Thursday, January 13, 2011

Kicking and Screaming (or Scratching and Hitting)

It seems as if this whole discipline thing comes up on the good ol' blog every few months. When I am not yammering about sleep, what to do about the behavior of my older child seems to be my parenting foil.

This week has been. . . rough. It seems that we have weeks like this, where I seriously wonder where my sweet tempered child went.

Monday was one of my weakest moments as a parent to date. We went on a fun playdate to local bounce place. I had a great time playing with him in all of the bouncy houses. He was fairly well-behaved there, until one of the mothers wanted to get a group picture of everyone. Well. That didn't work out so well. He didn't want to stop playing (kinda can't blame him, but still) and so he hit me when I tried to pick him up to take him over for the shot. Time out.

Then he cried during the entire five minutes that we tried to get said group picture. Finally, he was released to play again, but it was like the switch had been flipped. After leaving there, we all went to McD's where he proceeded to behave terribly. He would not sit down, he did not want to eat his lunch, he kept rocking Emma's carseat and taking away her lovey, and he was bouncing on the chairs, etc. Finally, even though everyone else was still eating, I declared that the party was over and collected our things. Will was not pleased to be leaving while everyone else was clearly staying, so he made my job as difficult as possible, fighting me every step of the way.

Once in the parking lot, he tugged his arm away from me and started running down the sidewalk. For those of you still anticipating #2, this is one area that is still challenging: the transport. Because now you are lumbering with a carseat, a diaper bag, and who knows what else, and that makes you slow. You can't exactly throw number #2 to the ground to catch #1, but when you are in a busy parking lot, it can be scary that you are so compromised.

Fortunately, another family was just getting out of their car and the dad blocked Will's escape from me. He was very kind and I saw no judgment in his eyes, just that look of solidarity that said he'd been there.

Gratefully, I scooped up my child in my (not really) free arm and hauled him back to the car, with him kicking and screaming the entire way. I was starting to lose my Mommy Cool by that point and spoke to him in a voice I am not sure he's ever heard me use. "Get in your car seat."

He hesitated and I said it again, "Get in your car seat." The tone of my voice and the slightly crazed look in my eye got him hustling into his seat. I buckled him in and looked at him in the eye and told him in my Most Serious Mommy Voice, "It is dangerous to run away from Mommy. I am very disapppointed in you. Do not run away from Mommy ever again." He was quiet on the way home and didn't fight me on going down for a nap. We both needed the break.

I decided we needed a day "at home" on Tuesday. Things seemed a bit more settled here, but then again, there were little opportunities for him to run away or act out when we were within the four walls of the house.

It snowed here on Wednesday morning, so M took our Jeep to work to handle the commute, which meant another day at home. My neighbor and good friend called mid-morning to invite us over to play and have lunch. We headed over after Emma's nap and were there for two minutes when Will's friend started telling him that "Emma my sister." Will said, "No! Emma my sister!" As this "game" has upset Will before, I started to head their direction, but before I could get to them, he had reached out and scratched a huge welt into his friend's face. A second later, blood welled to the surface.

I was horrified. After making sure his friend was okay, we left immediately, Will crying great big, gulping sobs the whole way home. Even though I knew he was 100% wrong and that taking him home was the right thing to do, it still did tug at my heart to see him so upset.

It seemed to make an impression on him, so on the way to our playdate today, I reminded him that any sort of hitting or scratching would result in our immediate departure. He was actually much better today. I also was on him like a shadow, trying to prevent a hitting before it occured. We were there for two hours before he hit during a tug-o-war with a friend. I immediately grabbed his hand and told him we were leaving. He started to cry, "No, Mommy, I go in timeout!" This had been the previous (obviously ineffective) punishment for hitting.

So, that's it now. We are going to have to leave every playdate for here to eternity or at least until he figures out how to handle his frustrations in non-physical ways. I was okay with the occasional hit and then timeout as a consequence, simply because I think that's how toddlers communicate, even if we don't like it. But it seems to be escalating and the scratching was a whole new level that I could not tolerate. Fortunately, my friend is understanding and didn't freak out, but not everyone is going to be as "okay" with being a learning tool for my son.

Ugh. . . discipline.


Jen said...

I don't know if it makes you feel better but as far as I can tell this is totally normal and you are doing awesome in staying consistent.

And did I ever mention that Jillian cried when it was time for cake, ice cream and presents at her 2nd birthday at a bouncy house because she didn't want to stop playing. All of our blowing out the candles pictures involve tears.

alison said...

B is kind of good news/bad news so far with hitting. As far as I know, he's fairly angelic at daycare, he minds his manners, etc. But at home. Woe. Disdain. It was funny (ok not really, but...) as I was reading this, j was taking B to timeout for hitting. The kid hits us all.the.time. Out of frustration. Out of play. I don't really know what to do with him. Time out sort of works, temporarily. Ugh. It sucks.

Rachel said...

I'm sorry things are so tough! I don't know if it would help you feel more secure at all, but we have in fact purchased a nice "leash" for the fusspot off amazon. Mostly because she's a total hazard outside the city because she only thinks that places with cars are road (like in the big city where we live) and will wander endlessly into any street which doesn't have a car in sight ...

As for leaving playdates, I really hope that it works. I do wonder if Will is still a bit too young to have the self-control to stop himself in advance. Our pediatrician has been very reassuring about not setting our expectations for good behavior too high at this point, which I really appreciate.

HereWeGoAJen said...

Hang in there. I bet it won't take him much longer to figure out that you mean what you say.

And tonight, Elizabeth threw the biggest tantrum of all time because she didn't want to take a bath. She was literally hoarse from all the screaming.

S and J plus 3 said...

I have the backpack leash for both of my older kids (they don't need them anymore but they still use them at playtime). My son's is a dog and my daughter's is a monkey. The leash is the tail so they have always thought they were great fun and it helped me keep a handle on them as I struggled with carseats or groceries or whatever. It also made me feel much better in a crowd that I had a 3 ft leash on them that would not stretch.
The hitting is always a hard one... the only other advice that I could give is something that is still a constant reminder now. I say to the kids "use your words" it doesn't do anything for the toddler, but as they are learning and growing older, the reminder to use their words actually does start to sink in. Keep up the good work!

Christine said...

your doing a great job. One thing I have realized is I forget my daughter is only 2 and I think I expect to much from her. They are still babies and they are going to hit and throw tantrums. That is why it is the terrible 2's!