I’ve run out of ideas, and almost out of saintly patience. Spanking? Not an option and, I think, probably not helpful anyway. Time-outs? Ha, what a joke. Reward systems? Apparently not very motivational. Withholding treats? Leads to more of the same.
What I’m talking about here is the Bean’s awful, horrible, terrifyingly bad behavior. This includes temper tantrums, not doing what she’s told, refusing to cooperate, screaming/yelling/making a scene…ugh. Most of the time she’s a good girl – polite, funny, sweet. But when she’s not – wow, she’s really NOT.
Here’s what happened last night, by way of example. I picked her up rather early from daycare, and on the way home she saw a family walking to the pool with their little kids. She immediately started saying “I want to go to the pool! I want to go swimming!” So I told her, “OK, let’s ask Daddy when we get home.” When we got there, she had some juice and goldfish while Daddy finished up his work, then I changed her into her bathing suit while he changed into his, and the two of them went across the street to the pool together. When they left, I got her to promise me that she would be good, “no screaming, no yelling,” and that when Daddy said it was time to come home for dinner, she would cooperate and be a good girl.
So first of all, that didn’t happen. After an hour at the pool, when my husband told her it was time to go, she freaked out and refused to leave. He pretty much had to pick her up and carry her home, with her screaming the whole way. Awkward, but OK, I get it – this is the first year we’ve started taking her to the community pool and it’s a big deal for her. She loves it, and doesn’t want to leave. She flung herself on the floor and cried and whined when they got home, but actually managed to pull herself together when I offered to help her put on a pretty dress so we could go out to dinner.
So we get her dressed and we go to Ci-Ci’s for the pizza buffet – Tuesday night kids eat free. Yay! It wasn’t awful, and she was pretty well-behaved through dinner. She ate three small pieces of pizza and a few bites of a brownie, and seemed quite happy and satisfied. So far, we’d had a very pleasant afternoon/evening – she got to go swimming, she got to eat out and have pizza, all good. But it was all about to come to a screeching halt.
When we got home, we told her it was time to take a bath, and she FREAKED. Flat-out refused to take a bath, which she’s been doing a lot lately and I don’t understand it – she used to LOVE taking baths! You couldn’t get her to get out of the tub! But no, hubz had to wrestle her out of her clothes and into the tub, where she screamed and cried the entire time while he bathed her and washed her hair. Nothing helped, not the bubbles, not her bath toys – nothing. She wouldn’t even sit down most of the time, just stood there caterwauling while he bathed her. Of course, when he then began draining the water and trying to get her dried off, she suddenly changed her mind and started screaming for more water and bubbles, and refusing to get OUT of the tub she didn’t want to be in in the first place!
These are the moments where taking a deep breath and counting to 10 really comes in handy. Seriously. Cripes.
We then spent the next half hour forcing her into her pull-up and nightgown, and then trying to get her to sit in her time-out chair. Getting into the nightgown was another really frustrating deal – first she wanted her purple Tinkerbell nightgown, then her blue Dora nightgown, then her purple Dora nightgown. When I finally put the one she said she wanted on her, she immediately cried and screamed for another one, but this time I wasn’t biting. I told her she got to choose and now she had to wear what she had chosen. I know she’s trying to exert control with all these mind games and switches (this happens ALL the time) but as a parent, I have to put my foot down at some point, right?
Then we tried to give her a time out in her rocking chair. She screamed, cried, and whined the entire time. It was as if someone were stepping on a cat’s tail for 30 minutes straight! Her complaints added up to: I want my blue nightgown, I want more bubbles (in the bath), I’m not a bad girl, I want to go downstairs, I want to put my sandals on (so she could go outside). For a half hour, we firmly told her “no” and to sit in her chair and calm down. After the half hour, she seemed to tire out, stopped crying, and came to sit on my lap and say she “wanted to be a good girl.” Then she got into bed and went to sleep.
OK, so let’s review: did anything truly horrible happen here? No. But it certainly wasn’t pleasant. One one hand, Bean got to do several things she really enjoys (ride in Mommy’s car, go swimming, go to a restaurant, eat pizza). On the other hand, she followed those pleasant experiences with refusing to do what she was told (take a bath, get out of the bath, get dressed, etc.) and attempting to avoid doing those things via screaming, yelling, and crying. I guess I’m crediting her with too much maturity or adult-style common sense to expect her to be grateful and well-behaved in response to the pleasant experiences, but the suddenly-negative acting out just happens way too much.
How do you reason with a 3-year-old?