Life with Norton has, in some ways, gotten harder. He’s more defiant than ever. He still uses “I peed in my room!” as an excuse not to go to bed or wherever else. But things were out of control. There was a lot of yelling, temper tantrums, throwing things, tears, and hitting. Counting to three had ceased to help. Threats of spankings were the only thing that made any impact… and even that was beginning to fade. I knew I needed to figure out overcoming obstacles like these in a really big way. Our little family was in trouble.
No one was happy. Not me, who ended up spending the day screaming and miserable over constant defiance. Not Eudora, who had started covering her ears and hiding her face whenever Norton started to melt down. Not my husband, who came home to find that I was completely done with everything and just needed to shut down, came home to a war zone that he had to try to manage after walking in the door from his own high stress job. And certainly not Norton, who was at the very center of the maelstrom swirling around our home.
I was reading on Facebook while getting ready for the latest battles of the day to begin. There was talk of toddler discipline and annoyance with ineffective parents just saying “Use gentle hands” without bothering to model the behavior for their young toddlers.
Then a light bulb came on.
That morning, as per usual, Norton got out of bed and was his usual sweet self. (Mornings are our best time of day.) He said, “Good morning, Mommy!” and sat down beside me. We had our usual morning cuddles… which are the only peaceful time of day that I could almost always count on. This time when he was snuggled up into my side with my arm around him, I suggested that we try a day full of only using kind words and gentle hands.
If he yelled at Eudora or used bad manners, I reminded him about using kind words. When he started being too rough, I reminded him about using gentle hands. When things started getting rough because he was just being deliberately defiant, I’d asked him if he was using his listening ears. He acknowledged that he was not… and I pointed out that when he does not use his listening ears, it makes it harder for Mommy to use kind words and gentle hands.
It slowed him down.
It calmed me down.
Eudora spent less time hiding or crying.
The husband came home to slightly less of a war zone.
This hasn’t, of course, resolved all of our issues. Norton still has some behaviors to work on. (Like growling and barking at other children, which seems to frighten them, and his doors and locks fixation.) But still, it’s been helpful. I’ll take any progress we can get.
Have you ever had to manage a strong willed child? How did you gain cooperation?