Sometimes children need super firm discipline. Sometimes they need a good dousing of love. And sometimes they need both.
Case in point: last night our oldest son lost his temper about something; I don’t even remember what. In the process he lost the after-dinner treat, and tried his absolute hardest to argue his way back to it. In this we had to be firm. Even in the face of his subsequent meltdown. Not that long after, once play-time with Daddy was done, it was time to get ready for bed.
Cue the second meltdown.
Tears poured down his little face, and his sobs echoed through the living room. He was collapsed in the middle of the living rug, a tragic huddled figure, and every time we told him to go to his room to put on his pajamas he just bawled out “NO!” .
Roman is a dramatic, but not to this extent. Certainly not about bedtimes.
Our patience was thin right now. But instead of getting angry we just watched him for a minute, and then Sackett Man took Rose for me, and I picked Roman up. His arms went around my neck, and his legs around my waist, like a little monkey. I carried him slowly out of the room and down the hall, holding him close and stroking his hair as he cried. Very quietly, I sang “You’ll be in My Heart” (the lullaby from Tarzan; it’s his favorite). As I did, rubbing his hair and rocking as I walked, he grew quieter and quieter, till he was silent and just holding me tight, his head relaxed on my shoulder. I kissed his ear, and told him how much I loved him, and how proud I was of him. I said he was obviously very, very tired, and the early bedtime was not a punishment… it was for his own good. And we were going to get ready for bed now.
He protested a little, but not much. He shyly asked if I would hold him again before bed, and I said yes. So he hurried in the bathroom, changed into pajamas, and then came out, and I held him and sang his lullaby again.
He snuggled down into his bed with his stuffed monkey, and went to sleep with a big smile on his face.
His misbehavior at supper? That was just plain naughtiness. His sudden meltdown at the nightly announcement “Time to get ready for bed!”? A five-year old’s exhaustion hitting like a ton of bricks. He was being naughty, and I gently chastised him for that (“You get ready for bed every night. This is nothing new. You shouldn’t lose your temper like that just because you want to stay up.”) but I mostly just took care of him, and that took care of the problem.
Today he was a perky, energetic boy who played with his brother, his sister, his new $8 chess set, and happily watched “Go, Diego, Go!” and “Sleeping Beauty”.
He also talked my ears off. But that’s par for the course. I’ve learned to keep them on strings so that when one falls off I don’t lose it; I just reattach it.
It’s easier than trying to slow the the chatter.