Thursday, September 19, 2013

Battle of the Wills

Something is changing in my house.  My two year old has suddenly learned that he has the option of saying "no".  While all two year olds reach this point, some give up more easily than others.  I am learning that my son is the wild stallion that refuses to be broken.  But I'm determined to become the horse whisperer.  I will not give in.

Yesterday we were playing upstairs and my oldest had set up an ornate train track with two engines - One for me and one for him.  He set up a separate track for his brother so that, "he won't crash ours" and commenced play.  My oldest explained the guidelines (he LOVES rules) and as he talked, I could see the agitation growing in my youngest.  He wanted nothing to do with this blatant display of segregation.  Suddenly he yelled out, "NO!" and grabbed his brother's magnet trains and threw them down the stairs.  Before I could react, he kicked over the track my oldest had painstakingly built then reached down to try and hit his brother.  I swooped in to pick him up and said firmly, "No hitting.  No throwing.  Time out for you."  

He went willingly into time out and sat there quietly.  When his two minutes were up, I walked over to talk to him.  "We don't hit or throw, buddy.  That's not nice.  Got it?"  I asked.  "Yup!" he said cheerfully.  "Now please go apologize to your brother for ruining his track," I instructed.  "Nope.  Uh uh," he said and tried to push past me to go play.  "Not so fast, bud," I said.  "You have to stay in time out until you are willing to apologize.  How about you head over and say you are sorry."  "No...Uh uh.  No No," he said firmly.  Then he planted himself right back in time out as if to say, "discussion closed."

I checked back in with him every few minutes and got the same response.  He was not willing to break.  He half heartedly cried a few times, tried whining and even hitting the wall to let me know that I was causing him great distress.  I wasn't willing to break either.  Finally, after twenty minutes, he marched over to his brother and said, "Sorry.  Play, Mommy?"  I gave him the green light and sat there staring at him for a good three minutes thinking that this is going to be a tough few weeks.  

I talked to my husband later and let him know that we were going to have to stay firm - Any kink in the armor will break us.  He's getting smart and he's determined.  We can't let this go.  My husband, always the best rule follower (definitely where my oldest gets it!) faced a similar challenge the next morning.

My youngest wouldn't say thank you for his cup of cereal so my husband told him he could have it as soon as he said thank you.  My little one held out for ten minutes then finally said, "Thank you!"  When my husband handed him the cereal, he pushed it away and said, "no thank you dada."  I swear he just wanted the last word.

My husband came up to me wide eyed.  "You weren't kidding!  What happened to our compliant little boy?!"  he asked.  "He turned two," I answered.

While these are the times that try us as parents, we have to make important decisions about what really matters.  I know that I will need to give him control in areas that aren't important to me.  He can pick his clothes or what show he watches in the morning.  He can choose from two options at lunch or pick what shoes he would like to wear.  But other things are non-negotiable.  Manners, kindness, and nutrition are a few things that come to mind.  We will have to pick our battles and hold our ground when it's important.  Eventually he will learn.  As long as he doesn't wear us out in the process.

How do you handle your strong willed children?  What things are non-negotiable in your house?

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