Thursday, April 12, 2012

Consistency is (still) key.

When Liam was little, I had more than a few moments of feeling like I had this parenting thing down pat. He was so well behaved and sweet and smart. Surely I must be doing something right! He slept great, said please and thank you without being reminded, and went out of his way to do the right thing (he still does). And on those few instances when he was misbehaving? One glimpse of my patented look was all it took to set him back on the straight and narrow. Terrible eating aside, he was darn near perfect.

So perfect, in fact, that I couldn't help thinking, I should do something with this. I mean, I obviously had skills, right? No one else's kids were nearly as great as mine!

Fortunately for my ego, Finn came along and knocked me right off that high horse. From second one he was completely immune to my incredible parenting. I'd swaddle him perfectly; he'd scream bloody murder. I'd introduce a sleep schedule; he'd spend the whole night babbling to himself in his crib. I'd tell him to sit down in the bath 900 times; he'd smile sweetly and stand back up 901.

I was completely baffled. If anything I should have been more prepared to parent Finn than I had been for Liam. I'd had four and a half years of practice, a half dozen babies in and out of my home over the years, and a bookcase full of highlighted parenting books. But it didn't matter. It seemed all my tried and true tricks were no match for Mr. Finn.

But I couldn't just give up. Not that I didn't consider it. I mean, seriously, any time you have to listen to yourself repeat the same thing 25 times while a tiny human blatantly disregards and laughs at you, it's more than a little tempting to throw in the towel. But as many times as I tried to let myself off the hook (This is crazy! He's obviously NEVER going to sit down in the tub. Maybe in the grand scheme of choosing my battles I should just let this one go. I mean, just because Liam always sat in the tub does not necessarily mean Finn has to. Right? They're completely different people! Who even cares if you sit down in the tub...), something inside forced me to hold my ground. I sat him back down and sat him back down and showed him the face and sternly said no and pulled the plug and gave him timeout and, frankly, started bathing him less and less. But I didn't give in. I consistently held my ground!

And it wasn't just the bath. It was any (and every) situation that Finn and I had differing opinions. Like throwing food at me or running away from me in the store or hitting the dog with a light saber. As easy as it had been to teach Liam, it was a thousand times harder to teach Finn.* But I just kept plugging away, consistently laying down the law and delivering consequences and letting my expectations be known no matter how hilarious he thought Mama's mean face happened to be. If he wanted to stand up in the bath 901 times, he could be my guest. I would calmly sit him back down 902. Or, better yet? I'd pull the plug and let him deal with the consequences.

I had gotten so used to this routine that I was completely caught off guard when I suddenly noticed things were starting to change. Finn was being super adorable in the bath one day so I grabbed my phone and started taking pictures of him. It was one of the first times I noticed him really playing (without a big brother running the show) and it completely warmed my heart.

He had Liam's Toad (doll? action figure?) and was making him talk and jump into the water and give me kisses. (I love this age.) I was so busy snapping photos and admiring his cuteness that I almost forgot to auto correct when he stood up to catch a fish with his net.

But then I remembered and quickly said, "Oops, you need to sit down, buddy. We can't stand up in the tub."

You guys will not believe it but the kid SAT DOWN. Just like that! Just like, No big deal, when my mom tells me to do something I just do it. I never laugh at her or mock her or run away from her. I just listen and do as I'm told. Whatever...

I was so pleasantly surprised that I half wondered if it was a fluke. But then a few days later I was letting him wander around Target and when I stopped him from putting something into the cart and said, "Please put that back where you found it," HE DID IT! My jaw must have hit the ground. And when he started to take a coffee pot off the shelf and I said, "Ah, ah, ah," and gave him the look, he STOPPED AND PUT IT BACK. I swear! As he toddled off down another aisle, I just stood there laughing and shaking my head. The look actually worked!

But it wasn't just the look. It was the look and the warnings and the one-minute time outs and the rules and anything else I had been doing firmly and consistently a million times a day. It took WAY longer than I ever dreamed possible but eventually, thankfully, it actually worked!

And now that he's got the hang of it, things are going much more smoothly. My frustration has been replaced with many teachable moments.** And most of the time he's even willing to learn!

Although, to be fair, he still likes to learn on his own terms...

Oops. (Don't worry, that'a a parked car.)

I think that's his, "Hmm, maybe you were right," face.

*Of course parenting each child is a completely different experience. They are completely different people! Liam hates to hear the word, "no," so he does everything he can to avoid it, while Finn thinks it's hilarious. Finn seems to learn best by doing, leaping first and looking second, while Liam loves to observe and would just as soon NOT do something if he's the slightest bit unsure how to do it perfectly on the very first try. Not to mention, I'm probably a very different mom now than I was when Liam was Finn's age. Plus, I know it wasn't all roses when Liam was little, I just tend to remember the good stuff. : )

**I was about to say my frustration has been replaced with discipline but it really isn't discipline I'm after, it's education. The article that helped put words to what I've pretty much been doing all along? Here. Or should I say, ici.)

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