Books, Web sites, countless talks with other mothers. That has been my life for a while, trying to figure out how to handle a strong-willed child. Claire is, without a doubt, my true soulmate and love of my life. But Claire's behavior is challenging. And I have always been quick to admit to anyone who hasn't already figured it out, that I was not born to be a mother. It is a skill I continue to practice. In other words, I don't have that innate motherly instinct. I am a Type A, and I'm not used to little people.
Well, probably thanks to my mother's frequent wishes of "I hope one day you have a child who acts just like you!" in her fits of exasperation over my latest antics, I was blessed with a beautiful, stubborn, brilliant, obstinate child. I have been struggling as of late with two things especially...picking her up at daycare at night, and getting her ready in the morning.
With regard to her behavior, I need to reign it in, because we have what Dr. Phil calls, "the tail wagging the dog." Claire is running the show, and that is not acceptable. So I decided to reclaim my position as ringleader. First of all, let it be known that I am not morally opposed to spanking. But spanking does not work on Claire. It feeds her aggression and she hits back. That is not the effect I want, obviously. Second, time outs are fine, but there is no way, no how that child will sit for two minutes in a chair. She is just too hyperactive, and while I love Supernanny (Jo Frost), I refuse to put her back into the chair for four hours until she completes her two-minute timeout. So I have tried and am still evaluating two things. I give her a timeout in her booster seat. I put her in, lock the tray down, and turn the TV off and I ignore her. At first she doesn't seem fazed, then about two minutes later she is pissed and trying to get out. Then she calms down. I try to explain to her why I put her there, but I'm not sure how effective that is. So this is still an experiment.
Second, I do believe the method that continues to work best with Claire is diversion. I stop the bad activity and divert her to something else. Or I just stop the bad activity and that is that...e.g., she wouldn't lay down to get her pajamas on and was running around in her bedroom and wouldn't cooperate, so I put her in her crib without pajama pants and shut the light out w/no bedtime stories or songs. I need to nip it in the bud because she needs boundaries more so than even the average child in my opinion.
Getting her out of daycare at night has become a nightmare. I'm thrilled she likes it there, but I wish she'd be ready to go home when I got there. She runs around the entire daycare while I run after her (you can only imagine what this scene looks like), and most nights I grab her by the hand and literally drag her out the door. She is screaming and falls to her knees and I'm dragging her along the floor, with all the parents looking at us like, ha, she has no control over her child. This has reduced me to tears on more than one occasion. She just has a tough time with transitioning I think. The past few days I just keep trying to steer her toward the door, repeating that I have an apple/pear/banana/whatever in the car waiting for her, and I'll grab her hand just long enough to pull her in the right direction. It's still a lot of work, but I'm just trying to be patient.
On a happy note, I love discovering all the new things she can do almost every day. She now says "please" and "thank you" in the correct context at the appropriate times. It is really just precious. She nods when she says please, because I will nod in approval when she says it and she thinks that's how you say please, by nodding at the same time...ha. I love how when she wants something, she puts her hand out and grabs mine and says "Come-ma." I love that in the mornings she will go turn the TV off and get her coat when it's time to go. She will get me my coat and my shoes. She wants to do EVERYTHING herself. She does a little ballet dance at home now...so adorable. This morning she brought her dad a diaper and the wipes so he could change her. In the morning when it's time to go, she names all her friends at school: "Kai, Kate (Katelyn), Mahk (Mark), Mason, Bwooky (Brooke), Binka (Bianca)." She doesn't cry when I leave in the morning. She goes in and sits right down at the little table for her breakfast. "Bye, Mommy, see you layer!(later)" She "cooks" in her pots and pans and brings her daddy and I plates with hamburgers and sandwiches. She puts the food in her play microwave and blows on it to "cool it off" when it's done. She pours tea and we sit and enjoy ourselves. For as challenging as this new age has been, it has been even more rewarding.
My prayer has been and always will be that Claire grows up to be happy, healthy, secure, and good-hearted. And as I grow as a mother, I will continue to work toward that wish.