Sunday, March 27, 2011

Choices.

**FYI, we have not received THE CALL. I'm pretty sure this is not our month to be matched with a kiddo. I know of at least one other family who received a referral last week. I'm really OK with it. Will collect my thoughts and process more fully later this week when we know with 100% certainty.**

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We have a consistent struggle in this house that just might be the death of me. I'm pretty sure it's completely age appropriate, and is only a phase, but my adorable little Birdie is right smack in the middle of this particular phase. So what's a mother to do? Blog about it, of course! If I can't figure out my own problems, at least I should let others in on the ridiculousness so we can laugh together, right? That's rhetorical. Unless you agree with me, in which case, feel free to answer outloud.


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It's the issue of CHOICES. You know THEY SAY that you should give toddlers and preschoolers lots and lots of choices. THEY SAY it helps them feel like they have a little control in this cruel world run by grown-ups. "Would you like the blue cup or the green cup?" "Do you want to wear jeans or khakis?" THEY SAY that you should only offer two choices, and give them 10 seconds, after which time, you will make a choice for them. THEY seem to think that if you have to make the choice for the child enough times, that the child will learn more efficient decision-making skills. THEY might be mistaken.


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Miss Syd has SO MUCH TROUBLE making choices. She labors over decisions until I absolutely force her hand, and then she inevitably regrets the decision and wants to change. And change again. She focuses so much on the option that doesn't "win" that she basically mourns it. Let me just replay to you a couple situations to explain the frustration.


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Scenario 1: After lunch, the kids get to choose one sweet. In our freezer right now, we have fruit popsicles, little mini-peppermint-patties, or choco chips (they can get 7 in a cup as an option). Every day, Sydney requests to be HELD in front of the OPEN freezer. "I CHOOSE," she says clearly. Last week, in a rare display of decisiveness, she chose a peppermint pattie. She did not have her feet on the ground before she changed it again to a popsicle. I told her if she gave me the peppermint pattie she could trade for a popsicle. She clinched it tighter and said NO. So I closed the freezer and walked away. I am not exaggerating, when I say that Sydney followed me around the house for upwards of 50 minutes, crying dramatically, saying in her own little language,"You TOLD me I could have a popsicle!!" To which I replied about a zillion times, "I told you you could CHOOSE a popsicle OR a chocolate mint. You can only have ONE." Cue: more hysterics, more moaning the word "Pop! Sicle!" and the little chocolate mint being crushed and smashed and melted beyond recognition or attractiveness in a little tiny hand. The next day, I thought I had learned my lesson, so I set the three sweets options on the table so I wouldn't have to stand holding a wiggly Birdie in front of the freezer. I thought SHE had learned her lesson because she chose a popsicle (only after 15 seconds when I started putting them away, of course.) But about 5 bites into the sicle, she came back, held it out to me and said with sticky, wet, red lips, "I want chocolate." I explained that she had chosen a popsicle and eaten most of it, so she could not change her mind. You'll never guess what happened! Oh wait--yes you will. She fell on the floor crying, getting her sticky popsicle all over her shirt, her face, her hair and the floor. She did not recover in time to even enjoy the rest of her popsicle, because I finally had to remove it from the crime scene before causing any more damage. She fell asleep in her crib a heart-broken, sticky mess.


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Scenario #2: It's a lazy Saturday morning and Daddy is going to run to the store. Don't even remember which store, but Carson decides he'll go along. Sydney seems interested, and even gets her shoes on with intent, but at the last minute, she wants to stay home with Mommy. She watches closely as the boys get their coats, but still says she'll stay with me. But when the door from the house to the garage closes, she full-on panics. "I want go with Daddy!" she says urgently. As the car starts, I grab her coat and run out to the garage to catch them and put her in her car seat. I came back inside and hear the van leave and the garage door close. About 90 seconds later, there's a knock on the front door. Daddy is holding a sobbing girl, who is reaching for me like I've left her for hours, saying she wants to stay with Mommy. :( Sweet girl! Of course I grab her and take her to the couch and start to snuggle. You just can't fault a girl for wanting to be with her Mommy, right? Until, out our window, we see the mini-van pull out of the driveway (for the second time) and drive down the street. She leaps out of my arms and bolts straight to the front door, screaming for Daddy. She stayed by that door crying for over 20 minutes. Sigh.


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Poor girl. I really try to keep my patience, because it turns out that counting to 10 makes her panic. Raising my voice in desperation? Also not helpful. I'm determined to stand my ground, limit the choices and follow through with the time limit. She's GOT to figure this out, right? I just don't want her having nightmares of her mother standing over with an angry face, saying "DORA OR NEMO, SYDNEY? DORA OR NEMO?! MAKE A DECISION!" And it may not be my number one parenting strategy, but delaying her therapy sessions as long as possible is a goal of mine.

8 comments:

Becky said...

