Friday, November 20, 2009

Breathe In, Breathe Out, Breathe In, Breathe Out

I spent the majority of my week trapped in an aggravating situation with an increasingly defiant child (this is the other child than the one from last week, so at least the boys take turns raising cain in the house, right?)

This child had a moment where he did not feel like being nice to siblings. That's okay. I put him in Time In with Mommy in the kitchen. Normally we sit for a bit, and then when the child is a bit more approacable, we discuss the situation, talk about what we could do differently next time and apologize.

Only this time, this child decided 1) they weren't going to talk about it. 2) they weren't going to apologize, and 3) they weren't going to look at Mommy or answer a single question she asked.

All righty then. I just let the child be, figuring that sooner or later they would come around.

Only that day, the child didn't. No amount of quietly asking, quietly coaching (if you only would answer Mommy and apologize for your actions, you could play outside) or reminding them of their impending reality (if you are going to choose not to answer, then you are choosing to spend a lot of quality time here at the kitchen table.)

Nope, this child decided that the kitchen table was going to be his new best friend, and Mommy could pound salt.

Daddy came home. Now, the Mister and I are both well aware of the fact that since the Mister is 1) the man and 2) a spanker and 3) louder than Mommy, this child would probably answer Mommy once Daddy became involved.

But here's the deal with Mommy: the boys need to learn to respect and answer Mommy on their own accord, out of respect and the fact that children respect Mommy. Because I'm not a spanker, I find yelling just falls on deaf ears and glazed eyes, and if God forbid the Mister were to someday pass away and I was left alone with the children, well, I wouldn't have my "behave or else Daddy will deal with you" card.

So we decided that Daddy would remain uninvolved beyond saying, Son, you need to respect your Mother and answer her. In our family, children always answer Mommy.
But the entire next day passes with this child happily choosing to sit at his new BFF, aka the kitchen table. Occassionally I lectured (because just like Marta said, it does make you feel better while you lecture), but for the most part, I would just ask nicely every now and again if they would like to answer Mommy.



I even called our homestudy adoption social worker to discuss the situation with her.

Note to self: Do not call a childless woman who has never adopted a child and is two years younger than your youngest sibling to ask for parenting advice. It will be a Huge-O Waste-O of Time-O.

Finally, out of sheer frustration, I asked if they would like me to not answer them. Because if they do not answer Mommy, why should Mommy answer them?

That question got them thinking. And then next time they asked to get up to use the bathroom, I sat down next to them. "What if Mommy told you, I'm not going to answer you because you won't answer me?"

Big eyes. "I wouldn't like that."

"Of course you wouldn't. And Mommy doesn't like it when you don't answer her. But Mommy loves all of her children, and so for Mommy, it makes Mommy happy to answer all of her children when they ask her a question. So yes, you can go to the bathroom."

Feeling that maybe I had a breakthrough there, I felt confident that my beautiful son would return and want to resume our conversation.


Finally that night at bedtime, while snuggling him into bed and giving him a kiss good-night, I asked (again) why he doesn't answer Mommy.

"Because I don't want to."

Ahhhh, okay. "Why don't you want to?"

Pause. "Because I don't like to answer Mommy."

At that moment in time I had two thoughts:

Great! He finally answered.


He doesn't want to? He doesn't like to? What the heck do I do with that?

I was so tired and exhausted and frustrated that I couldn't think straight. I thought about perhaps going out and piercing my nose or streaking my hair purple just like I had in college, to remind myself that I was once young and fun and had a life outside parenting defiant little boogers. I thought about calling up Jill and hitting the nearest establishment serving hardcore Margaritas, but poor Jill is in Haiti living her own Haiti adoption process hell.

So I packed up Hattie and we went to Barnes and Noble. We drank Peppermint Hot Chocolate, did Holiday Mad Libs in the cafe, and planned out the next 5 Nancy Drew books that we would want to read next (by reading the backs of all of them, no less.)

While there, I picked up this book about defiance. It's not an adoption book, but I've read and looked at a ton of those and really didn't find anything that quite fit what I thought we were going through.

Although I'm not a fan of the gimmicky title of the book, after looking through it, I found that it was exactly what we were looking for. Plus it gives an actual plan of action with scenarios, which I like, because I often find it difficult to take theory into action, especially in the heat of a frustrating moment. I took that book in my hot little hands and ran home to the Mister, and he and I worked on the first few chapters until Midnight.

So yesterday morning, I woke up and took this little child in my lap in a quiet room. I explained to him in a very quiet voice that I loved him a lot, and I understand that he doesn't want to answer me. But that not answering is not good. He is a child, and all children must answer Mommy.

