When your child needs a drill sargent and you're more the empathetic type

If you're friends with me on Facebook you probably noticed that something seemed to be up with Silas by the 500+ posts about tantrums, behavior struggles, and all around difficult times this winter.

We started having difficulties in the fall with getting Silas dressed. He didn't want to put clothes on and would be completely overwhelmed and emotional. The episodes were so difficult but thankfully somewhat infrequent and we just powered through them. But then after Christmas Silas seemed to become obsessed with his pajamas and staying home. Most mornings we spent the entire 1.5 hours we have to eat breakfast, play and get ready for school spent in terrible, tantrums with Silas.

On the few occasions that Silas had a tantrum about something clear-cut (i want to watch another Little Bear- waaaah!) it was very easy to shut it down clearly and forcefully with no misgivings on my part.

But when Silas was sobbing and screaming that he just wanted to "put his pjs on and stay hooome!" it had me thinking he was having security or emotional issues and that empathy was the way to go. So eventually i let him wear his pajamas to school. And maybe things improved for a little bit-- it at least gave us some space to stop having an emotional power struggle every single morning.

But, then things got even worse. What i finally came to realize that while i was worried about hurting him by forcing him to wear clothes when he was looking for comfort in his pajamas, it was actually "hurting" him more by letting him run the show. He doesn't really want to run the show-- but he is hardwired to test the boundaries every second he can.

Once i accepted that my job really was to run his life, to only give him the choices that i decided, and to know that it might take physically forcing him into clothes for a little while-- we had "behavior bootcamp" as i termed it.

I told him that things were going to change-- and we talked about what mommy decides and what Silas decides. Mommy decides that he has to wear clothes to school, that he has to wear a coat in the winter, must wear shoes to leave the house-- but socks, socks were completely Silas' purview. Then when he wouldn't do something that i told him we must do (get dressed, take a bath, etc.) i would tell him i was going to count to three and if he didn't do what i had asked, i would do it for him which he hated. For the first day we basically did this for every step of our day-- getting dressed, brushing our teeth, taking a bath, etc.

Remarkably by the second day most times i just had to say "Silas, are we going to argue?" And by the count of three he would hop into the bath on his own or pick his clothes, etc.

We've had a few relapses that we've had to have mini "bootcamps" again, but they have been short-lived and less intense.

Now Silas is Silas. Which means he still does push every boundary he can. He also still throws tantrums. But in general they are less intense, don't last as long, and we always end them the same way. He has to calm himself down, give me a hug, and say he's sorry.

It was a really difficult learning process with Silas, and i had to go against my nature and the type of parenting that comes naturally (and worked just fine with Henry), but our whole family benefits now that i've embraced my inner drill sargent.

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