The conversation goes something like this on a daily basis, “Mr.T, why aren’t you listening?!” this is me, asking him to give me an answer, as I glare at him. My frustration mounts. I make sure I get to eye level, and try and speak calmly. I also tell myself to pick my battles. Some battles are a useless fight, for both of us.
Mr. T looks up at me, big brown eyes, full of expression, love, confusion and mischief, “Mom, it’s just too hard and sometimes I don’t want to listen. You ask me to do too many things and I’m exhausted.” Seriously. This is how my 4 year old little man speaks. I take a couple moments to process his response. Do I ask too much of him? Is it too hard to listen when you’re four years old? Is he exhausted? I know I’m exhausted, depleted from constantly badgering the boys about one thing or another.
On the other hand, just because he is a brilliant little mind, doesn’t mean I should lay off completely. After all, I am the parent, I run the show, right?
This evening, after much frustration in the household because of the above scenarios, repeating themselves about sixty-two times today, I decided to attempt something new. This is how it went.
“Mr.T, why aren’t you listening?
“I don’t feel like it. Listening is boring!” Mr. T says this with a significant pout and scowl on his adorable face.
“Okay. Well, you can do whatever you want. From now on, I won’t ask you to do anything, I won’t tell you to stop doing anything or listen when you ask me something.” I say this with strong conviction, wondering if this consequence will do more harm than good and if I am the one it will get to first.
Mr.T pouts, he cries for a moment says, “I want to listen. Mom I promise. I love you, pleeaaase.” I almost give in, my maternal instincts telling me to just hug the little guy and give him a snuggle. I know if I do this, I will be in the same situation in a few hours.
“I’m sorry Mr. T, but no. I love you to bits, but I think you should just do whatever you want to do, that’s what you do anyway, right?” I ask.
“Fine! If you don’t listen to me I won’t help you walk and I’ll eat this whole house!” he threatens. I kind of giggled inside, thinking to myself that I would wake up in the morning to collapsing walls and half eaten drywall.
I stick to my guns. I made dinner, and I didn’t badger Mr.T to eat, not even once. He played with his food the entire time, turning noodles into action figures and ground beef into mountains. I said nothing, I bit my tongue. Once the rest of us had finished eating, the table was cleared, including Mr.T’s full plate. He whined for a moment, then asked for desert.
“I don’t feel like it tonight, sorry buddy.” I replied. More whining and I could tell his anxiety was mounting.
As I ran the evening bath, I didn’t ask Mr.T to get undressed and jump in. I didn’t ask him to let me wash him up, in fact I didn’t ask him anything. Tough, so tough. As I dried Little A off and brushed his teeth, Mr.T was mad.
“Mom! Help me brush my teeth.Please.” he says sweetly.
“Sorry Mr.T. I just don’t feel like it. You don’t have to brush your teeth, you don’t need to do anything if you don’t feel like it.”
He brushed his teeth. I looked over a moment later and Mr.T was putting on his pyjamas. This is record time, usually I battle this bedtime ritual for about 15 minutes and end up half dressing him myself. He was dressed. I don’t know if he was wearing underwear though.
As I read bedtime stories this evening, Mr.T struggled with the idea that I wouldn’t be reading to him in his bed and rather reading a book Little A had picked out. After some very sweet Goodnights and kisses, Little A climbed into bed and went to sleep.
Mr.T slumped to the floor as I closed his brothers bedroom door.
“What’s a matter?” I ask.
“I want you to snuggle me or I am not sleeping EVER!” He says.
“You can do whatever you want sweetheart. I love you. If you want to stay up all night, go ahead. You can play all night in your room, read or whatever you want.” This is a good reminder and still I am struggling not to snuggle and read a book or play with zebras and plastic crocodiles as we usually do. He pouts, but walks to his bed and gets in. I go over, give him a great big hug and kiss, expel my love to him and say goodnight.
He is mildly upset, and says he won’t sleep. I shrug my shoulders and say,”that’s fine.” Really I am hoping he will not be irreversibly damaged from this evening of trial parenting.
I went up to check on him about an hour later, he was peacefully sleeping.
I am eager to see what tomorrow brings, and more so to see if Mr.T has realized that there are logical consequences. I hope this will be the first and last day I ever need to use this trial parenting or logical consequences.