Monday, August 11, 2008

"This is going to hurt me more than it will you."

That's one of those things parents say to their kids, usually when doling out some punishment that invariably seemed like it had to be much more painful to the kid in question, and that kid could never imagine how this punishment could possibly be worse for the grown-up involved.

Well, tonight was one of those "This is going to hurt me more than it will you" moments for me. The trouble occurred during gymnastics today. Now, she had been doing pretty well prior to this class with sitting still, listening to the teachers, all that good stuff. (I was asked to stay and observe for the entire session, unlike the other parents who were requested to leave after dropping their kid(s) off, I think mostly because the teachers, two college-aged girls, were uncomfortable with having a kid with SPD - especially Type I, the Sensory Modulation Disorder type - without extra supervision in the class. Granted, I'm 99.99% sure that their entire knowledge of SPD comes from the minute and a half talk I had with them on the first day; they brushed me off at the time but I think it made them nervous nonetheless.) We always talk in the car on the way to gymnastics about how if Kiddo doesn't behave, we will leave.

I want to digress for a moment here to talk about how we discipline in our family. The discipline system that has worked best for us has been the 1-2-3 Magic system. If you aren't familiar (and I do highly recommend it because it works so well for us) basically, the child gets to a count of three to modify their behavior, and if they don't make the needed adjustment, game over at three. Some offenses are an immediate "three" and the child doesn't get a second and third chance to correct. A typical consequence is an immediate time out, or else the ending of whatever activity was going on at the time of the three count. We also talk a lot about choices and consequences - Kiddo can choose to behave one way or another, and the consequences of each choice are X or Y. Nothing revolutionary, but it works for us. Additionally, I should mention that we are not a corporal punishment family. We have never, ever struck the kiddo and do not intend to ever do so. (I suppose I should further note that my parents did believe in spanking, and did spank us when they felt the situation warranted.) We began using 1-2-3 Magic at our pediatrician's suggestion when Kiddo was in the throes of some very Terrible Twos, and it improved behavior quite dramatically. So, 1-2-3 Magic has been our main system of discipline for almost 3 years now.

Anyhow, the kiddo missed class last week because of the head lice situation, so she'd had a disrupted routine.
Now, consistency is key for most children, I daresay, and I know for an absolute fact that it is extremely important to a sensory processing disordered kid like Kiddo. She also had an incident at her summer program this morning - another child pushed her into a pile of mud, water and goat poop, getting her quite muddy and upset - and she had generally been a bit cranky regardless of anything else. So, we had the odds a bit stacked against us even as we walked into the Y.

The kiddo was not doing a great job at controlling herself from the moment we got out of the car - she was pretty hyped up. Despite our pre-class talk (during which she "Yes Mommy"ed me repeatedly) and my strict reminder that she needed to stay calm and quiet before class started, she took off running as soon as we entered the gymnasium. Uh-oh. I spoke with her twice in the 4 minutes before class started, warning her each time that she needed to stay calm and focused or we'd be out of there.

Do you see where this is going? *sigh*

It completely didn't help matters that some of the other kids in the class were utterly misbehaving today, either. They were messing around, goofing off instead of sitting quietly in their "butterfly" positions and watching the teachers. There are a few kids in particular who always goof off, and I've spoken with Kiddo about how she should just stay away from them instead of letting them suck her in to the misbehavior. (I know, wishful thinking...) Today, the teachers were giving out the consequence of missing turns and the kiddo missed two turns for goofing around in the first half of class. I went over after the second time she was skipped over and spoke with her again. This time I started a count and told her if she hit three, we were leaving.

With about five minutes left to go, the class was at the balance beam, which is close to where I was sitting (with a lot of the other parents - the side of the gym was full of folks waiting to collect their kids at the end of class). Kiddo got up from where she'd been told to sit, moved over and sat down next to this other little girl who is generally a huge instigator of bad behavior and then looked over at me, all "Ha ha, what are YOU going to do about it?" as I glared. Sure enough, the second the kiddo's butt hit the mat, the other little girl started pushing Kiddo and generally roughhousing. I called over to Kiddo that this was TWO. She looked at me, snorted and went back to roughhousing. I stood up menacingly, in that Mean Mommy way. She pretended not to see me. By this point the other little girl was leaning into Kiddo's face and blowing on her, hard. Kiddo looked over to see if I was watching - and I was, and still standing as well. Then she leaned over and began blowing a spitty sort of raspberry with her tongue sticking out at the other girl.

