but I think that's the best example of something that many people might say, "Gee, Katie, let the kid play after he's done eating" and think I am being kind of silly to enforce it.

But it's my Battle Zone. I think we all have our own important things that are worth protecting, even if it means a tantrum. What are some of yours?


Christy said...

I'm right with you, Katie. Mealtime is our battle zone to. However, on the nights that Brian works late Andy gets his dinner with me sitting with him and is usually long in bed before Brian and I have dinner. Good for you for knowing what's important to you and sticking to your guns.

Tracy said...

Amen, sister. I am right there with you on mealtimes. With two kids, it's even more important. They know that they aren't getting down until the family is done with their meal...better to start it now.

I'm trying to think of other battle zones I might have. I think for the most part I have things compartmentalized...things that are simply an inconvenience or would not be my first choice, I tend to let go. Things that are unsafe, or could pave the way to habits I wouldn't want them to have as they get older (especially at somebody elses house!) I nip in the bud. Getting into the cupboards is an example. Early on, I let them get into the cupboards because I didn't want to discourage exploration. I put their dishes and tupperware in those cupboards they could get to, and babyproofed the rest. But as they got older, and started to understand boundaries, I started to teach them that they needed to stay out of those cupboards. This occured to me after we visited a friend and they completely trashed her kitchen (oops.) So now they know. And they don't go in the cupboards unless they are helping me unload the dishwasher (cute.)

Rebecca said...

Mealtimes are ridiculously hard...keep it up.

It's an automatic time-out for hitting or any kind of violence. With twins, this crops up a lot. That, and not following directions...they get a warning and then a time-out. As long as we stick to the basics...don't hit each other and listen to Mommy and Daddy, we can cover a broad spectrum of behaviors!

PamalaLauren said...

The meal times one is hard. I agree he should eat with you but remember asking a toddler to sit still and do nothing for more than 15 minutes isn't logical, he just isn't wired that way.

Kaylee (3.75) sits with us now for most of dinner. It wasn't always that way though. When she was younger we were lucky to get 20 minutes out of her. But we had to do what was developmentally appropriate for her. As time went on we increased the time and now she sits with us no problem through most of dinner.

It helps when you allow her a toy or two to play with at the table. Remember adult conversations are utterly boring to a child.

Other "battles" I've chosen to take on:

Bedtime. This has been a big one with us. She likes to stay up and it can't happen.

That she eat what we are eating for dinner. I will not have a picky child.

It is what it is said...

I agree with you and other posters that mealtimes (weeknight dinners, weekend breakfast & dinner) are a no compromise zones. Now that my son is three, he also eats what we eat (I am not a short order cook) and he needs to eat most of his dinner if he wants to have a snack later. If he does not eat dinner, no snack.

Nap times are also on my list. We have been consistent see he was a wee one and even though he is three and some friends children no longer nap (not that he knows this), he needs an afternoon nap or he gets overtired by dinner time and pre-bedtime is its own battle.

Teeth brushing, morning and night, is another. We've been brushing regularly since he was one and I will admit that sometimes I will flex on the morning brushing IF the battle is going to set the entire day off on the wrong foot, but nighttime brushing is a must (and sometimes gets done "the hard way").

Finally, holding hands in a parking lot, to/from a shop or restaurant, or while crossing the street is not negotiable. And, any other "unsafe" or naughty behavior: spitting (at someone), throwing hard objects, kicking, hitting are zero tolerance areas.

Red said...

I agree that meals are a very important family thing, and we always sit together for our evening meal. This is how I handle it:

When Champ wants to leave the table, I alternate letting him or not based on what he has eaten (and what I know he has eaten before dinner). If I think he is genuinely full, I will let him play, but if I think it is just a ploy to get down and then he will be asking for food 10 mins after some playtime, then I ask him to eat his dinner fisrt.

It doesn't really sound consistent, but I do explain to him why I am doing things, which I think he does get (he is a bit older then Will though- 2y3m). So, if I'm about to let him down I'll ask if he is full and all done with dinner, sometimes he actually says no, that he wants to take it with him and I'll expalin that we eat dinner at the table. If he says he is then I tell him he can play but that Mummy and Daddy are still eating (because he expects us to play with him after dinner). He then doesn't get anything else to eat. Not that he asks for anything else, but my own temptation is then to make sure he is full by giving him an apple or milk half an hour later. But I don't, so I think he gets it that that is the last thing to eat before bed and he takes responibility for his own eating.

I will try to teach him more table manners (like waiting for everyone to be done) when he is a bit older and can sit still for longer.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree that each mom has her own style and what's gospel to one mother is nothing to another! I love when moms acknowledge this and know that what's best for them might not be for the next mom. ...But I also agree with you 100% on meal times! Early bedtimes are also something I'm willing to fight for - They really don't argue because it's always been this way but enough rest for them and adult time for me matters. That said, if my son is quietly playing on his bed during naptime, fine with me - rest time for toddler and mommy is really what it's about... not worth a battle to me.

Anonymous said...

I'm the same way with mealtime at our house and Lemy for the most part is good about it, but just last night she had a total breakdown and refused to sit in her chair. So, we put the gates up and confined her to the living room so she could play while we ate, but I told G to ignore her tantrum. When she calmed down she asked come in and eat with us as she realized her not eating wasn't going to change the plan for us.

I'm finding that on those big issues ignoring the negative behavior by isolating her a bit works best. We are never gone from her, but when she's left alone with the behavior it tends to diffuse much faster.

HereWeGoAJen said...

Mealtimes are important to me too. I don't make Elizabeth sit when she's not wanting to, but if she wants to eat, she has to sit. And I don't feed her other times either, so it works pretty well.

I think one of my biggest battle zones is clean and dressed. I want her clean and dressed when we leave the house. No pajamas and no dirty face. (And if you heard her scream when I wash her face and hands, you'd know why it is a battle ground.)

Joy@WDDCH said...

I agree with Pamala Lauren. At this age it is okay to let him down to play next to you or to offer him some toys, coloring or whatever while the grown ups finish their meals. It's just too hard for a little one with a short attention span to sit there too long.