I went on to say that Mommy always answers her children. It makes her happy to. It makes Mommy very happy when her children answer her.

And that I understand it is not fun to answer Mommy, and that he won't always want to, but that sometimes, we have to do things we don't want to. But that as a kid, it's just part of the job.

And to my amazement (and great relief), he nodded and said, "Okay Mommy, I will reponn (answer) you."

Now you think I would have been able to figure this all out on my own, without the help of a book. But the truth is I've never had a child who would rather sit at a table for three freakin' days than answer me.

And by the end of day 2, I was fried worse than a piece of extra crispy chicken from KFC (and I'm a vegetarian, for pete's sake!)

So this child hopped down from my lap and proceeded to have his best day in a long time. Yesterday he was a smiley, happy, joyous child. And it was nice.

Actually, it was a wonderful day. All of my children were in high spirits. It was a rainy day and Hatfield decided to introduce both High School Musical I and II to her little brothers. Who instantly loved and wanted to watch it over and over and over again.

So we all danced around the family room
and sang "We're All in This Together."
Or something like that ;)


Anonymous said...
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ManyBlessings said...

Please keep us updated on how it goes with the principles in this book. We struggle with lack of respect here too. The story you just wrote is one I could have easily written. Right down to the hubby. So please, let me know if this book truly helps.

small town girl said...

Well, it puzzles me a little because many of us seem to be dealing with these particular issues. Disrespect. Stubborness in the extreme.

You have so much patience, it's amazing.

I have asked them (later) if they know why they recieved a consequence after some of this defiant behavior, and usually they say "no", especially my younger one. And I believe she is clueless, even tho I try to do a short explaination about respect, use examples, , ("would you like it if Mommy did such and such? etc.) so much of the explanation goes over her head. It's like she just reacts on an internal, emotional dialog, and she can't switch back until she's ready. Then when she comes around, it can be in mid-sentence, mid-whine, it's so fast.

I will tell you tho, with time and continuing to work on it, we are making progress.

Me said...

I echo what many blessings and small town girl said. I could have written something similar-although, I've never had one on strike for 3 days. I can't figure it out. The stubborness amazes me and is like nothing I have ever seen before.

You handled it all beautifully. I'll have to look into that book.


Jenn said...

Yup. We've got one here too. Wil is openly defiant and will look me square in the eyes and do exactly what I am telling him not to do. After he is disciplined you would think it would sink in, right? Nope. He is right back at it, doing exactly what he was just punished for.

There are times when I wonder if he has suffered some kind of brain damage in that he continually repeats the same behavior and doesn't seem to "get it". We are also finding that he has very little retention for many of the things we try to teach him ex. His colors, animals and their sounds, etc...

Rumo Mom said...

Sarah, Just FYI, I am here in Haiti with Jill. She wanted to let you know Marie has Keenan's baby brother and wants you to have first dibs on him before she looks for another family. Jill thought you would want to know that.
On a personal note I put the book on my list as we are adopting 3 brothers who, if this visit is any inclination, will all be defiant little boogers.

ksb said...

We too feel your pain! Consistency is key. And forgiving yourself sometimes too - cause this is hard, hard stuff! And love, love, loving them even though it is so hard sometimes. I am buying the book! Kim

bbbunch said...

Hopefully, because of your love, patience and commitment, this stubborness will be harnessed and help them grow into very strong, confident men. You are doing a great job :) We love and miss you!!!


Sawatzky family said...

Never understimate the power of HSM lol
As always you guys are in our prayers :)
We love you and have full faith that the Lord will bless you patience and perserverance.
Shelly and gang

Chapter Two Manmi said...

Hi Sarah,
I'm just catching up after not checking in a long while. No offense, just busy.
I just want to share that your two golden rules were/are ours and they were hotly contested in our early days together. My children were quite a bit older when they came home two years ago. Instead of choosing to sit it out at the kitchen table, we dealt with some who wouldn't do anything they were asked, wouldn't sit at a table, wouldn't sit on a step for time in, and raged to the point I was kicked and hit if I dared take a hand to encourage one to go with me. It was tumultous and exhausting.
But two years later and long gone are those days. I remember well-meaning people close to me questioning if I was too hard or had too high expectations (to require my kids to look at me when talking to them, and requiring them to answer when spoken to). I would always say (and think) two words: structure and nurture.
This is getting long, but I just want to encourage you to keep on with the structure, and keep on with the nurture even when it is the last thing you feel like doing.
My family has gone through many hard days, big struggles and heartache...but we are on the other side of those early months and living life as I had hoped we could for the most part. No doubt it was a miracle of God's healing power and grace for my kids and our family.
We have not arrived and life isn't all roses, but I hope our little story can be an encouragement for thos tough days.