Oh no, she didn't.......... Yep, she did. I walked over to her, bent down and said "You are on TWO. You need to behave RIGHT NOW or we are leaving." (Yes, there were only about 4 minutes left in class at this point - Kiddo wasn't aware of that.) In response, she rolled her eyes, stuck her tongue out AT ME and told me with her most major Junior Wiseass attitude "You go AWAY, Mom." She then proceeded to continue blow/spit at the other little girl, who was cracking up and totally egging her on.

Oh NO she didn't... I told her "That's it. That's three. Stand up, we're going."

And this is the point at which this particular disciplinary consequence began to hurt me more than it hurt her. You see, the kiddo doesn't get embarrassed by her extreme behavior. Not even in hindsight. (Boy, I hope that age - the age of being embarrassed in front of her peers - comes soon.) She immediately began screaming at me "I'm not leaving! I want to stay and have FUN with my FRIENDS. You go away, Mommy!" and then in almost the same breath, added "I want a last chance! I'll cooperate!"

This is where that split second of "Oh man, it would just be so much easier to cave in and give her another last chance" ran through my head. We were right in the middle of the gym, the kiddo was squalling loudly, eyes were riveted to the drama, and I was fairly certain that if I did relent, the kiddo would toe the line for those last, few minutes of class.


Relenting is so, so not the right parenting call, right? I will admit, there have been times when Hubby and I both have caved a bit and given her "one last chance" (so, essentially, going to four instead of three, by repeating the "two" count) but this was not going to be one of those times. Kiddo had been disrespectful to me and to her class. The screaming was entirely uncalled for (oh ha ha ha...) and the telling me to go away plus sticking her tongue out at me was also completely unacceptable, and Kiddo knows that darn well. Furthermore, she knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that spitting at anyone is never, ever okay.

So, with grim determination, I hustled her off the floor and over to the bench where her sandals were sitting next to my purse. She decided to kick things up a few notches and began screaming even louder. At this point the entire gym was frozen, except for the reverberations of her screeches around the cavernous space. All eyes on us. I stayed utterly calm and kept my voice low. Kiddo broke away and made a dash for the mat, sticking out her tongue at me and telling me "NO, I'm going back with my friends now!" I caught her before she'd made it more than two feet. I calmly gave her the choice of putting on her sandals herself or having me do it. She snatched a sandal out of my hand and threw it at me.

I then gathered up the sandals and my purse and picked her up. This began the walk that always seems so much longer when one has a tantruming child... that walk past all the collected onlookers. I did catch a few sympathetic glances among the "Huh, that lady sure is nuts" looks. Whatever, I'm not parenting to impress y'all, Looky-Loos, I'm parenting my child in the hopes that she will grow up to be a kind and respectful sort of person. We got out into the hallway, Kiddo still yelling bloody murder, and I set her down on a bench to try once more to get her shod. No go - more throwing, yelling and then hitting me. I scooped her up and carried her for The Long Walk Part Two: Out to the Car. We definitely turned heads (and probably induced several headaches; I know by this time my own skull was pounding). Whenever the kiddo screamed at me that she wanted to get down or go back to class (which at this point was over anyhow) I calmly and quietly repeated that her behavior was unacceptable and we were going home.

She tried once more to get away from me, barefoot, in the parking lot. She attempted to accomplish this by biting me on the arm that was holding her. If I had set her down at that point, I am certain she would've run, without looking, back towards the Y. I got the door to the van open as quickly as possible and strapped her into her booster seat. She proceeded to tantrum all the way home (coming perilously close to making herself throw up from the extreme levels of drama, which really didn't help anything). When we got home, I carried her (still barefoot) inside and set her down. I then grabbed the largest trash bag I could find and headed upstairs. I wound up doing a Stuffed Animal Round-up, collecting every last stuffed animal (or as Kiddo calls them, "guys") and putting them into the bag. Kiddo was by this time sitting on her bedroom floor, watching. I then ran the shower, got her into it and washed as she snarled every mean thing she could think of to me - "I only like DADDY and NOT you!" "You're NOT my friend ANYMORE!" "You're SO MEAN to me, Mommy!" - dried her off and got her jammies on and teeth brushed. Then I told her it was bedtime and that her guys were in Time Out until tomorrow.

By this point, Remorseful Kiddo had reappeared. I stuck to my guns and sent her to bed regardless, though I did accept her apology and reassured her that I still love her, no matter what, even when I'm upset with her and she's upset with me. She got in bed but was still awake a half hour later, so I let her come downstairs and eat dinner before returning to bed (obviously, with no bedtime stories or evening TV). I do not really like the idea of sending a child to bed without dinner, I mostly just wanted her to calm down first - though if she had fallen asleep as she sometimes does after a tantrum, I wouldn't have gotten her up again just to eat.

