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Battle weary

September 15, 2008 - Betsy Bethel
No, no more about the war on terror in this post.

I'm too entrenched at the moment in the war on the terrible twos.

Emma's in the throes of battle. I understand some of what is going on. I realize her innate need to assert independence at this stage in her development. I "get" that she feels helpless in a lot of ways and needs to control what she can control.

My problem is what I don't know. Which is good, because I can always learn.

I don't know the best way to enforce the rules. I have told her time and again that she must obey. If she doesn't obey, I threaten to take her to her room to be by herself for awhile. The threat usually works and she usually does what I ask.

Last night, she refused to go to sleep. I couldn't relegate her to her room to teach her a lesson, because that's where she was supposed to be in the first place. She stood at the (gated) top of the steps and shouted, screamed, cried, sobbed -- and even asked nicely -- for me to come upstairs, and I continually responded that until she obeyed me and got back into bed, I would not come up. She worked herself into an all-out tizzy. (Keep in mind I already had gone through her usual bedtime routine and even stayed a little longer than usual with her.)

I am ashamed to say this altercation turned into a shouting match. "Mommy, come up here! Mommy, I need you!" "Are you in bed yet? Get into bed and I will come up!" "Nooo!" "I'm not coming up until you're in bed!" "Nooo! Mommy, it's too noisy in my room. Turn the air conditioner down!" "Get into bed and I will come up!" Screaming and crying and begging ensued. I shouted that she was being "ridiculous."

After about a half-hour, she was still freaking out in the hallway and I went up. She flew into my arms, sobbing. I took her into her room (the air conditioner wasn't even running), and put her in bed. I told her I was disappointed and angry. I rubbed her back. I waited until she calmed down and then I went to leave. She got all worked up again. I ended up sleeping beside her on the floor. Every time she started to drift off to sleep she'd jerk awake and make sure I was still there. This is the first time she's ever acted this way.

When I got up in the middle of the night to go to my room, she bolted upright again and cried for me to stay. Knowing I had to get some comfortable rest, I took her to my bed.

This morning, she woke up early and acted OK until it was time to get dressed. She fought me tooth and nail. I had to pin her down and I shouted at her. I felt awful. I got her shirt on but gave up on the shorts. I threw the shorts down on the bed and walked out, leaving her in her room crying. Later, she cheerily put them on, along with her shoes and socks.

A week ago, I asked a father of five very well-behaved children how he "does" it. He responded simply "corporal punishment" and then told me each child has his or her own paddle. When they are in trouble, he tells them to get their paddle. It gives them a hand, so to speak, in their own discipline, and it gives him "time to cool off." He said he doesn't hit them hard, and he never does so in anger. I reserved judgment at the time, but in my heart I feel it's wrong to strike a young child.

I have numerous books on discipline and child development. I read most of them when she was about 12-18 months old. That was over a year ago, and I think I need to crack them open again. Any suggestions from you would be appreciated -- either book recommendations or what has worked for you and your family.


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