Did anyone else watch "In The Middle" Wednesday night? I did while folding laundry and it struck a chord because that, minus the horrible repercussions, is exactly what is happening around here. (The basic premise was that the parental units quit being slaves to their kids' endless demands and inability to get their act together. It was a lovely idea…) One personal goal on my long list of 2011 plans is to stop being the mom who yells. I am sick of having to "yell" (probably more like speak firmly, but it sure feels like yelling when we are in the throes of battle) all day every day.
Sadly, not to name names here, the real problem is Cha Cha. While Bitz is trouble on wheels because she is young, and enjoying the new found freedom of walking, she is just being a toddler. Sure she drives me nuts, but that is a function of age, not ill-intent. Cha Cha on the other hand does know (a bit) better. She is often actively choosing to be difficult because she can. I know it is all about testing boundaries and doing whatever it takes to get what you want, but yeah, it had to end. I no longer had it in me to have Every. Single. Thing. be a HUGE fight.* I was sick of begging her to get in gear and go to her activities, providing an endless supply of requested food only to have her eat none of it, dealing with two hour long battles to stay in bed and go to sleep and so on. So I just ended it.
Yup, just like that. We made a lot of progress with the time-outs so now it was time to just reframe how we all interact. So here are the new rules:
- I make meals, you can take it, or leave it.
- I will not beg you to get ready to go do things you requested. (Want to pitch a fit over your dance tights? That is fine. I don't care if we miss dance.)
- You will dress yourself and put on your own shoes and socks, I can certainly wait.
- You can help with some basic (age appropriate) chores like getting your laundry in the hamper, dishes in the dishwasher, put the recycling in the bin and so on.
- I do not negotiate with extortionists or bullies. Ask nicely and use your words or I just walk away.
We have set up a chore board with a sticker reward system and now we have a calendar running so we can all be prepared for the days ahead. I have made many a concession too. I now budget way more time that needed for everything. I also don't do too many things that require us to be on a schedule. We will get where we are going when we get there and if we need to be somewhere, we start getting ready way in advance so we can have as many meltdowns as we want, and still be fine. I am also working hard on my walking away. If I don't think I can use my quiet words and be nice, then I walk away. There is nothing so important that I can't take a minute, regroup and ask again nicely.
It is like living in a totally different house. We are all calmer, happier and I find that we are all much more engaged. It sounds like we are should be living in a police state, but it is amazing how easy it all is now. Having realized that constant poor behavior incites no reaction save being deposited in time-out, both girls have really bucked up and done very well. I am getting more done since Cha Cha's primary goal is no longer to have all my attention at any cost and the girls have really been playing and enjoying their time instead of bickering and whining. It is a freaking new year's miracle.
*Another tangential TV reference. In "TrueBlood" the Vampire King of Mississippi speaks of his overly-dramatic partner by saying "it's like Armageddon in here every time someone chips a dessert plate." That is how I felt, all day, every day. It was like freaking Armageddon every time we had to do anything. Not anymore. And I don't even need to be carrying around anyone's remains in a Waterford ice bucket, so that is a plus.