So, that was my evening today. Yes, I really think it hurt me more than it hurt her, too. I mean, besides where I now have her teethprint in my upper arm along with various scratches and bruises caused by her during the meltdown. She won't bat an eye at going back to the next class - there will be no embarrassment on her part to see the people she was wigging out in front of so completely today. I, on the other hand, will feel somewhat embarrassed, but hey, nobody said being a parent was easy, right? While debriefing with Hubby when he got home, I was glad to hear he agreed with me that removing her when she hit the three count was the only call to make. I was tempted to ignore the behavior, but who does that really help? It might make things easier for me (like the other parents who just idly watch while their little darling acts up something fierce - hello, dad of Spitty McPushyhands, wanna do something about it? Possibly keep your eye on your little darling as she goes wild instead of keeping your eyes on your BlackBerry? Yeesh!) but Hubby and I feel like we need to stick to our guns and stay consistent with the rules. Sometimes, it just isn't too fun being Bad Cop.

Here's hoping tomorrow is a better day for Mean Mommy and the Drama Queen...


My name is Andy. said...

You are such a great Mummy! You did what needed to be done and didn't take the easy route. Kudos to you!

And our kiddos must be cycling together. Liam had a similar night of meltdowns (due to being overtired) and threw a car at me and then did the whole sticking out his tongue name calling bit. day at a time!

Anonymous said...

It would have been easier to give in but you made the right decision!

szarek4 said...

Good job! I have carried Anna out of more places than I can think of screaming her head off. It's not fun at all :-(


~Trish~ said...

Oh gosh, you poor thing but you did wonderful!!! Parenting is SUCH a hard job, kudos to you!

Hot Tub Lizzy said...

Sweetie - you know what all those parents in the Y were thinking "YOU GO MOMMA!!!!" You were sticking to your guns and I know that is something I GREATLY admire in a parent. PLUS I'm thinking they're all thanking you because I bet at that moment ALL those kids were giving a second thought to their behavior!

Anonymous said...

It sounds to me like she was taking FULL ADVANTAGE of the counting bit. She knew you were not serious until she had been given 3 opportunities, and that even then there was a slight chance that when you hit 3 you still weren't serious.

At any show of disrespect to me or anyone else, it's an automatic EJECTION from whatever is going on. There are no chances, there is no leniency....There the LOUD message that when it comes to being disrespectful, we have a zero tolerance policy. Every Time.

Autumn started to get wise to when I was serious and would beging to ALWAYS push me to my extreme limits...So i did away with the some point (about the time of Kindergarten) she is old enough to remember the basics and a warning only send her the message that she need not take me serious just yet. I see something and she gets a consequence, NO explanation...she KNOWS what she did wrong and it was done on purpose. Telling her about it only sends the unspoken message that I think she's too dumb to figure it out on her own.

I think it's time to switch tactics. Now that she uses them to escalate her behaviors...

Anonymous said...

Oh Heather! What a rough day! Loads of hugs and sympathy! (and e-chocolate! A Brick o' the dark stuff always helps me thru my bad days.)

you're an amazing Mom, and an inspiration to all us "new" moms -- i've found myself channeling you when i've reached my limit with my own kiddo.

He threw a Monster Tantrum in an airport a few months ago. Despite the huge audience of bored travelers (our plane was, at that point, over 6 hours delayed!), i stuck to my parenting Plan. Ignoring all the eyes, tsks, head shakes and stares, I dealt firmly and fairly with the kiddo (while hubby got me an ice pack!) Ten minutes later a complete stranger walked over and sat down next to me. "You were amazing, Mom," she told me. Who knew praise from a complete stranger would make me fell so validated?

Sue said...

Oh I do empathize! I have also carried a screaming child out of many a venue - Church included. Hang in there. It gets better. But then they become teenagers!

kwr221 said...

Okay, after reading this post about gymnastic, I think I love you! We've all had embarrassing moments like that. Haven't we? And I've had my share at the Y - mostly the SE Y.

I've read a few pages of your blog and there are so many things I want to comment on, but Ihave to get up and feed the cats (and my formerly Big Dog - he's 13, so he's not really big anymore)

Let's see - from your 100 things:
I'd totally be a cat lady, too.
If your feet are two different sizes, do you
a)squish one in a size too small, or
b)one in a size too big, or
c)buy the half size and compromise or
d)buy two pairs of shoes?

There are more, but I must go. I'll come back later. :-)