Monday, August 29, 2016

The thing I realized my toddler craved: Control

Facebook showed me a memory from 2 years ago yesterday. It went like this: "Darrow may look like Cameron, but I'm pretty sure that just now when I pulled him off the bookshelf for the 10th time in a row in a series of 2 minutes and yelled, turned his back to me, banged his head on the floor, and then gave me a dirty look as he crawled back to the bookshelf, that it was 110% me. Neat."

And that statement has been proven true time and time again over the last 2 years. But, I realized something about a month ago that is making a huge difference. And I feel like a dork that it took me nearly 2 years of butting heads with a toddler to realize. 

It's all about the control, ('bout control, 'bout control -just channeling my inner Meghan Trainor there).

See, I like when I have everything under control in my sphere and with things relating to me. I like to plan my own day, have my space the way I want it, and things going the way I planned. It took me 2 years, but I realized that if Darrow is like me (and he's proven that over and over again), then it only makes sense that he's feeling the same way! He wants control. He doesn't want to be directed. He needs to feel like he's in charge of his sphere.

That light bulb was huge for me. I don't know why, but it was. You'd think that'd be an easy one, but it wasn't.

So I've been working to make some changes around here, and is hard! Giving him some control means me giving up some control. But isn't that what Motherhood is about, giving up what we want because what your child needs is more important?

Now, we're not just giving him carte blanche around here. There are things that are non-negotiable, such as staying in the yard, not playing with the oven, no throwing toys at Ione, not running away when we call him, etc. But I've found areas where if I give up some of my control over the situation, he can then exert his control. And it has made a world of difference! This is a much happier boy lately.

The first big one was bedtime and naps. Darrow is a night owl through and through (also a trait he got from me). Bedtime was often a huge fight. We'd put him to bed, he'd get out. We put him back in bed, he'd get out. We tried all different methods over the 2 years from various articles. Silently putting him to bed with no eye contact, calmly explaining why he needed to stay in bed, spanking, lying by him and wrapping our arms around him so he couldn't get off the bed until he cried himself to sleep, sitting down the hall and getting after him every time he got off the bed, and the list goes on. Nothing worked. Naptime was the same. He needed a nap, but it was a huge fight. 

So no instead of bedtime and naptime he has afternoon quiet time and bedtime quiet time. The rules are he stays in his room (in the afternoon it's a designated 2 hours-which is how long he usually naps). That's it. At night we get him in his jammies and do his nighttime routine (brush teeth, read a book, sing a song, prayers, kisses, milk, water, you know covering the excuse bases), and then he goes in his room for nighttime quiet time. During quiet time he gets to choose what he does and it's fine as long as he's in his room. The first 2-3 days he didn't nap, he just played in the afternoon, and at night he stayed up playing until 10 or midnight. But then the novelty wore off. 

Now for afternoon quiet time he plays for a little bit and then probably 4 times out of the week he'll climb in his bed and take a nap. At night he goes in and plays and probably 4 nights a week he is asleep by 8:30 or 9, with the others being up playing until 10-11. And then he sleeps later! Hallelujah! We moved Ione out of the room (she's an early riser and would wake him up before he's ready), and that's made it all even better. 

Everything we read said that kids needed a firm bedtime and a firm routine and having that nighttime schedule was important. So we tried to get that in place for 2 years and it just never worked. Darrow needed to feel that control. That one change has made the biggest difference out of everything lately. 

Beyond that I try to remember to let him choose things as much as possible. Are we playing in the front yard or backyard. What he eats for breakfast (I decide dinner and half the time lunch, but he gets to choose what he eats for breakfast). Which way we go when we take walks. Stuff like that. And it is enough that he feels more in control of his surroundings. 

On my end it means a lot of biting my tongue to keep from getting after him for things that are minor or trivial. Like smashing his sandwich flat before eating it (wiping up the bit of mess is easy, I can do that), or dumping all his toys out in his room just after we put them away, or flipping the curtains around, or carrying our shoes all over the house. I'd rather he didn't do those, but he's not being bad, he's not being destructive, and it's something I can just relax on and not be so uptight. 

So that's it, that's been the magic trick to a much happier, more well behaved, and much more rested Darrow: me giving up complete control so that he could have some control of his own!

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