8.03.2008

Rodeo Dad

It probably goes without saying that the day I write a blog about communication is the day I blow my stack and for all intents and purposes, hog-tie my son. Gah, we were so close to a well executed time-out and then he had to leave the chair and start beating the piano with the doorstop. No, I didn't actually rope him down, but I 'suppressed the threat' in record time without even getting my chaps dirty or losing my hat. By the time Chris could say, "Lee, just leave, follow the plan..." it was over. I was angry, he knew it and so he got whatever attention he likes when he watches me lose it.

And here's the other problem, I'm getting really good at it. I'm still bigger and stronger (which will probably last another 3 or 4 days at this rate,) but now I've had practice. He flails, I focus. Here's something your father never told you: if you need to restrain your child in an 'authoritative manner' add a slight twist to whatever limb you are holding onto. It doesn't have to hurt or be much at all really, it just has to be enough to keep them preoccupied so they don't get creative. It also disrupts whatever momentum they're trying to build up if your child likes to bolt.

I was already fired up because Heaven forbid daddy have a friend over and not give his complete and undivided attention to his jealous child for 20 minutes. H ended up outside pouting on the far corner of the block. The whole time I was walking toward him I kept telling myself how he was going to experience his first real All-American spanking when I caught him, but somehow, I approached him passively enough to talk him back into the house and even into The Chair for a timeout. There was a brief dialog. I don't want to give the impression that Plan A was to wave a red cape and skewer him as he charged through.

I think we've mentioned this before but in case we didn't, Plan B, is to let Chris enforce discipline with H. They never escalate to the point of being physical. If I'm around, or if he thinks I'm around, he'll keep pushing, but with Chris he'll calm down during a time-out. So the drill is that I excuse myself as soon as I can after punishment has been decided upon. This time though, I just didn't get far enough fast enough and could still hear him mauling my piano.

Plan A is to not show aggression in the first place. Escalation is reflective. With Chris gone this weekend, I really couldn't afford any kind of blow out while the good cop was off duty. This turned out to be a really good thing because it took 'brute force' out of my vocabulary for the weekend. So I practiced some new skills, like "active ignoring." It's not quite the silent treatment, but it's more like refusing to give any credence or reinforcement to bad behavior. Granted there's a limit to this technique, but it's funny how quickly a child's behavior can turn around if they really aren't committed to being bad and are just randomly pushing buttons to see what's going to happen. Along the same lines, I really needed to let them bicker and yell at each other without intervening. As long as blows weren't being traded, I let the kids work through just about all their issues on their own. Not because I didn't want to jump in, but because they were battles I couldn't understand or emotionally afford getting into.

Case study: H was starting to melt after church finished up today. I don't know why, all I know is that he went to get a donut and came back loaded for bear. He didn't even eat any of it, so it wasn't a sugar issue, but we do have history with jelly donuts. Anyway, his eyes made it clear that it was time to go, so I rounded up his sister and told him gently that we were leaving. He glares and doesn't move. Y and I take about 5 steps to the door and he catches up. Next thing I know, some Amharic words are exchanged and he gives his sister a good shove in the parking lot. I don't know why, all I know is that she's still standing and now they're snarling at each other from separate lanes. I unlock the car with the remote and make a bee line toward it. I sit and buckle my seatbelt. Y cautiously creeps up to the car from her side and gets in, never letting her guard down. H doesn't get in the car. I wait and chill. I catch him looking at me from my rear view mirror trying to gauge my mood, but I stay silent and deadpan. 10 seconds later he's in the car. 2 minutes after that all is back to normal and we're talking about watching The Lion King.

Getting H out of the building was not the right fight to pursue. Pushing his sister in the parking lot wasn't either. Any confrontation or aggression I would have shown him prior to getting him into the car, would have resulted in him NOT getting in the car. The goal was to get out and get home, the other infractions would have to wait. It takes a lot of concentration to act nonchalant when part of your brain is saying, "He'll get in the car eventually" and the other part is whispering "Go on, you know you could take him." It's even harder when you know deep down that neither voice is wrong.

Fortunately Plan A paid off.

2 comments:

The Gillman Family said...

Great Job Rodeo Dad!
Kim (YG)

Jori said...

Oh the days ... I know mine are coming and so you can bet I may be saying... now what was I suppose to do? and doing the other! :) They sure bring out the best in us!!
Jori