Oh Jen! The story about the trip to the store made me laugh, although I am sure you weren't at the time. So sad yet so maddening. You are doing a great job, stick to your guns, she'll get it. She may be 10, but she'll get it. :)

Wendy said...

OK, do you want my dazzling combination momma/professional opinion? This is a POWER/CONTROL issue. You know this. And your daughter? She is getting the upper hand. If only because she is driving you nuts, and sometimes (like with Daddy) winning the battle.

Actually, this mysterious "they" do NOT say to give your kids lots and lots of choices. To do so is completely developmentally inappropriate and overwhelming to a child your daughter's age. Two choices is the max you should be giving, which it sounds like you're doing.

Lily notoriously has a difficult time with choices. We labored over which chocolate Easter Bunny to choose at Target today, totally blocking the aisle. Finally, I just grabbed one she had been toying with and said, "We cannot continue to hold up these people. THIS is your choice."

In our house, once Lily makes the choice, she is not allowed to go back on it regardless of how much screaming, wailing, and whining she does (daddy needs to be in on this, too, so if she chooses to go with him in the car, she STAYS with him; we've had this exact same scenario several times. I promise she will eventually stop crying--and you will have a QUIET house). Sounds like she is completely playing one of you off the other.

I'd also drop the constant explanations and reiterations of what you asked her to do. She wants your attention, good, bad or otherwise, and she is getting it. That in and of itself is a control issue. The more you keep saying, "I told you..." the more control she has. Don't let her follow you around; if you use time out in your home, perhaps she needs to head there. Perhaps if she continues to do so much complaining about her choice, you then need to set some limits and say, "If you whine about your choice one more time, I will take it away." You could also add that the next time she isn't going to get a choice. Stick to your guns no matter how hard it is.

Happy Parenting!!

Kristen {RAGE against the MINIVAN} said...

Hmm. . . I don't know if it's control. I just think it's hard to choose between two great things. I think if I offered my kids a popsicle or chocolate chips and they had to choose, their heads would explode. :) In a way, you are forcing her to say no to something she loves in order to choose. Maybe too hard of a concept for her now.

When the stakes are high and decisions would be too difficult, I choose. Especially with yummy food and shows they love. My kids would be the same way.

Jo B. said...

Jen,
Okay, here is my shot.
Syd is getting an attention pay-off when she can get you to go back to the fridge for the other item or snap into action to take her to the car, etc.

Limit the times you give her choices. Limit the choices to one of two things. Or maybe you can say "This week our treat will be mint patties. Next week it will be frozen fruit pops." Or put a chart on the fridge stating the Treat for the Day is Mint Patties. If they don't want that they can skip the treat and get the one they want tomorrow when it is fruit pops, etc.

Don't get into long explanations.
The longer you engage with her trying to talk her out of her funk, the more you are rewarding her behavior.

Anytime you feel your tensions rising and you start realizing your kids have pulled you AGAIN into an emotional tug of war it is time to step back and ask "Is this working for me?"

When you were little, I found myself avoiding the parenting decisions that would make you cry or put up a great big noisy fuss. Even if they were the parenting choices that were in your best interest in the long run.

Hang in there, Jen! Syd will get over this stage even though it will require your nerves of steel!
You are an awesome Mommy!
Love, Your proud Mommy

Wendy said...

Jen,

I think your mom and I said the exact same thing. But your mom? She said it way better!

Jewels said...

Jen - I completely agree with your mom and with Wendy. This is all about control and I think Gigi would go straight to her bed for a timeout without a treat if she pulled this with me. Of course it would probably take me a week or two to figure this out. I have been dealing with similar control issue's and have had to address them as soon as she starts up in the morning otherwise I am in for a long long day. Your a rad mom and I love that you shared this story. I am sure it will be helpful to lots of us moms.

Jennifer said...

Thanks for the advice, ladies! I do think that I'm losing the battle here, and Syd does have the upperhand when she drives me crazy, even if she's not trying consciously to control me. But I think Kristen hit it on the head in that it's when the stakes are HIGH that this is an issue. I mean, red cup/blue cup doesn't result like this. So, thanks for the input!

Aimee L Salter said...

Oh, Sweetie, I so feel your pain! God bless you for trying to do the right thing and working on keeping your patience. These little ones are a world of... well...anyway...

My best advice (aka, What I Do When My Son is Driving Me Mental): I remember that part of the reason children are such a blessing is because they are a tangible, out-loud example of our relationships with God.

I remember my own vascillations, tantrums and demands and how patiently and faithfully He's walked through them with me.

Then I thank Him, ask Him to PLEASE inject some of that patience / love / kindness / self-control into my veins before I SHOOT THE BLESSING OF A CHILD HE GAVE ME....

*Ahem*

The beauty is, He always says ‘Yes’. And gives me a hug.

I John 5:14-15 - “And we can be confident that he will listen to us whenever we ask him for anything in line with his will. And if we know he is listening when we make our requests, we can be sure that he will give us what we ask for.”

God bless you friend. And your little girl too :)